Birth Control FAQ

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Birth control certainly is not a new invention. Couples have experimented with various methods of preventing pregnancy since the dawn of civilization. Today, there are more, and safer, options than ever before –and more information about those options in articles and on the internet. But questions and misunderstandings persist:

: I won't get pregnant the first time I have sex, right?

Carrie Cwiak, MD MPH, Director, Family Planning Division, Emory University School of Medicine
The chance of a woman getting pregnant over a year without using contraception is 85 percent. So it's significantly high especially if you're not sure of your day of ovulation and you're not sure when your most fertile day in your month is.

: Aside from birth control are there other benefits from being on the pill?

Carrie Cwiak, MD
There are several long-term benefits to using oral contraceptives and one of the most important is the decrease risk in ovarian cancer, the decrease risk in uterine cancer that persists even after you stop the birth control pills.

: How will the pill affect my period?

Carrie Cwiak, MD
When you are not on a hormonal birth control method and you are ovulating every month, then your intra-uteral lining builds up throughout the month and at the end of the month it's necessary for you to have a menstrual bleed to slough off that lining. When you're using a hormonal contraceptive method it stops you from ovulating every month. So you don't have the ovulation, you don't have the buildup of lining of the uterus, and therefore it doesn't require you to have a sloughing off of the lining every month.

: Will the pill make me gain weight?

Carrie Cwiak, MD
Birth control pills in general do not cause weight gain. The one method that is associated with weight gain is the Depo-Provera injection because it does tend to make people hungry and so then they gain weight. But on average women do not gain weight on other hormonal birth control methods.

: I heard taking the pill can help my acne, is that true?

Carrie Cwiak, MD
Birth control pills actually significantly improve acne for women who have mild to moderate levels of acne.

: Will being on birth control protect me against sexually transmitted diseases?

Carrie Cwiak, MD
All methods of hormonal contraception are intended for protection against pregnancy, and they're very effective in protecting against pregnancy. It is important also to remember to protect yourself from infection. And if that means that the method that you're using is not a barrier method to protect yourself from pregnancy that means you do need to use a barrier method. The most common method is the male condom for protecting yourself from infection.

: What are my options for emergency birth control if I've had unprotected sex?

Carrie Cwiak, MD
Emergency contraception pills that are available in the United States are called 'plan b' they're available over the counter to people 17 and older. They are available with prescription to those under 17.

It's best to discuss your personal health history and your specific birth control options with your gynecologist. For WebMD, I'm Sandee Lamotte.