The biggest myths about contraception

By Dr Brad McKay

If the pill has been working for the past 10 years to prevent you from getting pregnant, it's obviously been doing a good job. Photo / Getty
If the pill has been working for the past 10 years to prevent you from getting pregnant, it's obviously been doing a good job. Photo / Getty

Dinner conversations don't usually revolve around periods and contraception, but I strongly feel that no topic should be off limits.

The more information you know about your body, the healthier you'll be.

The same goes for your periods and your fertility. The more you know, the less likely you are to have an accidental baby.

I'm constantly surprised by some of the myths and old wive's tales I hear at the clinic, and the ones that surprise me the most are those relating to contraception.

• Myth: "I've been taking the pill continuously for the past 10 years. Isn't it about time I took a break?"

If the pill has been working for the past 10 years to prevent you from getting pregnant, it's obviously been doing a good job.

Scientific evidence doesn't show any need to "take a break" from the pill - unless you're wanting to get pregnant.

• Myth: "I always feel sick and bloated when I take the pill, but I guess that's my only option"

There are so many different types of contraception available in Australia that you don't need to put up with horrible side effects.

In addition to condoms, there's a selection of hormone tablets, implants, injections, intra-uterine devices (IUDs) and even a flexible ring that slips into the vagina to deliver hormones for weeks at a time.

Every woman's body is different and you sometimes need to try a few options until you find the right contraception for you.

• Myth: "I need to have my period every month so I always take the sugar tablets"

Traditional contraceptive pill packets were designed to give women a monthly period because it was considered to be "more natural", but now we know this isn't necessary. Tablets can be manipulated to match your schedule, not the packet.

Most women can successfully delay their period for many months by skipping the sugar tablets and continuously taking the active hormone tablets in their contraceptive packet.

• Myth: "If I don't have a regular period, the blood will build up"

Some people have the idea that the uterus fills up with period blood each month and that hormone tablets work like a cork to stop it from falling out - but this isn't correct.

The lining of the uterus only needs to become thick and plump if it's getting ready to receive a fertilised egg. Hormone tablets keep the lining of the uterus thin, so there's no build up of endometrial tissue or blood.

• Myth: "Women who don't have periods every month are abnormal"

Unexpected changes like irregular, absent or heavy periods can be a sign of a gynaecological concern and you should discuss this with your doctor. However, there's nothing abnormal or unhealthy when it comes to using contraception to skip periods or make predictable changes to your cycle.

Many women have extremely fortunate anatomy and are able to take active hormone tablets continuously every day, only having one period a year.

Some women have a much less convenient uterus and every time they try to skip their period, they spot with blood after only a few days. Sometimes their anatomy causes the trouble, but sometimes a simple change of contraceptive pill can solve the problem and make life much easier.

• Myth: "I need to have my period every month to know I'm not pregnant"

I've spoken with many women who feel uncomfortably bloated if they haven't had their period each month. It's better to have a monthly bleed than feel disgusting all the time, but some women choose to have a period just so they know they're not pregnant.

Choosing to have period pain, abdominal cramps and an irritable mood just to remind yourself that you're not growing a foetus isn't necessary.

It's also interesting to note that continuously taking active hormone tablets to skip periods is more effective at preventing pregnancy compared with having a period every month.

Ask your doctor

If your periods are heavy, if you're iron deficient, or if you just don't like periods, then skipping them can be great and there's nothing unhealthy about skipping them. Chat with your doctor about your options and make life a little easier.


- news.com.au

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