What Grandma DON’T KNOW About Birth Control

Weeding out myth and ridiculous to uncover the truth

[blockquote3]Grandma says: “Birth control gives you cancer.”
Doctor says: “Nope!”[/blockquote3]

Now why would anyone take the doctor/provider’s word against that old wives’ tale / urban legend without an explanation? I submit to you that your doctor really cares to take good care of you and not expose you to anything harmful where the risk outweighs the benefits. I know this is not enough to convince grandma, so hear me out. But first, we’ll let grandma give her side of the story.

First of all, what type of cancer? It’s easy to say, but explain please… C’mon grandma explain it to me. Well, she can’t.

For the most part, hormonal birth control works by preventing ovulation… the process were the egg is released in search of the baby-making sperm. Barrier contraceptives (condoms, etc…) keep the sperm from meeting the egg but do nothing to prevent ovulation. Back to hormonal birth control (pills, patch, vaginal ring, Depo-Provera shot, etc…) which prevent ovulation. These are very low dose in general, and act by decreasing hormones that come from the brain and act on the ovary. Since the ovary is not stimulated, it does not ovulate. Here’s an interesting fact that grandma don’t know. Scientific theory has it that monthly ovulation (being off birth control) may increase risk of ovarian cancer. Each month a cyst forms, ruptures, and damages the ovary. The ovary then has to fix itself over and over and over again. At some point an error occurs in the repair process and may lead to cancer. So, preventing ovulation prevents this constant monthly repair and decreases the chance of a cancer inducing error occurring. It’s actually been shown that a woman who takes birth control for a total of 15 years or more, will decrease her risk of ovarian cancer by 90%. Booyah grandma! How do you like ‘dem apples.?!

[blockquote3]Grandma says: “Birth control makes you infertile.”
Doctor says: “Wrong again granny.”[/blockquote3]

Again, most birth control is so low dose that it’s out of your system pretty quickly. The only common birth control that takes a while to get out and may delay ovulation is Depo-Provera… so it may take longer to get pregnant after Depo, but it doesn’t make you infertile. As for the other forms of birth control, the return to fertility is fast… sometimes too fast leading to an unplanned surprise. 🙁 As a matter of fact, many fertility doctors and I myself use birth control for a few months prior to a patient trying to conceive. These help to control and regulate hormones such as insulin and testosterone, which may be elevated in certain patients. When elevated, these hormones prevent ovulation and conception. So by regulating these hormones, fertility can actually be increased in the few months after coming off birth control. So for infertility patients, I usually use birth control in the few months before starting fertility drugs. Grandma means well, but she don’t know, don’t show, or don’t care about what went on in med school (okay fine, I stole that line from Boys in the Hood).

[blockquote3]Grandma says: “Birth control makes you fat.”
Doctor says: “mmmmmm well maybe.”[/blockquote3]

Most forms of birth control weigh less than 5-10 pounds before they’re used. Does birth control go in your body and expand a thousand fold like Elven bread (Lord of the Rings)? I haven’t seen a study on this, but I’m pretty sure the answer is no. So why the weight gain?

Well, the Depo-Provera shot can make you hungry… which leads to eating more… which leads to weight gain. Will power / diet control, exercise, and good genetics can minimize weight gain. The textbook says Depo-Provera causes an average yearly weight gain of 5 pounds. I’ve seen many woman gain more and some who gain nothing at all. I’ve even seen a few lose weight while on the shot.  So, granny might be right when it comes to “the shot” or Depo-Provera causing weight gain.

Other forms of birth control, including the patch, vaginal ring, and pills have not proven to be associated with weight gain. As a matter of fact, one study found that married women on the pill gained weight while single women on the pill lost weight. So, other than “the shot,” there is no proof that the other forms of birth control cause weight gain.

Lesson Learned

So when someone gives you an opinion, whether it be wise ol’ grandma, a know it all friend, or a nosy neighbor, you can do one of two things. You can nod and smile all the while ignoring them in your head and then ask your provider. Or you can, in the most sarcastic of tones, ask them where they went to medical school… wait for the silence… wait for it… and respond with a “that’s what I thought,” then ask your doctor. I prefer the latter, which if you didn’t know already, I’m sure you do now. 🙂

Remember, The Truth will set you free. Now give granny a hug and a kiss.