I spend time educating students in high schools on safe sex practices, including contraceptives (birth control) and sexually transmitted infection (STI) prevention. When it comes to contraceptives, I hear a lot of inaccurate information that teens have heard, mostly from friends and the internet. There are many myths to dispel about getting pregnant and birth control. In addition, birth control has changed in the past few years to include many new, different methods. Because of all the myths out there, and these changes, you and your teen might have a lot of questions.
Here are a few common misconceptions your teen may hear, paired with the facts.
Myth One: No one uses methods other than birth control pills and condoms.
While birth control pills paired with condoms serve as a common method, low-maintenance contraception use is on the rise. Intrauterine devices (IUDs) and the implant give teens a stress-free option that can last for years — and they are more than 99% effective (compared to pills which are 91% effective). All birth methods should be paired with a condom to protect from sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
Myth Two: Birth control will make me gain weight.
Side effects are different for everyone, but the truth is researchers have found no direct link between using hormonal contraceptives and gaining weight. If your teen is concerned about gaining weight on hormonal birth control, talk to your health care provider to explore alternative options.
Myth Three: Birth control is a “have to take every day” kind of thing.
Yes: Birth control pills need taken every day for true effectiveness. But if your teen struggles to remember her pills, there are many other options out there, including the patch, the ring and IUDs.
Myth Four: Birth control will affect my ability to have children in the future.
Research shows long-term birth control methods do not affect future fertility.
Fertility varies from person to person.
Contraceptives do not affect your ability to have babies when you’re ready for them, but untreated sexually transmitted infections (STIs) can. It’s important to stress with your teen that doubling up (using condoms with a primary birth control method) is important to prevent STIs and pregnancy.
Myth Five: You can only get IUDs if you’ve already had a baby
IUDs are safe for women with and without children alike. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends low-maintenance birth control methods as great options for young women since they’re super effective, can last up to 10 years and are fully reversible.
Myth Six: If I get an implant, everyone will be able to see it.
As with all low-maintenance contraceptives, no one has to know it’s there but you.
You’ll be able to feel the implant if you press on your arm near the spot where it was inserted. If others are watching your arm while you’re pressing it, they might see it too. As long as you’re not drawing attention to it, no one will know it’s there.
Myth Seven: I've had unprotected sex and didn't get pregnant, so I don't need birth control.
Having sex without birth control doesn’t mean you can never get pregnant. It just means you got lucky. Your teen should know that whether it’s a woman’s first time or hundredth time having sex, any time a man and woman have unprotected sex, she can get pregnant.
Sarah Saxbe, MS, MSW, LISW-S, coordinates community outreach and marketing for Nationwide Children's Hospital Teen and Pregnant Program, BC4Teens birth control clinic, and the Ohio Better Birth Outcomes collaborative.
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