You may already know a fair amount about birth control. But with so many different types to choose from, there’s always more to learn.
Common misconceptions and facts about birth control
How many of these facts did you already know? Take a look at common misconceptions and vital facts about birth control.
“The pill” doesn’t just describe one single kind of pill.
The name might suggest that it’s just one single medication, but “the pill” actually includes a number of different kinds of oral contraceptives. There are two main varieties of the pill — combination pills, which contain estrogen and progestin, and the minipill, which contains only progestin. And each type comes in a variety of doses, brands and generics. Conventional packs lead to a period every month, whereas continuous dosing/extended cycle packs lead to a period once every three or more months. With so many options to choose from, many people can find a form of the pill that’s a good fit.
Most birth control doesn’t protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
Many types of birth control do a fantastic job at preventing pregnancy — IUDs and the birth control implant are 99% effective! — but most birth control doesn’t protect against STIs. Male and female condoms are the only types of birth control that provide protection against STIs. They are not the most effective at preventing pregnancy — 85% and 79%, respectively — so it’s often a good idea to use more than one contraception in order to both prevent pregnancy and protect against STIs. Just don’t use male and female condoms together. They can rub against each other and break or slip, making them much less effective at protecting against both pregnancy and STIs.
You can use the pill to skip your period.
And it’s safe to do so. Essentially, you can skip taking the hormone-free “reminder” pills found at the end of a pack and instead take the first week of active pills in the next pack to skip your period. Some people do this so they don’t have to deal with getting their period on a special occasion or during travel. Others do it to skip out on pain or discomfort during their period. If you take the pill and are interested in skipping your period, just be sure to check in with your healthcare provider to understand how to do so with your specific brand.
The morning-after pill isn’t just for the morning after.
The name may suggest that you need to use the morning-after pill (or “emergency contraception”) right away to lessen your chance of getting pregnant after unprotected intercourse. But, technically, you have a little more time to do so — some brands of morning-after pill can be taken up to 72 hours (or 3 days) after intercourse, others for up to 120 hours (or 5 days) after. It is worth noting that the morning-after pill is most effective the sooner it’s taken because the hormones in it keep your body from ovulating — no ovulation, no pregnancy. Depending on where you live, the morning-after pill may be available over the counter or as a prescription. Just be aware: some studies suggest that these pills may be less effective at preventing pregnancy for people with higher body weights. In addition, many combination birth control pills can be used as emergency contraception if you have them at home. Talk to your provider about what option is best for you.
Some birth control is approved for use for up to 10 years.
The copper IUD is approved for use for 10 years to prevent pregnancy! The small T-shaped device is inserted into the uterus, and once in place, it can safely stay there for a decade. It can always be removed sooner, after which, it is possible to get pregnant right away. Because many people use this as a long-acting, reversible form of birth control, depending on your insurance, it may also come with the added perk of being cost-effective.
Hormonal birth control can be used for much more than just to prevent pregnancy.
42% of people who take the pill do so exclusively to prevent pregnancy. The other 58% take the pill for other reasons as well. Hormonal birth control can be used to help with irregular or particularly uncomfortable periods — heavy periods, lengthy periods, heavy cramping and discomfort, or pain and other health problems related to endometriosis — or even mood disorders and acne. Hormonal birth control can improve quality of life for those suffering from some of these conditions.
That’s the overview of important birth control facts and common misconceptions. If you want to learn more, or have questions about what sort of birth control might be right for you, be sure to speak with your healthcare provider.
And if you’re taking the pill or have an IUD, add it to your Ovia profile!
Read more about your birth control options
- “Barrier Methods of Birth Control: Spermicide, Condom, Sponge, Diaphragm, and Cervical Cap.” American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, May 2018. Retrieved March 31 2020. https://www.acog.org/patient-resources/faqs/contraception/barrier-methods-of-birth-control-spermicide-condom-sponge-diaphragm-and-cervical-cap.
- “Birth Control.” American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, May 2019. Retrieved March 31 2020. https://www.acog.org/patient-resources/faqs/especially-for-teens/birth-control.
- “Combined Hormonal Birth Control: Pill, Patch, and Ring.” American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, March 2018. Retrieved March 31 2020. https://www.acog.org/patient-resources/faqs/contraception/combined-hormonal-birth-control-pill-patch-and-ring.
- “Contraceptive Use.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, March 21 2019. Retrieved March 31 2020. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/contraceptive.htm.
- “Emergency Contraception.” American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, May 2019. Retrieved March 31 2020. https://www.acog.org/patient-resources/faqs/contraception/emergency-contraception.
- “IUD.” Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood, Retrieved March 31 2020. https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/birth-control/iud.
- “Long-Acting Reversible Contraception: Intrauterine Device and Implant.” American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, January 2018. Retrieved March 31 2020. https://www.acog.org/patient-resources/faqs/contraception/long-acting-reversible-contraception-intrauterine-device-and-implant.
- “Plan B morning-after pill.” Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts. Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts, Retrieved March 31 2020. https://www.plannedparenthood.org/planned-parenthood-massachusetts/online-health-center/planned-parenthood-services-birth-control-abortion-std-hiv-pregnancy-health-care/emergency-contraception-plan-b.