With so much misinformation floating around (not to mention the serious lack of comprehensive sex education available to the average person), it’s no surprise that there are so many rumors and misconceptions about oral contraceptives … more commonly known as the pill. Get the facts on how the pill really affects your body!
1. How It Works – Really
Birth control works in several different ways to effectively protect against pregnancy. Let’s take a quick sex ed lesson… How one becomes pregnant is by ovulating (the egg gets released from the ovary), followed by fertilization (sperm successfully enters the egg). Birth control stops ovulation, which means when sperm enters, it has nothing to fertilize. Birth control also increases the thickness of the uterine lining, making it unable to service a fertilized egg. Before the sperm can even travel towards the uterus, birth control also helps increase the thickness of vaginal mucus to prevent sperm from even reaching the egg. As long as you take the pill daily, and roughly on time, the pill is 97-98% effective. If you have any fear of the pill being ineffective, use a condom for peace of mind.
Many women mess up their birth control at least once, and usually there’s no need to panic. Read the information packet that comes with your birth control or try calling a doctor/pharmacist to help you figure out if you need a backup method of protection. Better to be safe than sorry, so doubling up by using both birth control pills and condoms will significantly decrease the fear and risk of getting pregnant.
2. Your “Period” is Actually Fake!
When birth control was initially invented, the creators of the birth control pill decided that it might be easier to accept if they provided an artificial period resembling a woman’s natural menstrual cycle. So, when you get your period on the birth control pill, it’s actually just a fake period! You don’t ovulate, so the lining is not being shed because an egg was not fertilized. The sudden decrease of hormones is biologically created to cause your body to bleed, simulating a natural menstrual cycle! Don’t worry, just because the period is fake doesn’t mean you’re pregnant. Getting your “period” while taking the pill is still reassurance that there is not a pregnancy.
3. Birth Control Lowers Cancer Risks
Taking birth control lowers the risk of developing both ovarian and uterine cancers. Both cancers increase in probability based on estrogen and ovulation. So a decreased, or regularly controlled, amount of estrogen, and lack of ovulation, decreases the risk of developing ovarian and uterine cancers.
Disclaimer: Birth control has also been alleged to increase a breast cancer risk. Don’t stop or start taking birth control based on cancer data. Talk to your doctor about your individual risks and find a method most effective for you!
4. They (Might) Minimally Affect Your Weight
Most people think birth control will make you fat. This is not the case. The grain of truth in this myth is that about fifty years ago when birth control was just introduced, it had high levels of estrogen; extreme levels of estrogen cause weight gain, and it did cause weight gain fifty years ago. As birth control has improved and evolved though, the levels of estrogen were decreased and the weight gain is a side effect from the past. However, for certain women, the slight increase in estrogen may cause their breast size to increase – it affects people differently, for a multitude of reasons.
If you dislike how birth control affects your body, talk to your doctor about alternative options or pills with a different level of estrogen to better suit your individual needs.
5. You Can Safely Skip Periods
A common misconception about birth control pills is that skipping your period is bad for you. But if you think about it logically, it’s easy to rationalize how it doesn’t matter. Birth control prevents ovulation, and thus creates a synthetic period. If you choose to continue your active pills and skip the placebo week, it is safe to do so. The only “necessity” to get your period is if you want reassurance you are not pregnant. Skipping a period (or multiple consecutively) does not do anything harmful to your body. Also, studies have been done to prove that skipping periods does not cause fertility problems in the future.
6. Taking Birth Control Does Not Decrease Fertility
There is no evidence that birth control decreases fertility. After being around for over fifty years, doctors and researchers can confidently say that birth control does not lessen your ability to get pregnant when you’re ready. Many women do say that their period is spotty, missed, or experience breakthrough bleeding for a few months after stopping birth control, however, that is completely normal and just the body temporarily adjusting to producing natural hormones.
There are many different types of birth control pills. It is important to talk to your doctor and determine which is best for you. It’s also just as important to make sure you do your own research. Birth control wouldn’t be around for over fifty years if it did more harm than good. Rest assured birth control is here to help!
Disclaimer: Most birth control pills are a progestin and estrogen mix. This article is based on these dual hormone pills, when taken regularly/on time. Always ask your doctor for clarification about other types of contraceptives!