Do you remember the rumours you’d hear about contraception when you were in school? Luckily, we’ve come a long way from the taboo of talking openly about contraception—but there are still a number of myths floating around. Contraception is a very personal matter: everyone’s body is different, and it’s important that we all have the information needed to make informed choices about what suits us best.
The problem with myths?
We can immediately write off contraceptive methods that might be perfect for us and our lifestyle, just because we believed something our friend saw on TikTok. Don’t get us wrong: social media is a great place to learn about all kinds of topics, but when it comes to medical advice, we’d suggest still sticking with reputable sources and professional opinions that best match your unique biology and lifestyle. Let’s take a look at 3 common myths contraception-related myths, and find out the science behind them.
Myth #1: It’s dangerous to continuously take the pill and skip the bleed
You might have taken the combined pill at one point in your life in order to make your periods easier to deal with, and to skip altogether at impractical moments like holidays and weddings. One myth that’s been doing the rounds is that it’s dangerous to continue taking the pill to skip your "period". We put period in quotes because the bleed you experience during the pill break week is not technically a menstrual period! It's a withdrawal bleed caused by the fact that you've stopped taking the hormonal pill for the 7 days. As per NHS guidelines and current research, it has been deemed safe to continue taking ‘active’ pills to skip your "period" or withdrawal bleed with no evidence of associated health risks.
This myth is fueled by more than just fear of negative health outcomes for skipping bleeds. It also comes from the belief that you need to give your body time to reset if you’ve skipped more than a few "periods", and to allow your cycle to return to "normal". The reality? When you take the pill you're not having a usual menstrual cycle as the pill is preventing ovulation. There is no return to your usual menstrual cycle unless you stop taking the pill altogether*.
This was a myth that was also debunked by healthcare professionals in Davina McCall's Channel 4 documentary: the Pill Revolution.
*If you're thinking about discontinuing the pill it's advised to first speak to a medical professional before doing so as it's important to get necessary counseling and to alert medical professionals to any medication discontinuation.
Myth #2: If you take Plan B more than 3 times, you risk the chance of becoming infertile
Plan B, also known as the morning after pill, sees more than its fair share of myths. Sometimes touted as akin to abortion (it’s not: it prevents pregnancy, rather than ends it), in medical speak, Plan B works by “delaying or inhibiting ovulation and/or altering tubal transport of sperm and/or ova (thereby inhibiting implantation)”. So if there's no egg released then there's nothing for sperm to fertilise which means a pregnancy cannot occur. It must be taken within five days of unprotected sex, and is equally effective no matter how many times you take it.
The idea that if you take Plan B more than 3 times, you risk becoming infertile is false: using emergency contraception more than once will not affect your fertility or your chance of getting pregnant in the future. That being said, if you find yourself resorting to emergency contraception on a regular basis, you might want to explore the range of contraceptive options available so you can find something that works for you as medical experts advise that Plan B should not be used as a main form of birth control.
Myth #3: It's not possible to get pregnant while breastfeeding
Well, not exactly! While it is true that breastfeeding may help prevent pregnancy acting as a contraception for women who've just given birth- there's some important caveats that often get forgotten about leading to the belief that as long as you're breastfeeding (ie using the lactational amenorrhoea method) there's no chance you'll get pregnant.
The reason why this myth came to be is because our bodies can do something very cool post-pregnancy. They delay fertility during breastfeeding so that we're not ovulating (or releasing eggs). Remember from above? No egg release means that sperm has nothing to fertilise thereby preventing pregnancy. However, a few factors that must be taken into account are the following for this method to truly be effective:
- Breastfeeding can only be used as contraception for the first 6 months of a baby’s life or until your menstrual period returns.
- Breastfeeding won’t prevent pregnancy if you feed your baby anything other than breast milk (such as formula or soft food supplementation).
- You should be nursing at least every four hours during the day and every six hours overnight.
Only two out of 100 people will get pregnant while using this method if the guidelines above are followed correctly. If the guidelines above aren't followed to a T then it is possible that pregnancy can occur while breastfeeding.
Have any more myths that you'd like us to cover? Drop us a comment below!
Medically reviewed by Dr.Paulina Cecula