10 myths about birth control
Pregnancy is one of the greatest boons that a woman can wish for. Having a baby is the happiest feeling for a couple. But sometimes contraception (birth control) becomes important. Multiple pregnancies put both mother and her newborn at the risk of several complications. Moreover, a proper gap between consecutive pregnancies is important as it allows a couple to focus more on their existing siblings and not worry about a new life.
Also there are several socio-economic benefits of contraception. For instance, contraception becomes important if you’re unable to support a large family and so on.
There are a number of safe ways of female and male contraception. These methods include use of pills, IUDs (intrauterine contraceptive devices), use of condoms, bilateral tubal ligation (BTL) for females and vasectomy for males. All these methods are safe and have evolved over ages. Although the use of pills or other surgical procedures performed might show some side effects if done improperly but these side effects can be minimized if a little attention is paid to the details.
Beside that a number of myths are common about several contraception methods. These myths and fear of side effects prevent couples from making use of birth control methods in an effective way and the result is unwanted pregnancies. In this article, we’ve discussed top 10 myths about birth control and scientific evidence debunking these myths.
Myth #1- “I’m breastfeeding so I can’t get pregnant”
This myth is perhaps one of the most common causes of unwanted pregnancies. Females believe that as long as they’re breastfeeding, they can’t get pregnant. This argument is true to some extent but not totally true. When a female is breastfeeding, her body secretes high level of a hormone called “Prolactin”. Prolactin assists in ejection of milk. Also this hormone suppresses the production of hormones (follicle stimulating hormone or FSH and luteinizing hormone or LH) that are responsible for inducing ovulation. But this suppression of ovulation inducing hormones by prolactin is not totally fool proof. Sometimes prolactin fails to inhibit the production FSH and LH and the result is ovulation. If a female had unprotected sex during this time- even when she is breastfeeding- she can become pregnant and conceive. So, instead of taking it for granted; do consult your doctor for the best contraception method to adopt even when you’re breastfeeding.
Myth #2- A women can’t get pregnant until she has an orgasm
It’s a common misconception that like male orgasm, female orgasm has something to do with her ability to reproduce. This myth is based on the fact that since male orgasm causes the release of semen and semen contains sperms responsible for male reproductive ability; same should be true for females too. But this argument is not backed by any scientific evidence. A female releases one egg (reproductive structures similar to male sperms) during her reproductive cycle. The release of this egg is under the control of FSH and LH. Orgasm has nothing to do with the release of eggs.
Myth #3 - A female can’t get pregnant if she douches after sex
Females believe that washing their vagina would wash away all the semen and would save them from an unwanted pregnancy. But this is just a myth. Truth is, as soon as a male ejaculates, he lodges his semen deep inside female reproductive track (cervix and beyond). Moreover, sperms are motile structures and they start to move towards the uterus (child bearing organ) as soon as they’re released into the female reproductive track. By the time females try to douche their reproductive track, the sperms have already moved beyond the reach of any douching reagent.
Myth #4- “I can’t get pregnant because I had sex during the “safe time” of the month”
This misconception arises because of the lack of understanding of female reproductive cycle. Four major hormones are responsible for controlling female menstrual (time when female passes blood) and ovulation (time when female releases eggs) cycles. An intricate balance exists between the level of these hormones and the result is a rhythmic menstrual and ovulation cycles. Well, if everything goes fine and no irregularity occurs, the couples do have a window of “safe time of the month” when female is not ovulating. During that time, couples can have unprotected sex without getting the female pregnant. But things are not always ideal. The menstrual and ovulation cycles are not always perfect. It is very common to have irregularities in these cycles. So, you might have unprotected sex during your “safe time” but nature might have something else planned for you. If you want to know your safe time of the month then you should keep a close eye for the pre-menstruation or pre-ovulation signs.
Myth #5 - “I can’t get pregnant if I’m on top or if we’ve sex standing up”
Some couples believe that having sex in specific positions can prevent pregnancy. For instance, it is a common belief that if couples do sex while standing or if the female partner is on the top while having sex, this forces the semen out due to the action of gravity. But there is no truth to this claim. There are four reasons to why this claim is invalid. First, when a male ejaculates during sex, he lodges the semen deep into the female reproductive track. Second, sperms have an intrinsic ability to move up towards the uterus (child bearing organ) as soon as they’re lodged into female track. The acidic environment of female vagina brings certain changes in the structure of sperms, making them motile. Third, as soon as the semen gets entry into the female reproductive track, some of the semen forms a plug like structure causing the blockage of cervix (structure at the junction of vagina and uterus), preventing the backward motion of sperms. And lastly, the female reproductive track starts rhythmic contractions as soon as semen gets entry into it. These contractions facilitate the movement of sperms up towards the fallopian tubes (tubes connecting uterus to ovaries).
