We’re clearing up some common contraception misconceptions.

By Diana Hoppe, M.D.
Updated September 23, 2019
woman considering birth control myths side effects
Credit: PhotoAlto/Frederic Cirou/Getty Images

You've probably heard it all when it comes to birth control myths and misinformation floating around about IUDs and the Pill. As a board-certified ob-gyn, I'm here to separate birth control myths from facts so you can make a well-informed decision about the contraception method that's right for you.

Birth Control Myth: The Pill will make you fat

Today, birth control pills have a lower amount of hormones (ethinyl estradiol and synthetic progestin, specifically) than ever before. The Pill is "weight neutral"—meaning it won't make you gain weight or lose it either. It's more likely that the usual factors (diet and exercise) are factoring into your weight gain or loss instead. However, it is worth noting that everyone's body can react differently, and that not all birth control pills are exactly the same. Chat with your doc if you're worried. (On the other hand there are some mental health side effects you should be informed about.)

Birth Control Myth 2: The Pill is effective immediately

A backup method, condoms, is always recommended during the first month you begin taking a birth control pill. The only exception to this birth control myth? If you begin on the first day of your period it will be immediately effective.

Birth Control Myth 3: The Pill will give me breast cancer

Because breast cancer is linked to increased hormone levels, many women worry about increasing their risk for the disease. It's true there is a slightly increased risk of breast cancer in women using birth control pills compared to women who have never used them. (You may, however, be able to lower your risk with these five healthy habits.) Also worth noting: The risk for various other female cancers, such as ovarian and uterine cancer, is markedly decreased in women taking the Pill. For ovarian cancer, this risk is reduced by 70 percent after seven years of use.

Birth Control Myth 4: The “withdrawal method” works just fine

This method is definitely not foolproof. In fact, it has a failure rate of about 25 percent. Sperm may be released before your partner actually ejaculates. Not to mention that you're taking a chance on whether he really pulls out in time. (Here's everything you need to know about exactly how effective the pull-out method is.)

Birth Control Myth 5: Birth control will protect against STDs

Condoms are the only type of birth control that protects against sexually transmitted diseases. Other barrier methods (such as diaphragms, sponges, and cervical caps) and hormonal forms of birth control offer no protection against diseases like HIV, chlamydia, or any other STDs.

Birth Control Myth 6: IUDs have dangerous side effects

Any bad press on the intrauterine device in the past was due to the Dalkon Shield IUD, which in the 1970s caused many cases of septic abortion and pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) because of dangerous bacteria that entered the cervix and uterus by way of the strings. Today's IUDs are much safer and have different strings that prevent this harmful bacteria from entering the body. Now the risk of PID with the IUD is extremely low and confined to the first three to four weeks after initial insertion. (Related: What You Know About the IUD May Be All Wrong)

Birth Control Myth 7: My fertility is affected even when I stop taking birth control

Fertility returns to normal within the first one to three months after stopping the Pill or removing the IUD. And approximately 50 percent of women will ovulate the first month after stopping the Pill or having the IUD removed. Most women return to having normal menstrual cycles within the first three to six months.