Written by Adella Brown
As an OB/GYN health educator at Charles B. Wang Community Health Center, much of what I do is help women understand the benefits of pregnancy planning and birth control options. When it comes to choosing a birth control method, many women are afraid of using hormonal methods or methods that need to be inserted into the body. Here are the most common myths women have brought up during our encounters, and what the facts are.
Myth: Women need to have menstrual period regularly to remove toxins from the body. It is harmful to use birth control methods that may stop one’s period.
Fact: While having regular menstrual period is an indicator of reproductive health for women, using birth control methods to stop having periods is harmless. In fact, women who have more than the average menstrual cycles in their lifetime are more likely to suffer from ovarian cancer and uterine diseases. The use of hormonal birth control methods is shown to lower risks of these diseases and relieve the symptoms of uterine fibroids and endometriosis.
Myth: Birth control pills will lead to weight gain.
Fact: Many studies showed that birth control pills rarely cause weight gain. When weight gain does happen, it is usually due to fluid retention and goes away within 2 to 3 months, along with other side effects.
Myth: The hormones in birth control can increase risk of getting breast cancer.
Fact: Most studies have shown that hormonal birth control use is not associated with increased risk of breast cancer. Also, women who have used these methods over many years have lowered rates of ovarian and uterine cancer. Discuss your health history with a healthcare provider to decide if hormonal birth control methods are right for you.
Myth: Fertility awareness is effective in preventing pregnancy and has no side effects.
Fact: 12-24% of women will get pregnant in a year using fertility awareness method. Many factors, such as stress and changes in diet or lifestyle, can change a woman’s menstrual cycle, making ovulation hard to predict. Although other birth control methods may have side effects, they are usually temporary and mild. An unplanned pregnancy will have more impact on your health and lifestyle.
Myth: Use of IUD increases the risk of getting uterine injuries or gynecological infections.
Fact: Some types of IUD were known to have caused uterine injuries and gynecological infections. However, IUDs currently available in the U.S., such as progestin IUDs (Mirena, Skyla, and Liletta) and non-hormonal IUD (ParaGard) have been extensively tested for safety and effectiveness. Large studies have proven that modern IUDs do not cause gynecological infections. Keep in mind that women who are at high risk of getting sexually transmitted infections (STIs) should continue to use condoms after IUD insertion.
Myth: Getting an IUD is painful and it will feel weird inside the body.
Fact: IUD insertion is a quick procedure that usually does not require anesthesia. Some women may take pain medicine before the insertion. Some spotting and cramping are common in the first few days following the insertion. After that, most women don’t feel anything in their body. Their partners usually don’t feel the IUD either. If pain or spotting persists or worsens, see your provider for a check-up.
Myth: Using birth control methods may lead to infertility.
Fact: All reversible birth control methods will help prevent pregnancy while you’re using them, but none have long-lasting effects on your ability to get pregnant when you stop. If a woman has difficulty getting pregnant after stopping a birth control method, it may be due to 1) an undiagnosed condition prior to the birth control use; 2) natural decrease in fertility due to older age; or 3) sexually transmitted infections such as Chlamydia and Gonorrhea that can damage the reproductive system.
Trying a new birth control method can be intimidating. Remember, you can stop using these methods if you are not satisfied or change your plan. Come talk to our health educators and providers to learn more about your options. The Charles B. Wang Community Health Center offers comprehensive, high quality primary care services at convenient locations in Manhattan and Queens. The Health Center is open seven days a week and serves all patients regardless of their ability to pay. To learn more about the Health Center’s family planning services, please call (212) 966-0228 (Manhattan), (718) 886-1287 (37th Avenue, Queens) and (929) 362-3006 (45th Avenue, Queens), or by visiting our OB/GYN webpage.
Adella Brown is a Health Educator in the OB/GYN Department at Charles B. Wang Community Health Center. One of her current roles is providing one-on-one reproductive health education. She graduated from Brigham Young University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Neuroscience. She is also a Certified Lactation Counselor and passionately promotes breastfeeding in the Chinese American community.