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World Contraception Day

Debunking the myths - today, the pill

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Feature

You’ve heard all the myths – You’ve been probably told about your neighbour’s daughter-in-law’s sister’s mother who had an IUD that travelled to their lungs and killed them, or that Uncle’s daughter’s third cousin who had Jadelle implant that picked up a radio frequency and started controlling her mind. The reality is far more boring. Family Planning is here to dispel the myths are contraception. Here’s the third – The Pill.

The Combined Oral Contraceptive Pill known as The Pill is a pill you take every day to stop getting pregnant. The combined pill contains the hormones oestrogen and progestogen. This pill is different to the progestogen-only pill. Oestrogen and progestogen stops eggs from being released from the ovary. The POP or progestogen-only pill is a pill people also take to prevent pregnancy. It mainly works by creating a physical mucous barrier that stop the sperm from reaching an egg The POP contains one hormone - progestogen. It does not contain any oestrogen.

You can’t get pregnant on The Pill

No contraceptive is 100% infallible. Even with sterilisation some people can become pregnant. Like other forms of contraception, it's not perfect.

It’s not safe to skip periods

Not only is it safe – it’s the most effective way to use The Pill. Skipping periods can also benefit your health: Reducing the frequency of your menstrual cycles can lower your risk of endometrial cancer. It can reduce blood loss and prevent anaemia in people who have heavy periods

The Pill makes you infertile

The pill does not cause infertility. It doesn’t matter how long someone has taken The Pill or their age or if they’ve already had children – there is no evidence that The Pill causes infertility. In fact some of the non-contraceptive benefits of the pill include preserving fertility by offering protection against pelvic inflammatory disease and endometriosis.

People who stop using it can become pregnant as quickly as people who stop using non-hormonal methods. Sometimes if you have been skipping periods, it can take a cycle or two to return to normal ovulation, this can make people think The Pill has impacted their fertility.

There’s only one type of oral contraceptive

There are two kinds of oral contraceptive – The Combined Oral Contraceptive Pill and the Progestogen-Only Pill. The combined pill contains the hormones oestrogen and progestogen. Progestogen-Only pills work mainly by thickening the mucus in the cervix so sperm can’t travel through it. Cerazette, a type of Progestogen-Only pill also works by stopping a person from producing a monthly egg, and changes the lining of the womb so it is less likely to accept a fertilised egg.

The Pill will make you gain weight

It’s hard to know. Some people report weight gain, others don’t. There’s no evidence that we could find to suggest weight gain is caused by The Pill. The progestogen in the Pill can sometimes increase appetite, which may result in weight gain. Some people may also experience water retention but this can often be reduced by switching to a lower dose pill.

The Pill will make you really sick

The Pill isn’t for everyone – there’s no one-size-fits all contraceptive but The Pill should not make you ill. If it does, you should see your local Family Planning clinic or GP.

There is actually a lot of long-term non-contraceptive health benefits of using oral contraceptives as they:

  • Help protect against cancer of the ovaries
  • Help protect against symptomatic pelvic inflammatory disease
  • May help protect against ovarian cysts
  • May help protect against iron-deficiency anemia
  • Reduce menstrual cramps
  • Reduce menstrual bleeding problems
  • Reduce ovulation pain
  • Reduce excess hair on face or body
  • Reduce symptoms of polycystic ovarian syndrome
  •             Reduce symptoms of endometriosis

The Pill gives you cancer

Research shows that even if there is a risk of breast cancer, it is small. Before you start taking the pill, the nurse will ask you if you or anyone in your family has had breast cancer.

If you’ve been on the pill for five or more years and you carry certain types of wart virus, you might be more at risk of cervical cancer. Whether you take the pill or not, you should get a cervical smear every three years.

Your risk of ovarian cancer lowers by 50% if you take the pill. Even 30 years after stopping the pill you will still have a lower risk.

Your risk of endometrial cancer lowers by 50% if you take the pill. Even 15 years after stopping the pill you will still have a lower risk.

The Pill protects you from STIs?

No. You need to use condoms and lubricant to protect yourself from sexually transmissible infections (STIs). If there is a chance you may have an STI, have a check-up.

Your body needs a break from The Pill

There only reason you’d take a break from The Pill is to get pregnant. There’s no need to give your body a break, in fact, re-starting and stopping The Pill is not advised.

The Pill will make me lose my sex drive

Recent research, suggests the pill does not impact libido as much as situational factors do. The evidence explaining what affects people’s sexual desire is mixed and more research is needed.

Choosing contraception is a personal decision, but if used properly The Pill can be 99% effective. It is simple to take and when you have your period on the pill it should be lighter and you should have less cramping. They are the most effective no period option and they are not permanent so you can get pregnant as soon as you stop the pill. They are an excellent contraceptive option.

Your decision to get The Pill should be based on facts– your local Family Planning nurse is happy to talk to you about your options. Just get in touch.

 

Family Planning has clinics located throughout New Zealand. Use the clinic finder to find your nearest clinic.

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