The Myths and Facts About Birth Control
By Leslie Massicotte, Teens Climb High Coordinator
Contraception is another word for birth control, or methods to prevent pregnancy from occurring. Contraception is different from abortion because it prevents the sperm from meeting the egg in the first place (which is what creates a pregnancy).
There are LOTS of different types of contraceptives out there, and even more on the way! Check out the facts about your different options here and work with your partner, your doctor, and/or adults in your life who you trust to determine what option might be best for you.
Using contraception or not is a personal choice, and it’s your right to be able to choose between the options if you do want birth control. Contraception protects against unintended pregnancy and some options also prevent sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
There are also TONS of myths out there about contraception, so let’s take a look at some of the most common myths and do some debunking!
MYTH: The birth control pill is for everyone.
There’s this idea that once a person decides they want to use contraception, they should always start with the birth control pill. However, taking a pill every day at the same time can be really hard to remember, some folks’ bodies don’t like the added hormones, and there are sooo many different options out there that could be better for someone. The birth control pill definitely works great for a LOT of people, but starting contraception should always involve a process and a conversation to figure out what type is best for you and your body.
MYTH: I’ll have to deal with the side effects of hormones if I decide to use contraception.
Some types of contraception--the hormonal IUD, implant, injection, ring, patch, pills--contain hormones, and some folks’ bodies don’t respond well to the extra doses of hormones. That’s why there are lots of other great contraception options that don’t contain hormones, like the Paragard copper IUD, internal and external condoms, diaphragm, cervical cap, and others. Fertility awareness methods like tracking your period and the withdrawal method are two other non-hormonal options that work especially well when paired with a condom. Scientists are also developing new options--like Phexxi, a non-hormonal gel that you insert in your vagina before sex--that give people an even-wider variety of non-hormonal options.
MYTH: All forms of contraception can prevent STIs.
Only barrier methods--external or internal condoms or dental dams--can prevent STIs. All other forms of contraception are only effective at preventing pregnancy which is why a lot of people decide to use a condom AND a method of birth control (like the pill or IUD) when they have vaginal sex.
MYTH: Emergency contraception causes an abortion.
Emergency contraception is different from an abortion because it’s stopping the sperm from meeting the egg in the first place. After unprotected sex (or sex when the condom broke), taking emergency contraception pills causes a surge of hormones to enter your body that prevents or delays ovulation (or the release of the egg from the ovary) and prevents fertilization (the sperm from meeting the egg). In contrast, an abortion pill affects an already fertilized egg (an egg that already has met a sperm) and causes the fertilized egg to leave the uterus, ending the pregnancy.
You can also get a copper IUD within 120 days after unprotected sex as emergency contraception. This is the most effective form of emergency contraception. This procedure also does not cause an abortion, again because the sperm has not yet connected with the egg.
MYTH: Being on birth control will impact my ability to have kids later on.
Research has shown that birth control is safe and will NOT impact your ability to have kids later on. Many, many people who want kids stop their contraception and are able to get pregnant, sometimes right away.
MYTH: It’s unhealthy to use contraception to skip your period.
There is no medical reason to have your period each month, unless you are trying to track being able to conceive (or get pregnant). Back in the day, women would have kids pretty consistently over the years so that they were either pregnant or breastfeeding for big chunks of their life--this meant they might not have their period for years at a time. Some folks need to stop their periods for medical reasons--like to prevent super painful periods or to relieve symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Others can’t afford pads or tampons so not having a period saves money. So it’s actually total safe and healthy to skip your period if you want. It’s something you can discuss with your healthcare provider.
MYTH: The pill starts working immediately after you take it.
The birth control pill usually takes about 7 days to be effective at preventing pregnancy. When starting the pill, use a back-up method like condoms for the first 7 days.
MYTH: Condoms don’t feel good.
You might think this but…. condoms can actually feel super good, especially because they’re keeping you and your partner(s) safe! The different sensation of wearing condoms can sometimes cause the penis to become flaccid, or soft, but there are solutions for that: help your penis-ed partner put on the condom or get their erection back, try some other sexy things like making out or oral sex until the penis is hard again, or forgo sex until another time because sex isn’t the end goal--it’s mutual pleasure. You could also try out different types of condoms--there are ribbed ones, studded ones, different thicknesses, brands, etc.