Birth Control Pills: 3 Facts And 3 Myths You Should Know

Birth control pills are 100% effective in preventing pregnancy — Myth

The pill is most effective when taken correctly, which means that the risk of pregnancy is lower when the pill is taken at the exact same time every day. But even in this scenario, there exists a 1% chance of getting pregnant. According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, out of 100 who use this method, around 9 women may become pregnant.

You can't be protected against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) by taking birth control pills — Fact

While pills decrease the risk of pregnancy, they cannot work as a shield against STDs. These diseases can be spread through skin-to-skin contact (such as herpes) or the exchange of sexual fluids (such as HIV). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)​ recommends condoms, vaccination, and abstinence as the most effective measures to prevent STDs.

Besides preventing pregnancy, birth control pills may offer health benefits — Fact

Going on the pill may improve your health in a number of ways such as relieving the pain of menstruation, lowering the risk of ovarian cancereasing symptoms of PMS etc.

Birth control pills can cause permanent weight gain — Myth

Many studies have disproven the theory that birth control pills are the cause of significant weight gain. One such study published in 2014 examined 49 separate trials and concluded that there was no link.

The key word here being "permanent", there is an explanation as to why this popular myth exists. When pills were first introduced in the 1960s, they contained large quantities of estrogen which can lead to weight gain by inducing fluid retention and an increased appetite.

The levels of estrogen in pills are much lower today. Any significant weight gain is often considered temporary since water retention initially gives the impression of a weight gain despite no actual increase in body fat. Health professionals may recommend changing the brand/type of pill if the effects last too long.

Birth control pills are not safe for all women — Fact

Experts have suggested that combination pills (birth control pills containing estrogen) may not be suitable for women who are smokers and over the age of 35.

According to Planned Parenthood, combination pills are also not recommended for women who have suffered from blood clots, stroke, breast cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure or liver disease. It is advised that anyone under such health risks speak to a doctor or nurse to find the best option for them. 

You can take a "break" from your birth control pills and still retain the benefits — Myth

"There’s this thought that it’s good to give your body a break from the medication, so some people will just stop it," explains Dr. Jennifer Kickham, an OB-GYN at the Massachusetts General Hospital. "I usually don’t recommend that if people are sexually active because that’s how unintended pregnancies happen."

The exception, of course, is to stop taking the pill when trying to get pregnant. The body will then readjust to its previous state. For example, if someone has experienced painful periods or acne before going on the pill, they can expect these conditions to return after they stop taking their birth control. Additionally, some women may even experience an increase in sex drive.