Birth control: myths and facts
What does taking the pill do to your body?
Birth control comes in many forms: abstinence, patches, pills, shots, female and male condoms, Intrauterine device (IUD) and the morning-after pill.
With all the old wives’ tales about birth control, it’s important to stay educated about what birth control is right for you. According to Planned Parenthood, women put a lot of thought into what method of birth control to use for thousands of years, but in today’s society the popular choice for many is the birth-control pill. It’s a pill that basically tricks your body into thinking it is already pregnant. So why is the pill so popular? Is it something your mom passed down, or is it peer pressure?
We’ve all heard that it clears up your skin, but we’ve also heard that the pill can reduce your fertility rate or that the pill can increase your chances of getting cancer or osteoporosis. So what rumours can be believed?
The New Health Guide recently revealed that the recent low-dose pills are just as efficient at preventing pregnancy, and weight gain isn’t an issue anymore.
A National Osteoporosis Foundation study also found that women on the pill have a six per cent lower spinal bone density than women who aren’t on the pill. This is because the pill keeps estrogen levels stable, whereas naturally-produced estrogen ebbs and peaks—and it’s these peaks in estrogen that stimulate bone development.
Some pills increase the risk of blood clots in the legs, but this should only worry those who have a family history of clots or if they are a smoker. Going on the pill can, however, reduce a woman’s testosterone levels, which can decrease her libido.
According to Health.com the most common side effects are headaches, dizziness, breast tenderness and nausea. These side effects are common, but should go away after a couple months. Moreover, if you thought you had escaped the mood swings by going on the pill, then, surprise: you may not have. Hormonal methods of birth control have been known to cause mood swings or depression, but a doctor can prescribe an antidepressant as well to combat this effect.
Recently, there has been a focus on the psychological problems with women on birth control. Recent articles in The Daily Mail, Healthy Living, and Psychlogy Today have shown that while on birth control, a woman’s hormone-driven preferences in regards to whom she finds attractive may not be the same as when she’s not on birth control. Some studies have even suggested that a woman on the pill is more attracted to a person who is genetically similar to her, which could lead to evolutionary problems.
Some theorists have also associated birth control with the rising number of immunity disorders. An article in Scientific American even went as far as to connect birth control to the rising divorce rate.
According to new research out of the United Kingdom, published in Psychoneuroendocrinology, when a woman is on the pill she will be more attracted to a man with more feminine features, smaller jaw and smaller face rather than a masculine looking man. If the woman then ends up marrying the man they meet while on the pill, they fall out of love when they stop taking the contraceptive.
Dr. Lori Limacher, a registered marriage and family therapist in Calgary, takes a different perspective. She states that even if these studies are scientifically accurate, there is more to how we choose to be in a relationship with someone.
“Generally, this is not how we conduct ourselves in Western culture around relationships. Attractiveness and love is a multi-dimensional, and extremely complicated issue,” says Limacher.
“These myths could impact women by having them doubt the upside of protection from unwanted pregnancy […] my concern is always that a knee jerk response to information that is not capturing the bigger picture might misinform women and add fear.”
Most importantly, it’s up to a woman what the right decision is in regards to the right form of birth control for her.
Rachelle McGrath, Health Education Coordinator, states that research and theories about psychological effects are still in the informative stages.
“It’s hard to classify as either a fact or a myth without more information.”
The key is education. Stay aware of the known side effects and don’t be swept away by just any story you read. Not every theory is here to stay.