The topic of birth control can be very daunting, which is part of the reason girls and women don’t like talking about it. According to a survey done by Merck, “31 percent of women in a relationship rarely or never talk to their partner about sexual health” and almost “24 percent of all women surveyed feel uncomfortable discussing their sexual history with their health care provider.”
Although it’s important to be able to have open and honest conversations about birth control and sexual health, it can be confusing navigating all the information surrounding birth control. There are so many methods out there, differing symptoms, and even just a lot of misinformation. So where do you start?
Growing up, it was challenging to figure out what was true and what wasn’t. Plus, you have to deal with stigma too. So I'm here to debunk some of those crazy myths about birth control, based on some of my own research.
- MYTH: Birth control pills can cause cancer.
DEBUNKED: I've read about this a lot and the cancer risk stats people use are often inaccurate. In fact, according to the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, synthetic hormones might increase the risk for some cancers and decrease the risk for others. The center says the pill and hormonal IUD can reduce the risk of ovarian and endometrial cancer by up to 50 percent.
- MYTH: Birth control will affect future fertility.
DEBUNKED: Birth control methods on their own can’t cause infertility, according to one national network of fertility specialists, CCRM. Birth control is always reversible unless you specifically get a method that is irreversible, such as sterilization. So don’t worry, it’s up to you to make your own choices about if and when you want to have a child. But, untreated STI’s can affect future fertility, so that’s why it's always smart to be protected!
- MYTH: There aren’t many birth control options available.
DEBUNKED: Many people are only familiar with condoms and birth control pills, but there are many options for long-term contraceptives that may work for you. They don’t have to be an everyday responsibility. For instance, there are IUDs or the arm implant.
- MYTH: You can only get an IUD if you’ve already had kids.
DEBUNK: IUDs are often recommended for young people because they are highly effective, require little to no maintenance and last a long time.
With that being said though, no form of contraceptive — including the IUD — is 100 percent effective.
There are two types of IUDs, hormonal and copper. The hormonal IUD uses hormones to thicken the mucus in your cervix to block and trap sperm in addition to stopping eggs from leaving your ovaries (ovulation). The copper IUD makes it almost impossible for the sperm to reach the egg because sperm do not like copper.
- MYTH: All birth control prevents STIs (sexually transmitted infections).
DEBUNKED: Actually, only abstinence prevents STIs. But barrier methods, such as male and female condoms, can help reduce the chances of getting an STI. Non-barrier methods such as pills, IUDs, or implants, are for preventing pregnancy — not STIs. So make sure to use a back-up barrier method for extra protection!
- MYTH: Only sexually active people use birth control.
DEBUNKED: Birth control can also be used for many things such as acne, cramping, and heavy menstrual bleeding. Birth control can have many benefits, but the most important thing to remember is to find what works best for you!
- MYTH: I can’t get pregnant if I have sex while having my period.
DEBUNKED: You can get pregnant during any time of your cycle, including during your period. So make sure you are always protected!
- MYTH: It’s unhealthy to use birth control to skip your period.
DEBUNKED: Periods aren’t a medical necessity, so it is totally okay to intentionally skip your period with birth control. There are many reasons why someone may want to skip their period, and that’s totally fine!
- MYTH: All birth control is 100 percent effective.
DEBUNKED: No form of birth control is 100% effective. Some forms are more effective than others. Again, it's all about finding what works best for you and your lifestyle.
- MYTH: Birth control is effective immediately when you use it.
DEBUNKED: Some forms of birth control have a waiting period for it to become effective, so check with each method before using. Doing your own research and asking many questions is so important!
- MYTH: Older people don’t need to use birth control.
DEBUNKED: Pregnancy is still possible until a female has gone through menopause and has not had a period for 12 consecutive months, as explained on WebMD. Men can also be fertile into their 60s and 70s, and even further. Therefore, people of all ages still use birth control!
- MYTH: The morning-after pill is the same as an abortion.
DEBUNKED: The morning-after pills are high doses of birth control pills. Morning-after pills are emergency contraceptives to prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex, while abortion is for an already established pregnancy.