5 common contraception myths - Busted!

SINGAPORE - A recent survey conducted by Bayer HealthCare this year uncovered a worrying trend among Singaporeans - two out of five respondents were still too embarrassed to consult others about their birth control needs, leading to misinformation.

The survey of 203 Singaporeans aged between 18 to 35 years of age also found that an overwhelming one in three Singaporeans are unable to obtain reliable and accurate information about contraception.

This will undeniably lead to many misconceptions to contend with.

Whether it's about the different options available or the correct usage of them, the right information will help you and your partner make informed decisions on family planning and sexual health.

Beyond that, some birth control methods provide benefits beyond contraception, so it's best to know your options for the best method that would suit your lifestyle.

Some of the most common myths relating to contraception are:

Myth #1: Condoms are the most effective way of preventing pregnancy

BUSTED! Condoms are a popular form of contraception but are definitely not the most effective.

When used properly, condoms can be 98 per cent effective. However, in real life conditions, the effectiveness could be reduced to 85 per cent.

This can be due to breakage or leakage, or sometimes because they are simply used incorrectly.

Some of the more common mistakes include taking the condom off before intercourse is over, and failing to leave space at the tip of the condom for semen.

That being said, condoms are the only method that will protect against STIs (sexually transmitted infections).

Myth #2: The Pill causes weight gain

BUSTED! A popular misconception is that oral contraceptives - also known as "the Pill" - will cause weight gain.

In fact, long term studies looking at the weight impact of the Pill have not shown women gaining significant weight. Some women may put on one to two kg as a result of water retention caused by the hormone estrogen.

However, this does not normally persist beyond the first few months after starting the Pill.

There are also newer Pill formulations that manage weight issues by reducing hormonal-related water retention.

Myth #3: The Pill increases the risk of cancer

POSSIBLE:  There are some studies to suggest that being on the Pill increases the risk of breast cancer, but other studies have shown no significant increase.

In instances where an increased risk was identified, it reduced over time following the discontinuation of the Pill.

To be on the safe side, if you have a strong family history of breast cancer, then it is best to use non-hormonal means.

However, the use of the Pill has also been known to help protect users from certain cancers. In January 2008, an article in The Lancet reported the protective effects of the Pill against ovarian cancer.

Overall, they found that the longer the women were on the Pill, the better their protection against ovarian cancer.

If a woman were to take the Pill for five years, she reduces her risk of ovarian cancer by one-third.

If she took the Pill for 15 years, she reduced her risk of ovarian cancer by half. The shorter the time of cessation from taking the Pill, the greater the protection persisted. This reduction in risk persisted for more than 30 years even after they had stopped taking the Pill.

Although taking the Pill is associated with a small increase in the risk of developing breast cancer, this risk is much smaller and exists only while on the Pill and just after stopping it. Whereas for ovarian cancer, the protection persists for decades.

Myth #4: Long-term use of oral contraceptives lead to infertility

BUSTED! Many women fear prolonged use of oral contraceptives will affect their fertility. However this concern is unfounded.

The effects of the Pill are completely reversible and there is no medical evidence to prove that prolonged use will lead to infertility.

The truth is, there should be no delay in getting pregnant from the Pill once you stop.

It really doesn't matter how long you have been on the Pill because as long as there is no underlying cause associated with infertility, you should be able to get pregnant.

Of course the older you are the harder it is to conceive but generally, you can conceive as soon as you begin to ovulate.

Myth #5: Taking the pill can harm your unborn baby

BUSTED!  Using the Pill has not been linked to birth defects and there are also no medical guidelines advising doctors to terminate such pregnancies if the woman happens to get pregnant while on the Pill.

That said, it's not recommended for women to continue using oral contraceptives if they suspect that they may be pregnant.

If there are any other misconceptions or questions you would like to clarify, please speak to a healthcare professional who will be able to discuss the various choices with you in order to make an informed decision.

Discussing contraception methods with your partner is just as important (it takes two!) and can result in a healthier, happier relationship.

So get talking - with your partner and your health care professional - and make sure you find a contraceptive option that suits your lifestyle needs.

This article was contributed by Dr Christopher Ng, an Obstetrician and Gynaecologist at GynaeMD Women's and Rejuvenation Clinic.  For more information on the various contraceptive methods and their benefits, visit http://www.YesItTakes2.com.