Medically reviewed by Sophia Yen, MD, MPH – Written by Pandia Health Editorial Team
The Top 5 Myths About the Birth Control Pill
Since the pill was first put on the market back in 1960, debates, controversy, and myths have abounded about its effects and how it works. In fact, the hormonal birth control pill is one of the most extensively studied medications in history. One would think that all of those hours of research put into one medication would disabuse many of the myths surrounding it. But, that’s simply not the case. Although the pill has been around for more than fifty years, there’s still quite a bit of confusion about how it works and who can take it. So, what are the top 5 myths about the birth control pill? Find out below.
Myth #1: The pill can cause congenital disabilities if a woman gets pregnant while taking it.
Although the pill is considered safe and effective, it’s a medication, which means that it does come with some side effects. But, giving birth to a baby with developmental delays or congenital disabilities is not one of them. Even if a woman accidentally gets pregnant while on the pill, the fetus will not be adversely affected.
Myth #2: It’s not safe to take the active pills in a birth control pack continuously to prevent monthly bleeding.
There is no medically necessary reason for women to get a period every single month for decades. To thoroughly disabuse this myth, it’s important to understand how the pill influences hormones and the menstrual cycle.
When a woman is not on birth control, female reproductive hormones continuously rise and fall throughout the month. During the beginning of the cycle, hormones steadily increase until they trigger the ovaries to release an egg. Once an egg is released, hormones influence the uterus to grow a thick endometrial lining to nourish an implanted egg. If at the end of the cycle an egg is not fertilized and implanted, the uterine lining is shed, menstruation occurs, and the cycle starts all over again.
Taking the pill prevents the ovaries from releasing an egg, and the pill also stops the uterus from growing a thick lining for an implanted egg. When a woman takes birth control pills, she has a withdrawal bleed at the end of each monthly pack, and this bleeding is not technically a period. These mechanisms are why some women won’t even get a withdrawal bleed after taking hormonal birth control for a long time. Bleeding once per month while taking birth control is not necessary.
It’s perfectly safe for women to take active birth control pills to prevent bleeding. Many women start taking hormonal birth control for the express purposes of preventing menstruation. Menstrual periods can be painful, disruptive, and they can also lead to iron-deficiency anemia. For women who have complications resulting from menstruation, the pill and other forms of hormonal birth control can be a godsend.
Myth #3: It’s not safe to use hormonal birth control for years, and women should take breaks from it.
There are no proven, medically necessary reasons for healthy, young women of reproductive age to take breaks from using the pill. It’s safe for women to take the pill for as long as they need it without risking their health. But, doctors do recommend that women review their contraceptive needs after fifteen years, or once they reach the age of 35. After 35, the synthetic estrogens in some hormonal birth control pills can put women at increased risk of blood clot formation. However, there are other birth control pills that women with these risk factors can take safely.
It’s also crucial to realize that if a women were to believe this myth and stop taking her birth control for a “break,” she risks becoming pregnant if she is sexually active. Hormonal birth control pills are some of the most effective contraceptives on the market. Going off them can result in an unintended pregnancy if a woman and her partner are not prudent about using back up contraceptive methods. It’s also possible for a woman to get pregnant right after stopping the pill.
Myth #4: Taking the pill can destroy a woman’s fertility.
The pill is a safe and 100% reversible method of contraception. There is no scientific evidence that the pill causes infertility. Once a woman stops taking the pill, she can ovulate immediately and become pregnant shortly after stopping the pill. However, it can take some women a few months to begin regularly ovulating again after stopping hormonal birth control. But the pill does not cause a woman to become infertile by permanently suppressing ovulation. The women who are most likely to experience a delay in fertility and ovulation are women who’ve had irregular periods before they started taking the pill.
Unfortunately, there is a lot of confusion around the pill and infertility, and some of this confusion can be attributed to natural causes. Many women start using the pill in their mid-teens and will stop taking it in their late 30s, which is the age when fertility begins to decrease in women naturally. Plus, when a woman is trying to prevent pregnancy with the pill, she is usually not concerned about or even aware of any infertility issues that she may have until she goes off the pill. But the fact remains that the pill itself does not cause problems with fertility.
Myth #5: All birth control pills are the same.
There are many different types of birth control pills. They vary by brand and generic names and formulas, and they also vary based on their compositions. Some pills contain combinations of synthetic estrogen and progesterone hormones, while others only contain progesterone hormones. Still, the amount of these synthetic hormones varies for each brand of pill. It’s common for a woman to try several different birth control pills before she finds one that works for her unique needs and lifestyle.
Are you curious about what kinds of hormonal contraceptives can work for you? The doctors at Pandia Health are standing by to answer any questions you have about the pill. Please sign up with Pandia Health today to explore your birth control options.
The views expressed in this article intend to inform and induce conversation. They are the views of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Pandia Health, and are for informational purposes only, even if and to the extent that this article features the advice of physicians and medical practitioners. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment, and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.