Despite massive campaigns by different health sectors in the government regarding contraceptive methods, many women are still reluctant to respond the call. The choices are many and each of these methods is carefully studied; their advantages and disadvantages well elucidated. Yet, what’s troubling most women is not the scientific implication of contraceptive use, rather the socio-cultural beliefs that are associated with it.
Myth #1: I am breastfeeding so it’s impossible for me to get pregnant
Fact: Breastfeeding has an inhibitory effect on the hormones responsible for ovulation. But this is not absolute. A woman is protected only from unplanned pregnancy during the first six months and the condition must be that, first, she should breastfeed fully her baby without supplementing milk formula or baby food. Second, she should breastfeed at regular intervals during day and night and that no feeds are missed for any reason. Third, she should make sure her menstrual periods have not returned.
Myth #2: All hormonal methods of contraception are the same
Fact: Hormonal method of birth control can be either combined which contain two hormones – estrogen and progestin, or progestin only. While both are highly effective (92% to 97%), combined contraceptive has more side effects. If the woman is breastfeeding, progestin-only is safer than combined.
Myth #3: Any woman can take contraceptive pills.
Fact: Before starting on contraceptive pills, one should consult her ob-gynecologist. Combined oral contraceptive pills are not suitable for women who have the following health risks: being a smoker older than 35 years old, have migraines, high blood pressure, stroke, blood clots, heart disease, diabetes, liver diseases
Myth #4: I’m afraid of using IUD (intrauterine deivce). It might get lost and travel through my body.
Fact: IUD is a small T-shaped device with a single string attached to the base of the stem. This is inserted into the uterus and almost always stays inside. If it does come out, it will come out from a tear in the uterine wall, which in this case will need surgery in order to be removed. To be certain that IUD is in place, have it check monthly with your health professional.
Myth #5: Condoms can get lost in the woman’s body
Fact: Condoms are too big to get into the small opening of the cervix.
Myth #6: I won’t get pregnant because I haven’t had menstruation yet
Fact: Absence of menstruation does not necessarily mean absence of ovulation. There are many cases of teen pregnancies wherein menstruation has not yet occurred. This is possible. The menstrual cycle of young women is expected to be irregular during the first few months because of hormonal imbalance. Since ovulation precedes menstruation, it could be that, a young woman is ovulating for the first time and had sexual intercourse, paving the way for fertilization and pregnancy, instead of her first menstruation.
Myth #7: I don’t need contraception to avoid getting pregnant because we only have sex
during my “safe” time
Fact: If a woman has a regular menstrual cycle, a “safe” time can be theoretically determined. This is the time when she is not fertile or ovulating and therefore safe from getting pregnant. However, it should be understood that the entire menstrual cycle is an interplay of 4 different hormones: luteinizing hormone (LH), follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), estrogen, and progesterone. What regulates ovulation is a delicate balance of these hormones. Unfortunately, this balance can be disrupted by a lot of factors like stress, age, medicines and weight change. Because of these uncontrollable external factors, it is therefore difficult to pinpoint the “actual safe” days, making any woman still at risk for pregnancy. This is one of the reasons why rhythm method of birth control has high failure rate.
Today, only a handful of women will frankly inquire their health care provider how true contraceptive myths are. And seeing how these false beliefs strongly influenced their choice of birth control method, it is high time for both the woman and her health care provider to talk more about disconcerting myths and get it out of the closet.