Myth #6- “I can’t get pregnant after being on the pills for a long time”
This misconception arises because of the lack of knowledge about female hormones and way of functioning of birth control pills. Female believe that if they have had pills for a long time and give up after that, they can’t get pregnant in longer run. This is absolutely wrong. Ovulation is due to the balance of hormones like FSH, LH, estrogen and progesterone. An intricate balance of these hormones induces timely release of eggs (ovulation). Any disruption in the level of these hormones can suppress ovulation. This is the principles on which birth control pills work. Birth control pills are actually supplements containing estrogen or progesterone or both. When a female eats these pills, the natural balance of female hormones is disturbed and the result is no ovulation. But this effect lasts for as long as she is eating birth pills. As soon as she gives up, the natural balance of her hormones comes back to normal and ovulation starts again. This results in unwanted pregnancy.
Myth #7 - “I won’t get pregnant if my partner pulls before he ejaculates”
This misconception sounds logical. Most of the couples know that male orgasm causes the release of semen and semen contains sperms. If a male could pull out before he could ejaculate, he wouldn’t ejaculate inside female. This means no sperms will get entry into the female reproductive tract and result would be no pregnancy. All this sounds logical and sound. But reality is quite different. There are two reasons to why this strategy might fail. First, this is true that the bulk of male semen is released during the climax of male orgasm. But this doesn’t mean that males don’t release semen rest of the times. Some males release semen even before they can reach their climax. This can result into unwanted pregnancy. Second, sometimes it becomes very difficult for a male to pull out just in time. He might pull out late or might release some semen inside the female before pulling out.
Myth #8 - “I can’t get pregnant if it’s my first time having sex”
This misconception is perhaps one of the most common causes of youth pregnancies. This misconception, again, is due to the lack of knowledge of normal female reproductive cycle. One more thing that needs special attention here is that females become sexually mature earlier as compared to males. The usual age when a female becomes able to reproduce is between 13-14 years. But in the countries with hot climate, this stage can come as early as 11-12 years. Also some females think that first sex has something to do with their ability to reproduce. They believe that they would not get pregnant until it’s their second time having sex. There is no truth in this myth. When a female reaches the age of menarche (the age when female first menstruates), she naturally gains the ability to reproduce. Her body produces eggs once each month (in normal routine) and this process would continue till menopause (the age when a female stops menstruating). So, if you’ve crossed the age of menarche, it doesn’t matter even if you hadn’t had sex before.
Myth #9 - “Use of IUDs or vasectomy is going to take away my reproductive ability for good”
Before we can judge the truth behind this myth, we need to know some basics. Intra-uterine devices (IUDs) are T shaped structures that are inserted inside the uterus of females. These structures inhibit pregnancy in two ways. First, their physical presence inside uterus prevents the conception of embryo. Second, these devices secrete hormones (estrogen and progesterone) that disrupt normal female cycles and suppress the ability of a female to ovulate. On the other hand, vas deference is a tube that connects testicles with the ejaculation tubes of males. Vasectomy is a procedure in which vas deference is surgically excised. People believe that these methods are irreversible and if they decide to undergo these procedures once, it would take away their reproductive ability for good. But these procedures are reversible. IUDs can be taken out and male tubes can be tied back together again. Doing these procedures will bring back the reproductive abilities too.
Myth #10- “I won’t be pregnant if I take bath or urinate after having sex”
This is what most of the females do. They try to take bath soon after having sex. They think that taking bath is going to wash away all the semen logged inside. But this is no use. External bath is no good at all. Even if you thoroughly rinse your vagina while having bath, it is no good too- all the reasons have already been explained earlier. Also, some females think that urinating soon after having sex is going to force out the semen along with urine. But you wouldn’t think this if you’ve a little knowledge about female reproductive and urinary track anatomy. Although both these tracts have a common opening but most of these tracts are totally separate and urinating is going to do you no good.
This article has mentioned the top 10 misconceptions that couples usually have about birth control methods. This article has judged all these misconceptions in the light of medical knowledge and proved that there is no truth behind these myths. One thing that should be mentioned here is that use of contraception methods is safe but there are some side effects too. For instance use of pregnancy pills might lead to acne, irregularities in menstruation, weight gain, abnormal hair growth and embolus formation. But if you carefully follow the prescription of your practitioner, all these adverse effects can be minimized. Also, other methods like IUDs and vasectomy are reversible methods and these methods can temporarily take away your reproductive abilities with least surgical interventions. You can reverse these methods any time you want and can get on with your sex life any way you want.
|Written by:||Michal Vilímovský (EN)|
|Education:||Medical student, 3rd Faculty of Medicine, Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic|
|Published:||February 11, 2014 11:21 AM|
|Next scheduled update:||February 11, 2016 11:21 AM|