FEATURE — Whether it’s confusion over when you should be taking birth control to concern about it possibly causing cancer, there are many misunderstandings when it comes to female contraception. Read on for nine of the most common myths and the actual facts that go along with them.
Myth 1: Hormones cause cancer.
While it is true that hormones are related to certain cancers (breast, cervical, uterine, melanoma), it is a myth that hormones increase your risk of getting or dying from cancer.
Talking specifically about birth control pills, the very slight increase in the risk of breast and cervical cancers is offset by decreases in ovarian and uterine cancers. In the average low-risk woman, this is simply a non-issue.
Myth 2: Women who have never had children can’t get an IUD.
The greatest worry is the insertion process. The key is to have someone place it that is very experienced and can put a numbing block in before. In experienced hands, IUD insertion is quick and easy, even for women who have never been pregnant.
Myth 3: Using hormonal birth control will affect your future fertility.
The effects of almost all types of birth control are immediately reversible. The only one that takes longer is the injection (Depo-Provera), which can take 3-6 months to leave your system entirely – but it eventually will.
Myth 4: All birth control types make acne worse.
Well, this isn’t exactly a myth, because some types do, especially those that are progestin only, such as Nexplanon, progesterone IUDs and Depo-Provera. But birth control pills are actually a very good treatment for acne.
Myth 5: Birth control pills make me gain weight.
This is a myth – at least if you are talking about increased body fat. You can retain some sodium and fluid, 2-3 pounds worth, in the first few months of starting a new hormonal contraceptive, but those results are temporary.
I will add, though, that the progestin-only products are much more likely to be associated with unwanted weight gain in 10-25 percent of users.
Myth 6: I’m breastfeeding, so I can’t get pregnant.
It is less likely, but it is absolutely possible to get pregnant while breasfeeding, even before you have your first menstrual cycle after delivery.
Myth 7: It’s unhealthy to use any type of birth control that skips your period.
It’s not unhealthy and can actually be a tremendous advantage for women who are burdened with heavy, painful, inconvenient cycles. No types of birth control that allow women to skip cycles have any negative future effects on fertility.
Myth 8: Your body occasionally needs a break from birth control.
This is a myth. Taking a break is not healthy, is unnecessary and can result in an unplanned pregnancy.
Myth 9: Once you are in your 40s you don’t need to use birth control anymore.
This is a myth. I have seen more women than I can count get pregnant out of the blue in their 40s when they have not used protection for over a decade.
It may not be likely, but it absolutely can and does happen. How much protection you should use depends on how much of a disaster it would be to accidentally get pregnant.
Hopefully this helps clear up some of the myths and mysteries. If you have more questions about contraceptive options, don’t hesitate to talk to your doctor or care provider.
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