Contraception, also known as birth control, is a method or device used to prevent pregnancy. Understanding the various means of contraception can help empower women to take control of their sexual health and well-being. However, myths and misconceptions surrounding the safety and efficiency of birth control abound, creating unnecessary fear and even deterring some from using contraceptives.
Let’s get to the bottom of 5 common myths surrounding contraception!
Myth 1: Hormonal contraceptives can cause cancer.
Hormonal contraceptives contain small amounts of man-made estrogen and progestin hormones which prevent pregnancy by inhibiting ovulation(1). They can also block the sperms from penetrating through the cervix, and change the lining of the womb to prevent implantation of any fertilized egg(1).
While studies have provided evidence that there is a slight increase in the risk of developing breast and cervical cancer in women who use oral contraceptives(2), the overall risk remains low. This risk returns to baseline within several years of stopping the pill. Additionally, these studies have also shown that birth control pills can also lower the risk of other cancer types like endometrial, ovarian, and colorectal cancers(2).
It is important to keep in mind that the pill is not the biggest risk factor for cancer. Many other factors such as age, weight, reproductive history and family history may also put you at higher risk for gynaecological cancer(3).
Myth 2: Birth control can harm your fertility.
There is a common belief that prolonged use of hormonal contraceptives can cause fertility issues. However, there is no evidence to date that is able to show that any form of hormonal contraceptives has a long-term negative impact on fertility(4).
However, it is possible that these contraceptives can mask symptoms of certain conditions such as reproductive disorders or normal signs of ageing that may affect fertility. As such, a woman might be unaware until she stops taking them and is ready to conceive(5).
Myth 3: It’s unhealthy to use contraceptives to skip your period
Contrary to popular belief, menstruation is not physiologically necessary unless a woman is trying to reproduce(6). Many women may experience severe menstruation symptoms such as heavy bleeding and painful cramps that can negatively affect their quality of life(6).
It is safe to take birth control pills to reduce or stop your period as long as it is done under your doctor’s guidance. In fact, some women who suffer from conditions like endometriosis, anaemia and more, take medication to suppress their period long-term for the greater sake of their health and well-being(7).
Myth 4: Contraceptives are 100% effective.
While there are several contraceptive options to choose from, none of them are 100% effective. How effective your contraceptive method is, depends on the type of contraception used and whether it is used correctly. Some forms of contraception are more effective than others.
Condoms are one of the most common birth control methods used in Singapore. While it is the only form of birth control that also protects against sexually transmitted infections (STIs), it has one of the highest contraceptive failure rates among all other methods.
Unfortunately, the only way to guarantee zero chance of contracting STIs and pregnancy is through abstinence(8).
Myth 5: Taking the morning-after pill is the same as having an abortion.
Emergency contraception, also widely known as “Plan B” and “Morning-after pill”, is a form of hormonal birth control that can be taken after unprotected intercourse to prevent pregnancy. It is, however, not the same as having an abortion.
Emergency contraception works by delaying or preventing ovulation(9). This way, pregnancy cannot happen as there is no egg around for the sperm to fertilize. It is usually more effective the earlier it is taken after unprotected sex. However, there is still a chance of a woman getting pregnant even after taking the emergency contraception if she has already ovulated before taking it. If a woman is already pregnant, emergency contraception will not harm the pregnancy and it does not cause an abortion(10).
Seek sexual health advice from healthcare professionals.
If you are sexually active, it is important to be aware of your birth control options so as to not end up with an unwanted pregnancy. Beyond preventing pregnancy, there are also benefits that contraceptives can bring such as regulating menstrual cycles, treating of acne, etc.
Choosing the right contraceptive for yourself is an important health decision. What may work for one woman may not be the best method for another. With the wide range of contraceptive options available in the market, the best way of determining what works for you is to speak with a professional and experienced healthcare provider so that you can obtain reliable information to make an informed decision.
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