Your Guide to Choosing the Right Birth Control for You
Facts About the Birth Control Pill
Q: "I've heard that the pill causes blood clots. How common is this really?"
A: "Fears about blood clots are often blown out of proportion," says Rebecca Allen, MD, assistant professor of ob-gyn at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University. In June the FDA issued a warning that women taking newer brands containing the hormone drospirenone (including Beyaz, Gianvi, Loryna, Ocella, Safyral, Syeda, Yasmin, Yaz, and Zarah) may have a two to three times higher risk for blood clots than women using older versions of the pill with levonorgestrel. But the odds remain extremely low. "Pregnancy and childbirth are more likely than birth control to cause blood clots," Dr. Allen notes. If you are over 35, obese, or smoke or have high blood pressure or migraines, your risk increases; ask your doc about other BC options.
A: Any birth control using synthetic estrogen, such as the pill, can affect libido. One study found that women taking oral contraceptives had four times higher levels of binding globulin, a sex hormone that reduces testosterone and can lower desire and arousal, than women who didn't use hormonal birth control. If you're on the pill or other hormonal BC and you've lost your mojo, discuss alternatives with your doctor.
Q: "If I'm on the pill, will it be harder for me to get pregnant later?"
A: No. "Once you stop taking the pill, the medication leaves your system immediately and your normal cycles should return,? Dr. Allen says. One study showed that 32 days is the median time before you menstruate again. If you have a history of cycle irregularities, keep a calendar after you stop using the pill. "If you don't get your period within three months, see your doctor," Dr. Allen advises.
Q: "Will the hormones in the pill make me run slower and kill my 5K PR?"
A: It's unlikely. In fact, surveys show that more than half of all female athletes -- and 83 percent of those who are elite-level -- take the pill. Some research has found that it improves performance by reducing PMS-like symptoms and bleeding.The Five Biggest BC Rumors -- Busted!
MYTH: Birth control causes weight gain.
FACT: Only the shot has been linked to putting on extra pounds. In a recent study, women taking oral contraceptives did not gain more than those using a nonhormonal form of birth control. Their body fat increased and lean muscle mass decreased slightly, but researchers say this is less likely to happen in women who exercise and eat right.
MYTH: Suppressing your period is unhealthy.
FACT: "Using birth control to skip your period is safe, and it may even help protect your health," says Rebecca Allen, MD, of the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University. "The less frequently you menstruate because of birth control, the lower your risk of ovarian and uterine cancer."
MYTH: You don't need BC as long as you're breastfeeding.
FACT: Breastfeeding does protect some women against pregnancy by preventing ovulation, but there's no way to know if you're one of them or how long the effect will last, says Terry Adkins, MD, an ob-gyn in Nashville. Twenty percent of breastfeeding moms begin ovulating within three months of delivery, a Johns Hopkins study showed.
MYTH: Getting your tubes tied requires serious surgery.
FACT: Two in-office procedures, Essure and Adiana, take only about 10 minutes. Doctors use a catheter, inserted through your vagina, to close off your fallopian tubes with tiny flexible inserts. Your own body tissue grows around them to block your tubes.
MYTH: An IUD is an option only when you've already had kids.
FACT: The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recently issued a report noting that IUDs are safe for women who haven't yet had children and are more effective and have higher rates of satisfaction than the pill.
Originally published in FITNESS magazine, November/December 2011.
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