Contraception myths busted
Does the pill make you fat? Can diaphragms get ‘lost’ up you? Is it true you can’t fall pregnant while breastfeeding? You can stop wondering about it, beauties, because we’ve sorted the facts from the fiction with the help of Obstetrician and Gynaecologist, Dr Neisha Wratten…
Fact or fiction: you can’t fall pregnant while breastfeeding.
Fiction. When you breastfeed frequently, your body produces an elevated level of a hormone called prolactin, which stops the ovulation process. However, as the number of feeds decreases, so too does that level of prolactin, which means that you can start to ovulate at any time. And since your ability to fall pregnant depends on your upcoming period (and not your last period) if you’re breastfeeding it’s very difficult to tell if you’re fertile or not as you never really know when your next period will occur. So if you don’t want to fall pregnant, it’s very important to use contraception throughout your breastfeeding period.
Fact or fiction: the pill makes you fat.
Partly true. There can be some weight gain associated with the use of the contraceptive pill, however it’s generally only a couple of kilos over a 12-month period, and most of the time it’s just fluid retention – particularly at the early stages of pill use – which can settle out after three months of continuous use. With some progesterone-only pills we do know that the weight gain can be larger and extend up to about 5kg. Some women do also report increased appetite as one of the side effects of the contraceptive pill, which can also obviously attribute to weight gain. In saying that though, as women get older their bodies do change shape, so there is a natural tendency for some weight gain with or without use of the contraceptive pill.
Fact or fiction: Skipping your sugar pills (i.e.- purposely missing your period) is unhealthy.
Fiction. There is absolutely no evidence whatsoever that skipping your period is harmful for your body. If I can go back a little bit in time to the 1960s when the pill was first brought to market, there weren’t actually any sugar pills. However, marketers found that a lot of women felt very uncomfortable about not having a break, as they felt that they had to have some sort of period to reassure themselves that they weren’t getting pregnant – which is why the sugar tablets were developed. Skipping your period won’t lead to a build up of lining tissue (something a lot of women think will happen), nor will you get increased menstrual symptoms (such as migraines, PMS, or excessive bleeding). In fact, skipping your period maintains a consistent level of hormones in your body and can often help reduce the occurrence of these menstruation-related issues.
Fact or fiction: during intercourse, if a man withdraws before ejaculating, you can’t fall pregnant.
Fiction. You certainly can fall pregnant. Before the actual ejaculation, there’s often what we call an ‘emission’, where some sperm is released from the penis, and that sperm can be active. As sperm can survive in the genital tract for up to three days, if you happen to ovulate on the same day that you’ve had intercourse, or even a couple of days later, the sperm from the emission can still fertilise your egg.
Fact or fiction: you can't fall pregnant during your period.
Somewhat true. If you have regular periods spaced 28 days apart, you’re not going to be able to fall pregnant during the time of your period. However, if your cycle is irregular, and/or extremely short, then your fertile time is going to occur right at the end, or very soon after your period because it’s only going to be 14 days before your next period, which means there is a chance that you can fall pregnant during the time frame you consider to be your menstrual period.
Fact or fiction: if you’ve been on the pill continuously for a long time, you’ll struggle to fall pregnant when you come off it.
Fiction. This is not true in the slightest. A lot of women will resume their ovulatory cycle (and therefore become fertile) within the first month or two of coming off the pill, while for others it can take up to six months. Generally speaking, if your cycle doesn’t resume after six months, we’d investigate it for other reasons, as six months is the longest period of time after stopping the pill that we can attribute to the pill itself. As a doctor, it’s also really important to look at what someone’s cycle was like before they went on the pill; a lot of women on the pill had irregular cycles to begin with, so it may just be a case of them returning to their cycle of irregularity once they stop the pill.
Fact or fiction: diaphragms can get ‘lost’ up you.
Fiction: A diaphragm can of course move, or fall out (you would be able to feel that), but thanks to the cervix it definitely can’t get ‘lost’ in the rest of your body. If it moves upwards, it probably hasn’t been very well fitted in the first place, so you should look at getting it refitted. If you ever have difficulty getting your diaphragm out, it’s best to get medical help to remove it.
Did you know the answers to these questions? Do you have any other sex or contraception-related questions that you want clarified?