Oral contraception is the most popular form of birth control for women, according to a recent report by The Guardian, which states that nine in 10 women who receive contraception from their GP opt for the pill or mini-pill.
It contains artificial versions of female hormones oestrogen and progesterone, which women produce naturally in their ovaries, and works by preventing ovulation.
But despite its popularity and the fact that it’s been widely available in the UK for more than 50 years, there are still plenty of myths surrounding oral contraception.
Here are the most popular ones debunked.
It’s unsafe to take pill packets back-to-back
Whether it’s safe to take the pill back-to-back and skip a period is a common question among women already taking the pill or considering it.
The NHS explains: “The usual way to take the pill is to take one every day for 21 days, then stop for seven days, and during this week you have a period-type bleed. You start taking the pill again after seven days.”
But guidelines released last year from The Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare (FSRH), explain that there is no health benefit to taking a break while you're on the combined contraceptive pill.
These guidelines were accredited by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), and said: "Women can safely take fewer (or no) hormone-free intervals to avoid monthly bleeds, cramps and other symptoms."
FSRH added: “If a hormone-free interval is taken, shortening it to four days could potentially reduce the risk of pregnancy if pills, patches or rings are missed.”
You can take the pill at any time
The NHS notes that, “You need to take the pill at around the same time every day. You could get pregnant if you don't do this, or if you miss a pill, or vomit or have severe diarrhoea.”
The pill isn’t safe
The combined contraceptive pill is one of the most researched and prescribed medications, with health experts confirming that it is a safe contraception method to use.
The IUD or copper coil is another common form of contraception (Photo: Shutterstock)
Like any medication, there are certain health risks that are linked to pill use, with minor side effects including mood swings and headaches, but serious side effects are rare.
However, it is important that you discuss your personal and family medical history with your GP before taking the pill.
The pill makes you gain weight
While women can often feel bloated at certain times of the month due to hormonal changes, the NHS advises that there is no clear evidence that the pill affects your weight.
The website says: “There is no evidence that the pill makes women gain weight.”
The pill protects against STIs
The pill does not protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs), so using a condom as well will help to protect you against STIs.
Everyone can take the pill
If you have no medical conditions and are in good health you should be able to take the pill until your menopause.
However, the combined pill is not suitable for women who are pregnant, over 35 and smoke, those who are very overweight or women who take certain medications or who have certain medical conditions.
Your GP can advise whether the pill is suitable for you.
All contraceptive pills are the same
Not all contraceptive pills are the same - there are different brands and varieties of birth control pills, which can contain different levels of hormones.
They may also supply different doses at various times throughout each pill pack cycle.
Oral contraceptives are classed as:
- Combination pills - which contain estrogen and progestin- Progestin-only pills - which contain progestin but not estrogen