The Truth About the Birth Control Misinformation Flooding Social Media


“There’s no evidence to show that it changes body form or proportion,” she said, adding that teens who start the pill shortly after they get their first period can usually attribute any changes in how their clothes fit to puberty, not the pill.

As for claims that birth control can change a person’s personality — perhaps so significantly that they get dumped — Dr. Auguste said it’s important to keep in mind that “a mood change is very different than a personality change.”

She said some women do notice mood changes while on the pill, noting that this might manifest in feelings of anxiety or depression, similar to Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS), which can happen regardless of whether somebody is taking hormonal birth control.

“It is sometimes that they just need an adjustment of the pill with a lower dose of estrogen or progesterone, and then that is fixed,” Dr. Auguste said. “Sometimes [patients] don’t like their mood on the pill and then the pill is not a good option for them, and there are other types of birth control that would be better for them.”

On the other hand, Dr. Auguste said that some patients find the pill helps regulate their PMS mood swings.

Another misconception circulating online is that the pill can cause infertility down the road, a claim that Dr. Auguste called “categorically false.”

If you stop taking the pill, your fertility levels will bounce right back “to whatever it otherwise would have been,” according to Jill Edwardson, MD, MPH, assistant professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Johns Hopkins University. The only hormonal contraceptive that doesn’t work that way is the injection, she said. After you stop a method like Depo Provera, your cycle will still return to its baseline, you can just expect it to take some time. According to Planned Parenthood, it can take as long as 10 months.

Dr. Edwardson also said, although “there’s some data that suggests that there may be an increased risk of breast cancer in those who’ve used hormonal contraception in the past,” it’s a very low likelihood. In fact, she said more developed research shows a decreased risk of both uterine and ovarian cancers among people who take the pill.

“Like with anything, it’s thinking about risks and benefits,” she said.

Even though the pill is safe to take, patients can have different experiences and preferences. That’s why Dr. Edwardson said she understands how easy it can be to believe misinformation about the birth control pill.

“Things are presented in a very black-and-white manner, and these are really personal decisions and they do affect people in different ways,” she said.

Dr. Auguste has had patients ask her about claims made about the pill on social media — and, as long as patients have questions, she hopes they keep an open dialogue with their health care providers.

“That’s what I want. I want someone to say, ‘I heard this on social media. Is this true?’” she said. “Let’s have a conversation about it. Let’s talk about it. Let me give you the evidence, and then you can make your decision.”

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Tags: birth control, health, reproductive rights

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