Talking about contraception can be difficult, but if we don’t we might be relying on dangerous myths to dictate how we protect our bodies.
MYTH. My children would never have sex before marriage so I do not need to discuss contraception with them.
THE TRUTH. Your child should hear about contraception from you, not from potentially unreliable sources (e.g. media, friends). Knowledge is empowering and will only help your child in the long run. She may not use the information now but when she does become sexually active (even after marriage), having this knowledge ahead of time will ensure she is in control of her own body so she can decide whether and when to have a child.
MYTH. Talking about contraception with my child will make her become sexually active. Therefore, it’s better not to discuss the topic.
THE TRUTH. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Demystifying taboo subjects like sex and contraception is a good way to help children approach these subjects with logic rather than irrational emotion. Knowing the importance of contraception only enforces the importance of waiting to have sex till one is truly ready. Even if your child waits till marriage to have sex, she must have the language to define what she wants and how to ask for it when she is ready. Thus, speaking to your child about contraception now will empower her in the future to speak with her partner and medical provider about avoiding unintended pregnancy.
MYTH. If I don’t use contraception, then I don’t have to admit I am having sex.
THE TRUTH. Though it can be difficult to admit you are having sex, it is safer to consider the risks of unprotected sex. If you are having sex you are at risk of becoming pregnant. Using contraception protects you and your partner from becoming pregnant. If you aren’t convinced, think of what your life would be like if you became pregnant. Are you truly ready for the challenges that would follow?
MYTH. Using contraception with hormones causes infertility.
THE TRUTH. Contraception, hormonal or otherwise, does not cause infertility or increase risk of infertility. If you are using DMPA or Mirena it may take several months after stopping these methods to become pregnant. That being said, it is not uncommon for women to become pregnant almost immediately after stopping. A lot of it depends on you and your partner’s make-up.
MYTH. Contraception is only used to prevent pregnancy.
THE TRUTH. Contraception can be used for other reasons. For example, the ring or ‘combined’ oral contraceptive pills can be used to regulate how often you get your period, if at all. The Mirena and DMPA often can be used to stop bleeding altogether. Condoms, for example, protect against not only pregnancy but also sexually transmitted infections. Continuous use of ‘combined’ hormonal methods can be protective against certain cancers.
MYTH. It is unsafe to use contraception that causes you to stop menstruating OR to control when you menstruate.
THE TRUTH. It is safe to control how much, how little or how often you bleed. If you prefer to bleed monthly use the ring (for 3 weeks and 1 week without), combined oral contraceptives (for 3 weeks and 1 week of placebo pills), Paraguard, or barrier methods. If you prefer not to bleed or to bleed less often, take your oral contraceptive continuously (skipping the placebo week), keep the ring inside for up to 5 weeks before immediately replacing it, or use DMPA or the Mirena.
MYTH. Contraception causes weight gain.
THE TRUTH. DMPA is the only form of contraception that has been shown to cause weight gain. However, it only affects a small percentage of women (~5%). If you notice your appetite increasing or unexplainable weight gain with any method, talk to your provider. Often just switching brands corrects many problems.
MYTH. Contraception protects against sexually transmitted infections (e.g. Herpes, Chlamydia, HIV).
THE TRUTH. Condoms are the only form of contraception which offers protection against both pregnancy as well as sexually transmitted infections. However, even condoms are not perfect. You and your partner should get tested annually.
MYTH. Contraception is unsafe.
THE TRUTH. When compared to the risks of being pregnant, there is no question contraception is the safer alternative. In fact some methods of birth control are actually protective for your body. Unfortunately, some providers still shy away from prescribing hormonal methods of contraception because they are worried about blood clots that could cause stroke. However, these same providers have forgotten the risk of stroke is MUCH higher when you are pregnant. In addition not all contraception increases your risk of stroke. If you are >35y and smoke, have an underlying medical condition that increases your risk of clots or have been diagnosed with ‘migraines with aura’ remember that you can safely use contraception that does not contain estrogen (e.g. barrier methods (condoms, diaphragm), Mirena- or Paraguard-IUD, DMPA injection).
*Akka is a first-generation Indian American woman in a clinical doctorate program for nurse-midwifery. She is a licensed RN, certified family planning and HIV counselor, and has an MPH in International & Maternal-Child Health.