From TikTok myths to enduring playground urban legends there's a whole lot of misinformation out there when it comes to sex, our bodies and most of all: contraception. We challenged our Co-Founder, gynaecology doctor and buster of fake fanny news, Dr Sarah Welsh, to reveal the truth behind some of the most common misconceptions about the pill, pregnancy and promiscuity.
Myth one: the Pill protects against STIs.
Contraceptive pills protect against unwanted pregnancy, but do not help prevent STIs. You need to use what was classically called a barrier method. Make sure to use condoms, dams, or gloves (that cover the areas involved in sex) as they are the only way to protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
Myth two: if I douche, I will reduce my chances of getting pregnant.
You've probably seen the innocent looking flowery bottles on pharmacy shelves, or even given it a go at home yourself but I have one message for you: step away from the douche. Douching means flushing out your vagina with water or soap, and despite some people’s belief, this really isn’t a good idea for many reasons. As well as disrupting the natural vaginal flora and balance of good bacteria in your vagina (which increases your risk of getting infections such as thrush or bacterial vaginosis), it doesn’t actually reduce your likelihood of getting pregnant or contracting an STI post sex. Douching is also associated with preterm birth, pelvis inflammatory disease and endometritis. When used correctly, condoms, or hormonal contraceptive pills are trustworthy ways to prevent pregnancy.
Myth three: the pill is effective as soon as I start taking it.
Hold up cowboy, don’t pack away your condoms just yet. For most pills, you need to take them for at least a week before the hormones in them start to work in preventing pregnancy. Ensure you read the leaflet inside the specific pill you’re taking to be sure how to take it and when it starts to become effective. If in doubt, check in with your healthcare provider to be sure!
Myth four: taking hormonal contraception (such as the pill or the implant) will damage my fertility.
Most people with uteruses find that when they stop taking hormonal contraception, their fertility returns to its natural state within a few months. There is no evidence to suggest that hormonal contraceptive affect fertility over the long-term. However, it is important to note that natural fertility decreases with increasing age. Time to address all that fertility click bait...
Myth five: taking the morning after pill is like having an abortion.
When working in NHS sexual health clinics, this one came up many times - a testament to the confusing sex education in school plus stigma around open, honest conversation about abortion. The morning after pill, also known as emergency contraceptive pills, is a hormonal contraceptive pill that prevent pregnancy after someone has had unprotected sex. This is not the same as having an abortion (also known as a termination of pregnancy). An abortion is a procedure, which can be done via taking medications or through surgery, which ends a pregnancy. However, by taking the morning after pill, you are preventing pregnancy occurring in the first place, rather than ending an established pregnancy.
Myth six: there are no benefits to taking the contraceptive pill if I am not sexually active.
It's not all about the babies. Sexually active or not, hormonal contraception, including contraceptive pills, can have many other benefits as well as preventing unwanted pregnancy. Some people use them to help manage heavy or painful periods, acne and PMS. Find out more about the contraceptive pills work.
Myth seven: I don’t need to use contraception because my partner pulls out.
I'll put it bluntly: the pull-out method is not an effective way of preventing pregnancy. Roughly 27% of women who use this method will become pregnant each year. Sperm can leak out during sex before ejaculation (hello, pre-cum!), which means you’re able to get pregnant even if your partner pulls out before the big O.
Myth eight: I only have sex during or just after my period, so won’t get pregnant.
Although during and right after your period, you’re least fertile, hardy sperm can survive in the reproductive tract for up to 7 days, and sometimes menstrual cycles have unpredictable ovulation. Hence, although ‘typically’ women ovulate at day 14 of their cycle (when day 1 is the first day of your period, and your cycle is 28 days long), some cycles may differ. The only way to completely be sure you’re not going to get pregnant, is to abstain from sex completely. Don't panic - we're not about that abstinence education. For many of us stopping having sex to prevent pregnancy just isn't a realistic, or enjoyable, or necessary prospect. Condoms, your time is now.
Myth nine: you should always take a break in the pill.
This is another STI clinic classic that definitely needs more awareness. No, you do not need to 'take a break' from your contraceptive pills. Some people with periods like to have a break if they're taking the combined oral contraceptive pill to have a withdrawal bleed, but this is not necessary. The hormones in contraceptive pills are very low nowadays, so most people can take them for years without any issues.
Myth ten: taking contraception encourages ‘promiscuity.’
Pervasive, moralistic and plain stupid: this is one of my least favourite myths out there. Your contraceptive choice doesn't have anything to do with your sexual behaviour. Advocating for your own sexual health by using contraception means you’re being responsible about protecting against unintended pregnancy and/or STIs. We need to collectively challenge the lack of depiction of condoms, the pill and other contraceptive options in film, TV and digital media as being unrealistic - and even dangerous. Shoutout to the OGs, TLC, for rocking johnnies as streetwear and in 2021, Lil Nas X for prominently featuring a condom in his latest music video. Not quite 10/10, though Nas - latex and teeth aren't a good idea.