7 Common Birth Control Myths

With birth control under attack from the Trump administration, a lot of myths about contraception are flying around. It can feel a little overwhelming — even if you’re pretty savvy about reproductive health — so get armed with some facts: The next time someone tries to promote falsehoods about birth control, speak up!

1. Hormonal Birth Control Is Really Abortion

This monstrous myth comes first because it’s repeated often, and it’s completely false.

Abortion is the termination of a pregnancy, which can only happen after an egg has been fertilized and an embryo has implanted in the wall of the uterus. Many fertilized eggs never develop or fail to implant, and many pregnancies fail in the early weeks — as many as 25 percent of pregnancies end in miscarriage.

Health care providers can use physical means — like suction or curettage — to terminate a pregnancy, or, in the early stages, patients can have a medication abortion with a pill that blocks the production of progesterone, a hormone pregnancies need to continue growing.

Birth control is designed to interrupt fertilization and implantation, in a variety of ways. Barrier methods keep sperm from reaching the eggs, for example, while hormonal methods can inhibit ovulation or make the uterus a hostile environment for fertilization and implantation. Emergency contraception – the “morning after pill” — inhibits ovulation, but it won’t terminate a pregnancy.

2. Natural Birth Control is Effective

Natural birth control, also called fertility awareness or the rhythm method, proposes to prevent pregnancy by avoiding sex when the recipient is in a fertile stage of their menstrual cycle, and/or by withdrawing before ejaculation. However, the hormones and processes involved in pregnancy are complicated — plus, sperm and eggs are highly resilient.

That makes “natural birth control” highly ineffective when compared to other methods: About 25 people in 100 will get pregnant in a year using this method, versus less than one using reversible long-acting contraceptives like IUDs and implants.

3. The Pill Starts Working Right Away

You may have heard that when you start the pill, you can drop other methods of birth control, but it actually takes about a month for the medication to become effective. It’s a good idea to use condoms or another backup method while transitioning to the pill. You also need to take the medication daily to keep it effective, though you don’t have to take it at the exact same time every day.

4. Contraceptives are All Hormone-Based

In addition to barrier methods like condoms, sponges and diaphragms, people can also use spermicide for pregnancy prevention. The copper intrauterine device also provides pregnancy protection without the use of hormones.

Condoms provide protection from STIs, and depending on your lifestyle, using condoms in addition to another method may be advised both as backup and to limit the risk of passing along infections.

5. I Can’t Use Hormonal Birth Control Because of a Bad Reaction

Historically, options for hormonal birth control were pretty limited: Most pills were very similar to each other, and had high dosages, too. That meant that hormonal birth control wasn’t a fun ride for some people, who experienced weight gain, wild mood swings, heavy periods and other health problems on the pill. Fortunately, medicine has come a long way since then — and a recent study showed that birth control pills aren’t to blame for weight gain.

Today, hormonal birth control is available in a range of formulations, many of which are as low-dose as possible in order to offer maximum protection with minimal side effects. Patients who have a bad experience with one brand should ask about trying another, as it may be possible to change the medication or dosage. In addition, extremely low-dose options are available in the form of intrauterine devices and insertable rings, both of which can be removed if a patient has an adverse reaction.

Incidentally, changes in the formulation of birth control products also means that the infamous risk of blood clots associated with birth control has radically declined. While some patients can experience a minor increase in risk, it’s more tightly tied to genetic factors and lifestyle choices — like smoking.

6. Using Contraception Will Interfere with My Chances for Future Fertility

Depending on the method of contraception used, you may need to stop using it for a month or more — up to a year with the contraceptive injection — before you can get pregnant again, but a history of contraceptive use doesn’t have a bearing on your fertility. If you’re having trouble getting pregnant, there may be a myriad of causes at work, and a doctor can evaluate you to explore possible options and treatments.

7. I Can’t Get an IUD Until I’ve Had Kids

This was a common belief until pretty recently, but in fact, IUDs are available to patients of any age — and they don’t need to have kids first. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends IUDs as an option for young adults who aren’t interested in pregnancy in the near future. They’re long acting, reversible and easy to maintain; no trying to remember to take a pill every morning or get a shot periodically to prevent pregnancy.

Photo credit: Charlotte Cooper

134 comments

Chad Anderson
Chad A5 months ago

Thanks.

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Madison Idso
Madison Idso6 months ago

Please support birth control. The human population is out of control.

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Just Human
Just Human7 months ago

Another one. Teenagers won't have sex if birth control is restricted

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joan silaco
joan silaco7 months ago

TYFS

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Richard A
Richard A7 months ago

Thank you for this article.

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Marion Morin
Marion Morin7 months ago

merci

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Amanda M
Amanda M7 months ago

My sister had to jump through some insane hoops to get an IUD fifteen years ago, and she was living in CA at the time! Thank the Goddess that people are wising up and LARCs like the IUD are being provided to more and more women regardless of whether or not they want kids. The fewer unwanted/unplanned pregnancies in this world today, the better for everyone. Unfortunately, as long as the anti-choicers are able to spread misinformation and lies about abortion AND contraception (and this idiocy goes right up to Twitler and his minions intefering with not just contraception coverage, but access as well with these stupid "conscience" exemptions and rollbacks of ACA coverage), we still have to fight tooth and nail to make sure that women get REAL information about and access to effective, reliable contraception.

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Christina K
Christina Klein7 months ago

Thanks! Very good information!

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Christina K
Christina Klein7 months ago

Between my children I took "the pill". After my three I had an IUP

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Kathy G
Kathy G7 months ago

Thank you

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