10 Myths About Birth Control
It can be hard enough to decide on the right method of birth control for you without having to sort through bad information. Let's talk about some common birth control myths.
1. Condoms aren't very effective, so they're not a good option.
When condoms are used consistently and correctly, they are up to 98% effective in preventing pregnancy. The problem lies in human error, with many people using them INconsistently and INcorrectly. Accounting for typical use with errors such as expired condoms, doubling up, using only some of the time, wearing the wrong size, not applying correctly, placing too late, taking off too early, not having adequate lubrication, using an oil-based lubricant, and condom breakage or damage, that high efficacy drops to about 82%. If condoms feel like the right option for you, make sure you understand correct use. See https://youtu.be/oaLdNErJ-Fk for some tips.
Don't forget that INTERNAL condoms are an option too. These look a little bit different, with a ring on each end and a larger surface area. They are placed vaginally and work on the same barrier concept as the classic type of condom with which most people are familiar. Learn more here https://youtu.be/P0gd7kUf1bo.
And always remember that even if you're using a different form of contraception, condoms are important for protection against sexually transmitted infections.
2. Birth control pills don't work if you're taking antibiotics.
There is only one antibiotic that has been shown to statistically reduce the efficacy of birth control pills. It's called rifampin, and it's primarily used to treat tuberculosis. If you've been prescribed an antibiotic for a UTI or sinus infection, you shouldn't have to worry about your birth control failing you at any higher rate than it would normally unless your illness or the antibiotic is making you throw up your pills. With perfect use, the birth control pill can be up to 99% effective, while it is about 91% effective with typical use.
Do make sure your healthcare professional knows about all medications and supplements that you're taking otherwise as birth control pills and other pills aren't always a good mix.
3. The patch is just going to fall off.
The contraceptive patch - a 1.75 inch square sticker that administers hormones through the skin - is SUPER sticky...so much so that sometimes people actually get annoyed with having to remove it or having a line of lint develop around its edges. It doesn't frequently fall off before it's time for it to be removed, and if it does, it can be stuck back on as long as it's been off for less than 24 hours. If it doesn't stick, it should be discarded and replaced with a new patch. It's more likely to stick well if you avoid putting lotions or oils on the skin where you're placing it. The patch is similar in efficacy to birth control pills.
4. The ring might get lost inside you.
The contraceptive ring is a flexible ring that is placed at the top of the vagina. Most people have heard of the monthly use NuvaRing, and there's a now a year-long ring called Annovera. If you're worried about it getting "lost", please let anatomy reassure you. The vagina is not a big path into the belly. The cervix (opening to uterus or "womb") sits at the top of the vagina. While the cervix does have a small opening in the middle that communicates to the inside of the uterus, the diameter of this opening at its very widest in a non-pregnant person is less than the width of the tip of your pinky finger. I assure you, there is no way on Earth that the ring is getting in there. The ring is similar in efficacy to pills and the patch.
5. The injection is a vaccine, so it causes ______ (fill in the blank with whatever you think vaccines cause besides protection).
First of all, the birth control shot - commonly known as Depo Provera - is not a vaccine. Vaccines work by stimulating the body to create antibodies against diseases. The birth control shot, which is given every 3 months, contains a type of the hormone progesterone that inhibits ovulation and prevents the lining of the uterus from building up consistently. It also contains additives to preserve the solution and allow for injection into muscle, but none of these additives are the components of vaccines that some people have decided to worry about. Depo can be up to 99% effective with perfect use and is about 94% effective with typical use.
Second of all, vaccines are one of the greatest achievements in modern medicine. They are safe, and they work.
6. The arm implant is going to move to another part of your body.
The birth control implant - Nexplanon - is a bar about the size of a matchstick that is inserted under the skin of the inside of the upper arm. It often can shift a little within the tissue underneath the skin. Many times, scar develops around the implant that helps keep it in place. It is incredibly rare for it to move far away from where it was put in, *unless* it is placed by someone who doesn't know what they're doing and it ends up right in a blood vessel. That is rare enough that information about it is limited to case reports, articles that are published when a weird medical event occurs. The Nexplanon is *the most effective* form of contraception other than abstinence, approaching 100% efficacy (99.9%). It's even more effective than having your tubes tied!
7. An IUD will make you infertile.
Intrauterine devices (IUDs) got a bad reputation decades ago, and they're still trying to break free from it. The design of previous IUDs was flawed and ultimately led to an increase in severe infections. These infections could lead to fertility issues by their direct impact on the gyn organs or in some cases resulted in hysterectomies (complete removal of the uterus - no uterus, no pregnancy). Luckily, the IUDs of today are made in such a way that we do not see issues with these types of infections or later infertility. While it's not the norm, I've certainly had patients conceive within the week of IUD removal. There are hormonal and non-hormonal IUDs, both of which are over 99% effective for pregnancy prevention.
8. You won't have periods anymore if you get your tubes tied.
Sorry to potentially burst your bubble, but having "tubes tied" (tubal ligation) or removed completely will not take away your period. The fallopian tubes are simply paths for oocytes ("eggs") to take from the ovary to the uterus. Removing this path doesn't stop the hormonal cycles that cause eggs to be released (ovulation) or the lining of the uterus to build up and shed (menses/periods). Because these processes still occur, you can still rarely get pregnant after these tubal procedures! They are over 99% effective, though.
9. A vasectomy is emasculating.
You know what's incredibly manly? Having the balls to go through a very minimally-invasive procedure for the *most effective* type of sterilization as a form of responsibility and caring for your partner(s). Breathe. Snipping some tubes doesn't affect who you are. Also, maybe don't focus so much on gender norms. You will need to have a test to confirm success as a follow-up after the procedure.
10. Your results with birth control will be the same as your mom's/friend's/neighbor's.
A wonderful thing about life is that we are all unique individuals. Not everybody responds in the same way to each type of birth control, and there is no one perfect method for everybody. Talk to your trusted healthcare professional about your main goals with birth control, your medical history including medications and supplements, and your particular lifestyle and individualized factors that might impact your use of birth control.
For more birth control info, check out one of my favorite websites, bedsider.org/methods.