The birth control pill ("the pill," also known as combined oral contraceptive pill or COCP) is one of the most effective ways of preventing pregnancies, being up to 99.9% effective when used correctly. However, many myths and misconceptions about the pill may be scaring some women out of using this reliable method of contraception. Read on to learn the truth about birth control pills.

"The pill will make me gain weight."
Gaining weight from the pill is one of the most popular fears that women have about using it. Despite this common belief, no studies have actually found that women taking a low-dose birth control pill are at a significantly increased risk of gaining weight compared to women not taking the pill. Besides weight gain, most makers of the pill also list weight loss as a potential side effect. Like other potential side effects, not everyone who takes the birth control pill will experience weight gain.

"The pill will aggravate or give me acne."
Many people believe that the pill may cause acne, yet the opposite is actually true. Birth control pills will decrease acne because they work to reduce a hormone that can cause acne.

"Taking the pill will hurt my chances of getting pregnant."
Birth control pill affecting future fertility is a myth. The truth is that it only takes 1 to 3 months for your fertility to go back to normal after stopping the pill. In fact, some studies show that young women who have used the pill are at a lower risk for infertility.

"Getting pregnant while on the pill will lead to birth defects."
It is natural that women would be afraid of the possibility of accidentally getting pregnant while on the pill, and the effect that this would have on the baby. There is no evidence that a baby will have birth defects if the mother was taking the pill before she knew she was pregnant. However, you should stop taking the pill if you do find out that you're pregnant, because you are taking a medication you no longer need.

"Taking the pill ups the chances of cancer."
The birth control pill actually reduces the risks of ovarian cancer and endometrial cancer. In addition, there is a greater decrease in ovarian cancer risk in people who use the pill longer. Further adding to the good news is that the decrease in risk still continues for up to 20 years after stopping the pill. Although some studies show a small increased risk of breast cancer in women who started taking the pill at an early age or who took it for a long time, others studies show no link. Overall, the risk appears to be very small or next to none. However, this remains a controversial issue because numerous studies continue to yield conflicting results. It is important to note that women who are already at an increased risk of breast cancer due to a gene mutation may increase their risk further by taking the pill.

Although some myth-busting information on the birth control pill are discussed here, as with any medication, there are potential side effects and risks associated with taking it. There are also certain people who should not take this medication. Speak with your doctor or pharmacist to determine if the pill is the right contraception method for you.

Lisa Tourountzas