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Debunking The Myths About Birth Control Pills

Nearly 17 million women in the US rely on birth control pills for reliable contraception and other medical benefits. But I wonder how many others would benefit from the Pill if it weren't for several myths in circulation.

  • The most prevalent myth is that "Taking the pill makes you fat". Not! Ironically, most women who told me this were teenagers who stopped taking the pill because they heard that and then got pregnant. Pregnancy makes you fat. Eating too much and exercising too little makes you fat. Most low dose Pills have little effect on weight gain, water retention or appetite.

  • Another myth: "If I take the pill my face will break out." Not true. Studies have even found that certain formulations of birth control pills can even decrease the severity of preexisting acne.

  • The myth that bothers me the most is that the Pill " may increase breast cancer risk". This is not true. An analysis of 54 studies in 25 countries found no increased risk of breast cancer 10 or more years after women stopped taking the pill compared with women who never took it. This is true for women even with a family history of breast cancer.

  • Have you heard that "You need a pill vacation after being on it for several years"? This is not true. The myth about the pill being unsafe for women over 35 is also outdated, unless you are a smoker or have other contraindications. Unless your doctor gives you a medical reason to stop taking the Pill, you probably can take it safely until menopause. Smoking over age 35 IS a reason to stop smoking; if you can't, then stop taking the Pill, and use another form of contraception.

  • Another myth is that "If you've tried one Pill, you've tried them all". Not true. While many birth control pills are similar, there are many different formulations offering different doses, side effects and different benefits.

  • Some women mistakenly think that once they stop taking the Pill , they'll have difficulty getting pregnant. This is not true. A woman who stops taking the pill will have no more trouble conceiving than a woman OF THE SAME AGE who did not take them.

  • Unfortunately, many women think that if they're on the Pill, they're practicing safe sex. Not true. The Pill provides excellent contraception, but it does not protect a woman from sexually transmitted diseases (STD's) such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, and HIV/AIDS.

  • Many women believe-incorrectly-that they can't take the Pill while nursing". Not true. Progestin-only contraceptives are a safe and effective method of contraception for breast-feeding women as early as 3 weeks postpartum. An even bigger myth is that women who are breast-feeding don't need contraception: also untrue.

Created: 3/24/2004  -  Donnica Moore, M.D.

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