Wednesday March 8, 2017
One very common reason for women to visit a GP is to discuss contraception, such as the pill. However, don't be fooled by the myths you may hear regarding the pill - we at London Doctors Clinic set the record straight by tackling these top ten myths about the pill head-on in today's blog post!
Myth 1: The Pill Makes You Gain Weight
The truth is, when the pill was first introduced it contained much higher levels of oestrogen than what is in it today. So while the older pills were known to cause weight gain, it is not considered to be a side effect of the pill today.
What researchers have found is that over each pill cycle, women gain a tiny amount of weight. And we do mean tiny. On average, women gained 0.2 kg at the start of their cycle and lost it again by the end.
Myth 2: You Need To Take Regular Breaks From The Pill
The side effects of the pill usually only occur for the first few months and die down after time. Taking breaks and restarting the pill means restarting the side effects! Studies also suggest that taking breaks can mess with your hormones more than staying in a steady hormone state on the pill. They have also found that late-restarting of the pill while continuing to be sexually active is the main reason for pill failures!
And don’t forget, you are actually taking a break during the pill free period of your cycle.
Myth 3: Long term use of the pill can make you infertile
There are several reasons why people think this.
Firstly, as many women use the pill to delay contraception, many women will start trying to conceive at a time when their fertility has naturally declined. As a result, they may have difficulty getting pregnant due to their age, rather than the pill itself.
Secondly, unless you and your partner had children prior to starting the pill, preexisting problems with fertility may go unnoticed until you stop the pill and try to conceive.
Thirdly, it may take a few months for women who stop taking the pill to start having normal cycles again. Once your cycles return, your chances of having children are no different to women who were not on the pill.
Myth 4: The Pill Makes You Moody
You’ll have to stop using this excuse with your partner. Women on the pill are no more likely to experience symptoms of depression than women who are not on the pill.
The exception to this is women who have a history of depression. Women who did experience depressive symptoms on the pill found that this decreased over time. Some women actually report that their mood is better on the pill and some evidence suggests that the pill may be protective against depressive symptoms!
Myth 5: The Pill Causes Cancer
The pill is actually protective against ovarian cancer, uterine cancer and colorectal cancer - for every 5 years of using the pill, there is a 20% drop in the risk of ovarian cancer. After 15 years on the pill, a women is 50% less likely to get ovarian cancer than a women who do not use the pill.
Where things get tricky is with breast cancer. In the 1990s, a review found that women who used the pill had a small increased risk of breast cancer. However, the review also found that the risk decreased after stopping the pill and after ten years of stopping, the risk disappeared completely.
A more recent study found that using the pill did not significantly increase the risk of breast cancer. It is still advised that if you have breast cancer or had it in the past, you should not use the combined oral contraceptive as it contains oestrogen.
Myth 6: You Need To Take The Pill At The Same Time Every Day
Unpacking this myth requires an understanding of the two main pills out there. When talking about the pill, most of us are referring to the combined oral contraceptive, which contains two hormones: oestrogen and progesterone. With this pill, you don’t need back-up contraception unless you’ve missed more than one day in a row.
However, many women also take the progesterone only pill, also known as the “mini-pill”. The progesterone-only pill must be taken at the same time everyday.
The progesterone only pill (or mini-pill) must be taken at the same time everyday
Myth 7: You Don’t Need To Take The Pill If You’re Breastfeeding
When you breastfeed, your body produces a hormone called prolactin which stimulates milk production. Prolactin also blocks the release of the hormones needed for you to produce an egg, reducing the likelihood of pregnancy while breastfeeding. But you can still get pregnant, especially once you start to reduce your feeds!
The progesterone-only pill (mini-pill) can be started on day 21 after giving birth and is safe to use while breastfeeding.
Myth 8: You Cannot Take The Pill If You Smoke
While we would advise against smoking, smoking does not stop you using the pill. However, it it may affect which pill you should take:
- If you smoke and are under 35, you can still use the combined oral contraceptive pill.
- If you are over 35 and have stopped smoking for at least a year you can use the combined oral contraceptive pill.
- If you are over 35 and smoke, it is recommended that you use the progesterone-only pill or other forms of contraception instead.
Smoking may affect which pill you should take
Myth 9: You Cannot Get Pregnant On The Pill
As with all contraceptives, except maybe sterilisation, there is still a chance of getting pregnant. For every 100 women who use the pill perfectly, less than 0.3 will get pregnant every year.
But how many of us are perfect?
Typically, in a year, 9 in every 100 women will get pregnant while on the pill. This compares to 18 in 100 for the male condom and 1 in 100 for the implant or intrauterine devices.
Myth 10: You Cannot Take The Pill If You Get Migraines
The key question here is do you get aura (warning signs like visual hallucinations, flashing lights, pins and needles) with your migraine? If you currently, or used to, get aura with your migraine, it is recommended that you avoid the combined oral contraceptive pill and instead, use the progesterone-only pill or other forms of contraception. If you get migraines but no aura, it is safe for you to use the oral contraceptive pill but if you start to get aura stop and switch to an alternative!
Should you wish to start taking the pill, we'd recommend booking a 15-minute consultation with one of our GP's at any of our central London clinics. Should you prefer a female GP, please feel free to call and ask, and we'll do out best to accommodate this for you. Not only are our private doctors able to advise on and prescribe the pill, but our in-house pharmacies are stocked up with some of the most common brands, for a convenient all-in-one service! As always, LDC is here for you when you need to find a GP surgery or "GP near me".