Heard a rumour that the contraceptive Pill wasn’t all it’s cracked up to be? We’ve sorted the fact from fiction.
MYTH: Long-term Pill use makes falling pregnant less likely
A study at Copenhagen University Hospital last year found that levels of anti-Mullerian hormone and antral follicles, which predict fertilisation probability, were 19 and 16 per cent lower respectively in Pill users than those not taking a contraceptive pill.
Ovarian volume was also between 29 and 52 per cent smaller. While they said the changes were likely to reverse after stopping the Pill, researchers suggested testing ovarian reserves three months after stopping the Pill to accurately gauge fertility odds.
Experts at The Royal Women’s Hospital in Melbourne say some practitioners suggest having three normal menstrual cycles after discontinuing the Pill.
MYTH: Skipping your period on purpose is dangerous
If you want to take the Pill continuously to avoid having periods altogether, it’s perfectly safe, says Dr Farrell. “People should take the Pill to suit their lifestyle,” says Dr Louise Farrell, vice-president of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.
Bear in mind that it’s not foolproof; some people experience breakthrough bleeding and it can stop working after months. For women with a family history of blood clots, smokers and those aged over 35, taking an oestrogen pill does increase the risk of deep vein thrombosis and related conditions, potentially including stroke. If you do wish to puppeteer your periods, ask for a monophasic pill.
MYTH: The Pill causes weight gain
Not according to Dr Farrell, who says that on the contrary, some Pills result in weight loss rather than weight gain. “Psychosomatically, some people imagine they’re hungrier on the Pill, so they eat more, which explains why they put on weight.”
MYTH: Antibiotics impair birth control
The only antibiotics known to affect how well some hormonal contraceptives work are Rifadin and Rimycin, used to treat serious bacterial infections such as tuberculosis, according to NPS MedicineWise clinical adviser Dr Philippa Binns. She advises extra contraceptive precautions while taking them and for a few days after finishing the course.
MYTH: There’s no need for birth control when you’re breastfeeding
Statistically, you still have a five per cent chance of getting pregnant while you’re fully breastfeeding. If you’re combining bottle and breast, conception chances increase. However, taking certain hormonal contraceptives may restrict your milk supply according to the Australian Breastfeeding Association, so choose the mini pill or an IUD like the Mirena when you’re breastfeeding instead.
MYTH: The Pill increases breast cancer risk
There is a slightly increased risk of getting breast cancer if you are on the Pill. However, Dr Farrell says it’s incredibly low and more likely in women who are over 45.
“For women who have a history of breast lumps, or women in their 40s, it’s best to go and see your GP to find out if you’d be better changing to a low-oestrogen pill or coming off it altogether,” she says.
NEXT: Birth control – pill, patch or implant