Birth Control Myths Busted

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When it comes to birth control pills, there are plenty of myths – and misconceptions – about effectiveness, side effects, and how to take them. But fret no more; I’m going to break it down for you.

Myth: “I don’t need to take the pill at the same time each day.”

Busted: Whenever I hear this, I just want to turn around and slap the girl over the head. Were you not paying attention when your doctor was telling you the most important thing about taking birth control pills? The fact is, in order for the pill to actually work, you must take it at the same time everyday.  As thepill.com puts it, “combination pills are more than 99% effective when taken correctly, which means taking it at the same time each day.”

Myth: “Taking the pill will make me gain weight.”

Somewhat Busted: This is a tricky one; yes, the pill can make you gain weight, but it can also cause you to lose weight. For the most part, women who are slightly overweight already are the ones with the most risk to gain weight. “Most pill-related weight gain is due to fluid retention, which is usually temporary,” according to thepill.com.

Myth: “The pill is effective immediately after you start taking it.”

Busted: No, no, no! Of course, the date depends on the brand/type of pill you are taking, but in general, you need to wait anywhere between 1 week to 1 month before the pill can begin to take effect. WebMD suggests waiting “one complete menstrual cycle for the hormones in the pill to work with the woman’s natural hormones to prevent ovulation.” If you are planning on having sex during the first month on the pill, use a condom as back up to be extra safe.

Myth: “Generic and brand name pills are the same thing.”

Busted: Marie Claire magazine says that “the quality of the drug in the name brand and its generics is equal, but the pill-to-pill dose variation in a name brand drug is only 3%, compared to the 10% in generics.” Basically, if you’re easily irritated, having a lot of side effects, or get mood swings often, your best bet is to stick to the brand name pills.

Myth: “Smoking pot while on the pill is just as bad as smoking cigarettes.”

Busted: I never thought I’d actually say this, but cigarettes are actually worse than pot when you’re taking the pill. “Nicotine and tar,” reports Marie Claire, “increase the risk of heart disease and stroke” when on the pill. So if you're a smoker, stick to the natural stuff.

Myth: “The ‘morning after’ pill causes an abortion.”

Busted: The commonly referred to “morning after” pill is actually a pill named “Plan B,” which does not cause an abortion. “In fact, if you take Plan B and you’re already pregnant, it won’t make a bit of difference,” as stated in Health Magazine online. The pill that does cause an abortion, on the other hand, is a steroid pill called Mifepristone, or RU-486.

Myth: “The pill decreases your sex-drive.”

Somewhat Busted: Doctors will tell you that this one depends on the individual person and her hormones. Health Magazine says that studies for many pills have shown an increase in sex drive for some women. However, I have known many a female who have been on the pill and can attest to the fact that after starting the pill, their libido has decreased tremendously. In short, there is a decent chance that you will be horny less often while you’re on the pill – ironic, I know, considering that you would be super safe and ready for some action, only to not be in the mood.

Myth: “Some birth control pills stop your period, which is risky.”

Busted: It’s actually totally fine that they stop. Health Magazine quotes Dr. Rebecca Gould, an OB-GYN in Pennsylvania, as saying, “the hormones from the pill keep the lining of your uterus thin, so nothing builds up,” making it completely safe to suppress your period. In fact, many women who are not sexually active get on the pill to help lighten their periods and control their menstrual cramps and migraines.

Myth: “Using the pill for a long period of time is bad for your body and can cause infertility.”

Busted: You can take the pill for as long as you want – 10 months or 10 years (or longer) – and the second you stop, you will be fertile again and ready for some baby-making. Rather, “there is no medical reason to stop,” says Health Magazine. Long-term use of the pill is completely safe.

Myth: “The pill protects against HIV or STDs.”

Busted: Majorly busted! If you have ever thought this, please take a moment to lower your head in shame. Even though the pill may prevent pregnancies, it does not protect against HIV or any sexually transmitted diseases that could be prevented by the use of a condom. So, even if you’re taking the pill, it is always a good idea to continue to use a condom, especially if you are planning on having sex with a guy who's sexual history is long and/or unclear.

Remember, there are about as many pill myths as there are birth control brands. When it comes to choosing the right pill for you, it is important to see a gynocologist or visit a clinic. Prepare a list of questions for your doctor and have him or her bust any concerns you may have. And remember, always practice safe sex! Safety first, ladies.

Junior > Journalism > Boston University

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