It’s been 60 years since the FDA approved the use of birth control, and while there’s a lot more we now know about the pill, there are several misconceptions about birth control that still persist. One of our commitments at Pill Club is making sure that everyone has access to comprehensive and accurate information about birth control. With that in mind, we asked Dr. Amy Roskin, board-certified OB/GYN, and Pill Club’s medical director and head of clinical operations, to set the record straight once and for all.
Many people assume that you need to see a doctor in-person to get a prescription for birth control. Is this true?
Dr. Roskin: You definitely don’t need to see a doctor in-person for a birth control prescription if you’re interested in getting the pill or the ring (note: you do need to see a doctor for an IUD since that requires a physical exam and procedure). It’s perfectly safe to prescribe hormonal contraception remotely, so that shouldn’t be a deterrent for anyone considering getting birth control. Just like in-person providers, we use a comprehensive medical questionnaire for new patients to understand their medical history, previous experience with birth control (if any), and any current medications they’re taking that might conflict with birth control. Getting to a doctor—especially during COVID—might not be feasible. It’s much more convenient to get birth control delivered, and in fact, a report in the New England Journal of Medicine found telemedicine for birth control can be safer and more accessible than an in-person doctor visit.
Can birth control cause weight gain?
Dr. Roskin: I get this question a lot. Studies haven’t shown a clear link between hormonal contraception and weight gain, but some patients in my clinical practice do notice initial increases in “water weight” or bloating. This typically subsides as their bodies adjust over the next month or two of use. For patients who are concerned about it, we try to prescribe the lowest possible dose.
Is it true that using birth control pills or the ring long-term can cause fertility issues later on?
Dr. Roskin: No, generally that’s not true. Age is a much more important factor in fertility. As for other risks, several studies have indicated that birth control could lead to a significant decrease in ovarian, endometrial (uterine lining), and colorectal cancer, though it’s worth noting that there may also be a slight increase in breast and cervical cancer.
What about birth control that eliminates your period? Is that a bad thing?
Dr. Roskin: It’s totally fine to skip your periods on birth control. Being on birth control doesn’t necessarily eliminate your period—it depends on the dose and how often you take it. There may even be benefits to going without a period, depending on other coexisting conditions that a person might have. For example, being on continuous birth control has been found to be effective for treating people with endometriosis, menstrual migraines, or PMS.
These are some of the most common birth control myths that we often hear about, but if you’re interested in learning more, this FAQ from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists is a great primer on all things birth control. And, as always, you can reach out to a member of our medical team if you have additional questions about birth control or other sexual health needs.
- American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists: Combined Hormonal Birth Control: Pill, Patch, and Ring
- National Cancer Institute: Oral Contraceptives and Cancer Risk
- Discover Magazine: Ordering Birth Control Online is Just As Safe As Going to the Doctor (originally published in the New England Journal of Medicine)