There are many myths circulating about birth control, but it’s smart to stick to the facts when planning your family. Whether you’re ready to start planning a family or want to space out your next pregnancy, here are some myths you would be wise to ignore.
- Myth: You can’t get pregnant the first time you have sex. Fact: Any time you engage in unprotected sex you can get pregnant. In your 20s, the chances of getting pregnant within a year are 100 percent. Those odds decrease to around 75 percent in your 40s. The odds are highest around ovulation.
- Myth: You can’t get pregnant while you’re breastfeeding. Fact: If your infant is younger than six months, you are breastfeeding exclusively, and have not yet had regular periods, breastfeeding can suppress the hormones that help you ovulate. However, even with this reduction in fertility, you can still get pregnant.
- Myth: Withdrawal, also known as “pulling out,” is a reliable method of birth control. Fact: Withdrawal can help prevent pregnancy by keeping sperm out of the vagina, but it’s not a reliable method of birth control, since it’s difficult to do right. It’s not as effective as using a condom. It also doesn’t protect you against STDs such as chlamydia, syphilis, or gonorrhea.
- Myth: You can’t buy condoms if you are under 18. Fact: You can buy condoms at any age and they are often free at contraception clinics. Condoms are effective 98 percent of the time.
- Myth: You can’t use an IUD if you haven’t had children. Fact: This myth originated because some types of IUDs are recommended for women who have given birth. IUDs can be used by women of all ages, whether or not they’ve had children. A few new IUD models are smaller and have a lower dose of hormones. The failure rate with an IUD is less than one percent.
- Myth: Using an IUD can make you infertile. Fact: While a version of the IUD, introduced in the 1970s, was linked to pelvic infections, there’s no evidence that using today’s IUDs can result in infertility. Because IUD use involves no risk of human error and the devices can remain implanted for up to 12 years, they are more than 99 percent effective in preventing pregnancy. IUDs are recommended by both the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Academy of Pediatrics as the best birth control choice.
- Myth: Taking the pill will make you gain weight. Fact: That’s not necessarily true. Women have both gained and lost weight while taking the pill. The estrogen and progestin in some pills may result in a bloated feeling, which can last for a few months, with some pills causing more fluid retention that others. If weight gain is a concern, discuss it with your healthcare provider.
- Myth: You can’t take the pill if you’re older than 35. Fact: The pill is not recommended if you smoke, are obese, have a family history of blood clots, have high blood pressure or some other medical factors. If you’re over 35 and healthy, there is no contraindication.
- Myth: Taking all antibiotics will negate the pill’s effect. Fact: Only a few antibiotics, the kind that are used to treat tuberculosis and meningitis, can make taking the pill less effective. If you are taking those antibiotics, you may want to use extra protection for the duration. Always let your health care provider know that you are on the pill.
- Myth: Eating a lot of grapefruit can make the pill less effective. Fact. Grapefruit can interact with medication, including some types of birth control. Consuming grapefruit and grapefruit juice can change the way medications are absorbed by the body. With some birth control pills, the problem is not that eating grapefruit can make the pill less effective but rather that consumption can can increase the risk of side effects and lead to some health risks.
- Myth: Your body needs a break from birth control. Fact: It’s not a good idea to stop using birth control unless you want to get pregnant. The pill can be used for about 15 years without any increased risk. However, the FDA recommends only using birth control injections for two years in a row to avoid bone mineral loss.
- Myth: Taking the pill makes it hard to get pregnant when you stop. Fact: As soon as you stop taking the pill, you can get pregnant. The hormones in birth control injections remain in your body for between six and nine months, but you can still get pregnant during that time. The reason that some women may have difficulty getting pregnant after they stop taking the pill may have to do with their age. If you’ve been taking the pill for 20 years, your fertility has naturally decreased.
Discussing the pros and cons of different types of birth control with your healthcare provider can help you find the one that’s best suited to your circumstances.