In the United States, 62% of reproductive-age women are currently using birth control. They use it knowing that, on a basic level, it prevents pregnancy. But there’s a lot more to birth control than merely keeping you from getting pregnant. It affects your body in ways that you should be aware of, and there are some misconceptions that may already be influencing you.
Thankfully, a little information can go a long way in helping you use birth control to its fullest potential. Here are some critical things you have to know when it comes to birth control:
What kinds of birth control are there?
There are many different ways you can prevent pregnancy. So many, in fact, that you might be unaware of some.
Planned Parenthood lists 18 methods of birth control on its website, including:
- Birth control implant
- Birth Control Shot
- Birth Control Vaginal Ring
- Birth Control Patch
- Birth Control Pill
- Internal Condom
- Birth Control Sponge
- Cervical Cap
- Fertility Awareness (FAMs)
- Withdrawal (pull out method)
- Breastfeeding as birth control
- Outercourse & abstinence
- Tubal Litigation
These options range from ones you can use on a schedule, ones that are low maintenance, and ones to use during every instance of sexual activity. With so many options, you can take control and figure which one works for you.
How do you get it?
Depending on the type you choose, you can get birth control from your doctor, your local Planned Parenthood office, over the phone, or online. If you’re planning to use the patch, pill, ring, or shot, consider skipping the hassle of leaving your house and opt for the online route.
Companies like Nurx aim to make reproductive health simpler and more accessible; you can consult with a provider or request birth control here. A board-certified clinician in the Nurx network reviews the request and writes a prescription if clinically appropriate. Once approved, medications are shipped directly to your door free of charge and in discreet packaging.
Can it prevent sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)?
A common misconception about birth control pills is that they can prevent sexually transmitted diseases. This is not the case. So if you’re on birth control, you still need to make sure that you and your partner have been tested for STDs before engaging in sexual activity.
Also, take other precautions to prevent STDs such as using condoms (male or female). Condoms are 98% effective at protecting against most STDs and they are fairly easy to purchase.
What does it do to your period?
Another common misconception is that using it will keep you from getting your period. However, this information is not completely accurate. Active birth control pills can reduce or even eliminate your periods—and it’s perfectly safe to continuously skip your period with birth control.
For this reason, many birth control prescriptions include a week of placebo pills to take during the week when you would normally have your period. These pills are designed for you to stay in the habit of taking birth control without experiencing the side effects. Some may choose to take the placebo every month but others can get prescriptions that prolong the active period. Regardless, when you take placebo pills, you will get your period.
What does it do to your breasts?
Each month your breasts naturally grow to maintain their current size. But while on birth control, this growth can be longer than normal, leading to larger breasts. The BBC reports that in the 1990s, Swedish Scientists monitored 65 women with healthy period cycles. This included women who were currently on birth control, women who weren’t on it, and women who used to take it.
The study found that women who took the pill had larger breasts overall. These findings seem to be directly related to taking birth control since large breast size was not associated with the subjects’ height, BMI, or body weight (factors that would normally be associated with breast size).
Ladies, could this be a non-surgical way to up your cup size?
Does it affect PMS?
Do you know that insane cramping you feel on your period? 80 percent of women experience that kind of pain during their period at some point in their lives. Birth control can actually do something about it.
During your period, you ovulate, making the lining of your uterus thinner. But birth makes you stop ovulating, meaning that your uterus lining won’t thin out. This gives you a lighter period.
WebMD notes that birth control can help you regulate your hormone levels which make it easier to avoid common aches and pains while on your period, such as the risk for iron deficiency, painful period cramps, mood swings, and bloating. You might be able to kick your Midol to the curb with this powerful PMS extinguisher.
When should you take it?
According to Planned Parenthood, you can start taking birth control pills any day of the week at any time during your period. When it comes to being protected from pregnancy, however, you have to pay attention to the type of birth control you’re taking and when to use it. For up to seven days, you may need to use a backup birth control method, such as condoms.
Your options for birth control are combination and progestin-only. The most common types of birth control pills are combination pills. With combination pills, you have to start taking them within five days after your period starts to be protected from pregnancy immediately. If you’re going the progestin-only route, your protection from pregnancy comes after two days on the pill. Progestin-only pills have to be taken every day. If you are unsure about when you’ve taken your birth control, check with your doctor and to use a backup birth control method.
What happens if you stop?
When you stop taking birth control, your period can get a little messy. If your periods were normal or irregular before taking birth control, you should be ready to wait months to return to regularity. Furthermore, your periods can have a higher flow with more PMS symptoms when you stop taking birth control.
There is no formal procedure for stopping birth control, so go ahead and stop however you want. If you are taking birth control pills to prevent pregnancy and decide to stop, make sure you plan accordingly and use barrier methods instead.
The more you know about the things you put in your body, the more confident you can be about your choices over time.