Let’s spill the truth about contraceptives

The more you know about the correct way to use birth control pills, the more control you will have over your pregnancy

Which method of birth control you use, is a very personal decision and should be an informed one. Here, we try to clear some common myths about using the pill.

Myth: A female cannot get pregnant the first time.

A woman’s chances for becoming pregnant are always the same—about 1 in 20—even if it is her first time. A woman can become pregnant any time after she begins to ovulate. This means that a woman can become pregnant even before she has her first period.

Myth: The pill makes you gain weight.

Some women seem to gain weight on the pill, but research has shown that it isn’t due to the pill. The oestrogen in the pill can make some women feel bloated, but this typically goes away. The progestin found in the pill may increase appetite resulting in weight gain. Also, some women may experience water retention, which can often be reduced by switching to a lower dose pill.

Myth: The pill is not safe as it can cause birth defects.

As with any medication, certain health risks are linked to the pill, but serious side-effects are rare. It is actually safer to use a pill than conceive a baby and then abort it. It also provides health benefits like minimising PMS symptoms and has not been linked to any type of birth defects.

Myth: Prolonged use of the pill can affect fertility.

There is no connection between taking the pill and infertility. Fertility can return almost immediately after stopping the pill, which is why it is important not to miss the pill. Usually, women using the pill delay child bearing until their late 30s, a time when natural fertility decreases, thereby confusing pill use as the cause for not becoming pregnant.

Myth: Women who smoke cannot use the pill.

When a woman is 35 years or older, the combination of using the pill and smoking may carry a greater chance of stroke and blood clots. Most doctors will not prescribe combination pills for smokers beyond that age. However, low dose combination pills as well as progestin-only pills are available, which are suitable for smokers. The pill is an unsafe method for women who are heavy smokers.

Myth: Women over 35 can’t use pills.

Healthy women with normal blood pressure, with no risk for heart attack or stroke and who don’t smoke can often use low dose pills well until menopause.

Myth: The pill causes cancer.

In fact, women who use pills are less likely to get ovarian or uterine cancer. Some experts advise that women should use the pill for at least five years, solely for ovarian cancer protection. Researchers say that taking oestrogen before menopause does not predispose women to breast cancer.

Dr Nandita Palshetkar, MD, FCPS, FICOG, is a Mumbai-based infertility specialist. She is also a professor in Obstetrics and Gynaecology at D.Y. Patil Medical College, Navi Mumbai.


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