Since its first use in 1956, the Oral Contraceptive Pill (OCP) has become so widespread that it has achieved the distinction of being the most researched prescription drug ever invented – over 25 years of research and clinical trials have been conducted on the Pill, and today, more than 70 million women take the Pill daily – a statistic that perhaps no other medication can lay claim to.
Yet, as with any widely used medicines, many reports have been generated in the media speculating on the risks and benefits of oral contraceptives. Many people today still have many misconceptions about the Pill, including the idea that it can actually cause cancer.
These pills are further differentiated by strength: high-dosage or low-dosage. This refers to the amount of progesterone that is actually contained in the pills. Modern variants of the pill contain much lower dosages of the key hormones than older brands, leading to fewer side-effects and yet still maintaining efficacy.
10 MYTHS ABOUT THE PILL
Myth #1: There is only one pill
No, there isn’t. More than 40 brands of the Pill exist. The oral contraceptive works by preventing ovulation and by suppressing the thickening of the womb’s lining, making it impossible for fertilised eggs to implant. Two key female hormones are responsible for these effects: estrogen and progesterone. While the typical pill contains both of these, variations in the type of progesterone alone has resulted in many types of pills, each with varying characteristics.
Myth #2: The Pill is unsafe
The pill is as safe or safer than any medication can be made, period. Dr Yap says that perhaps the only significant health risk from taking the pill is that of Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT). The hormone estrogen has the effect of increasing the ability of blood to form clots. Such occurrences however are quite rare, and with proper precautions, DVT can be avoided .
Myth #3: I’ll put on weight
That may have been true with the older high-dosage pills; however, this particular effect does not occur with the modern pill, due to its lower concentration of estrogen and progesterone. This type of weight-gain is usually caused by water retention. The oral contraceptive known as Yasmin even contains a unique kind of progestogen that can counteract water-retention.
Myth #4: The Pill causes cancer
The Pill has been shown to reduce ovarian and endometrial (lining of the uterus) cancer by 40%. A report filed in the New York Times even found that among 150,000 women surveyed in 25 countries, there was no long-term increase in breast cancer risk among pill users. The same article concluded that “many of the health risks long associated with the pill stemmed from earlier, high-dose formulations that have since been greatly modified, resulting in a reduction or elimination of many problems.”
Myth #5: Continuous use is not good
This is more clearly a perception than an actual effect of the pill. Most women prefer to take themselves off the pill roughly every 3 months, so that they can experience the cycle, perhaps for reassurance that they are still fertile.
Myth #6: Causes Infertility or Birth defects
Since the pill comprises only female hormones, it does not involve the fertility system in any way except to prevent the implantation of a fertilised egg in the womb and ovulation in the first place.
Myth #7: Pills are only for contraception
The pill has been useful in the controlling of heavy periods (menorrhagia), for alleviating painful periods, to prevent polycystic ovaries and even to treat acne or problem skin in young women. The Yasmin in particular has even prominently advertised its beautifying effects to distinguish itself from the rest of the pills in the market.
Myth #8: Pills upset my body’s natural cycle
All that is different about being on the pill is that the body is less receptive to a fertilised egg, and that ovulation does not occur. In fact, a fanciful theory that fertility might be extended was rejected. Even though ovulation does not take place while you’re on the pill, the eggs however, will still continue to be discarded on a monthly basis.
Myth #9: I am too old for the pill
You should be no older than 45 if you wish to be on the pill. In fact, only smokers who are above 35 are warned to stay away from the pill – largely due to the risk of stroke.
Myth #10: Being on the pill is a sign of promiscuity
The truth is that taking the pill is just another way for the sexually active woman to avoid unwanted pregnancies. All you have to do is ask your doctor.