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8 Birth Control Myths You Probably Believe

How much do you really know about birth control? OB/GYNs set the record straight.
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Given the fact that birth control methods have been around since the dawn of time (seriously, condoms made from animal-derived materials were first used around 3,000 B.C.) and many of the modern methods of pregnancy prevention, such as the birth control pill, have been used since the early 1960s, you'd think we'd have a solid understanding of how they work. But, like many other things involving the female body, birth control is still surrounded by an air of mystery, even by those who've been using it for decades.

"Many women learn about their birth control options from their friends, sisters, mothers or have no idea at all, which may perpetuate misinformation and further create misunderstandings surrounding birth control," explains Tiffany Hunter, MD, OB/GYN at Northern Obstetrics & Gynecology in North Hills, New York.

Considering that 60 percent of U.S. women of reproductive age are currently using some form of contraception, with 15.9 percent on the pill and 8 percent using long-acting reversible contraception (L.A.R.C.), we should probably get our facts straight. We asked top OB/GYNs to debunk some of the most common myths about birth control that many of us still believe.

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Myth: The pill is the only safe and effective method out there
Yes, the pill has been used for decades and is the hormonal birth control method that we know the most about, but it's not the only safe and effective method. Hunter says that other forms of contraception — the vaginal ring, the transdermal patch, the Depo-Provera shot, implants and intrauterine devices — are safe and equally or, in some cases, even more effective at preventing pregnancy.

What's more, the pill may not be safe for all women. "It, and any estrogen-containing method for that matter, cannot be used by women who are at increased risk of developing deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or clots, who have clotting disorders, migraines with aura, stroke, have liver disease or certain cancers or a number of other conditions," Hunter says. "Smoking increases the risk of developing a clot while on estrogen containing birth control methods, so if you are not ready to quit smoking (you should seriously consider it — seriously), these methods are not for you."

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Myth: You can't get pregnant while using birth control
While birth control methods of all kinds have incredibly high success rates, even when a patient complies perfectly, there is still about a one percent chance of pregnancy. Yes, this is incredibly low, but the rate increases when the birth control method is not followed exactly. "The IUDs and implants have the lowest failure rates (0.05-0.8 percent), the pill, patch and vaginal ring all have similar failure rates (about 9 percent) and the Depo-Provera shot is a little better with a failure rate of about 6 percent," explains Hunter. "I know these numbers may look frightening but these numbers are no reason to overlook birth control altogether."

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Myth: Birth control will lower your ability to become pregnant in the future
If you've heard this going around the rumor mill, don't give it any attention. Being on birth control does not decrease your fertility, however other factors, including age, do. Therefore, if you've been on birth control for the majority of your child-bearing years, yes, your chances of becoming pregnant are lower than they were when you first got on birth control, however, it is by no means due to being on birth control. "One of the ways birth control works is by putting your ovaries to sleep (for lack of a better way of explaining it) and preventing ovulation (the release of eggs for fertilization)," explains Hunter. "Most women return to fertility rather quickly, within a matter of months (with the exception of the Depo-Provera shot, which may take even longer), after getting off birth control."

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Myth: You can't get an STD on birth control
Birth control does a great job of preventing pregnancy but has no involvement in preventing sexually transmitted diseases. For this reason and many more, practicing safe sex is a must to ensure you're healthy. "You also need to use a barrier method (such as condoms) to help prevent against sexually transmitted disease," says Julia Kavanagh, M.D., Internal Medicine Physician at UCHealth. If you haven't been tested, or have recently been with a new partner, consider scheduling an appointment with your OB/GYN or primary care provider.

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