When it comes to birth control, misconceptions abound. We’re setting the record straight about everything from gaining weight on the pill to using birth control while breastfeeding.
Myth: Your body needs a break from the pill every once in a while.
Fact: Unless you’re trying to get pregnant, there’s no need to stop taking birth control for any length of time. Fertility with most returns to normal once discontinued (even implants). The only one that may take longer is the Depo Provera shot as this medication takes a little more time to get out of your system since each shot lasts for three months.
Myth: Being on the pill for a long time will make it more difficult to get pregnant later on.
Fact: It is totally possible to get pregnant as soon as you stop taking the pill. There’s a commonly held belief that it takes a while for the hormones to get out of your system, making it difficult to conceive until then. But for many couples, the months of trying that they plan for are simply never needed — that’s also why it’s possible to get pregnant after missing just a few doses. It is recommended to stop your birth control when you are ready to get pregnant as it might be that first month.
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Myth: Birth control makes you gain weight.
Fact: While it’s true that some women may experience a little extra water retention when they start taking the pill, countless studies have shown that today’s birth control pills do not cause weight gain. Chances are this myth is based on outdated information — the pills of the 1960s had much higher hormone levels, which could have caused increased appetite and water retention in some women. Speak to your doctor if you are experiencing weight gain as this may not be the best hormone balance for you.
Myth: The IUD is only for women who’ve already had children.
Fact: The intrauterine device used to be recommended primarily to women who had already given birth, since their expanded cervix and uterus make implantation more comfortable. Today, there are new options of IUDs (hormonal and non-hormonal) making them available for moms and non-moms alike — and at 99 percent effective, it’s a great alternative to taking a daily pill. You get the effectiveness of a permanent contraception but have the option to remove at any time and immediately have fertility returned.
Myth: If you’re breastfeeding, you don’t need to worry about birth control.
Fact: While breastfeeding can affect your hormones and make you a bit less fertile, it is certainly not a foolproof way of preventing pregnancy. If you prefer not to take a hormonal contraceptive option while breastfeeding, you can use non-hormonal options like barrier options including condoms or the non-hormonal IUD (Paragard). Progesterone-only birth control options (pill, shot, or implantable options) can be used safely and effectively with little impact on your milk supply once you have established a good milk supply.
Myth: Birth control causes cancer.
Fact: The short answer: It’s complicated. While oral contraceptives are believed to slightly increase your chances of getting breast cancer, they can also lower your risk of endometrial, colon and ovarian cancer. The decision to use any hormones should be individualized. Be sure to talk to your doctor about your family history and the risks and benefits associated with each form of birth control.
This blog post was originally published on July 19, 2017 and has since been updated.