6 Myths Nigerian Women Have About Oral Contraception


Published: December 15, 2015

Knowledge is power, especially when it comes to our fertility — it’s high time we replace fiction with facts about the Pill.

Women in Nigeria are among the most fertile women in the world, but there’s a downside to this: Nigeria also has one of the highest maternal death rates in the world — as well as one of the lowest contraceptive use rates.

Let’s review some of the most common myths surrounding birth control pills and then take a look at the actual facts.

Myth #1: Taking birth control pills is the same as abortion.

The confusion stems from the idea that there is only one kind of pill. The truth is that there are different types of contraceptive pills containing hormones, and two very different types of prescriptions:

1. A very low dosage of hormones to be taken daily during your whole cycle to alter the hormone levels in your body so that a pregnancy will not occur. The dose is only high enough to prevent pregnancy.

2. A very high dosage of hormones taken just once in order to immediately interfere with a pregnancy.

When you are taking “the Pill,” your female hormone levels aren’t right for pregnancy, so you can’t get pregnant. No sperm, no matter how superior, can get you pregnant when your hormones won’t even allow the sperm to get to the egg. Therefore, you are not having an abortion, because there’s nothing to abort while you’re on the Pill.

The high dosage of hormones used to immediately interfere with a pregnancy is much different from the Pill. These high-dose hormones are used only as emergency contraception and are not what you take when you are on the Pill for routine contraception.

Myth #2: It takes a long time to get pregnant after going off birth control pills.

Taking the Pill every day does not cause long-term infertility. Once you stop taking the Pill, your body’s hormones immediately start returning to normal levels. This means that your regular period will return, as will your ability to conceive a baby.

Your ovaries contain all the eggs you will need for your entire life. When you take the Pill, ovulation — the process of an egg being released from the ovary — stops because the hormones are disrupted while you are taking it. Ovulation typically occurs between 12 and 16 days before the start of your menstrual period, and you are fertile in the two to three days before ovulation occurs.

When you stop taking the Pill, your normal cycle will re-establish itself within two weeks to two months. However, if you had menstrual cycle problems such as irregular ovulation prior to taking the Pill, those same issues may still be there when you go off the Pill.

Remember: very few people get pregnant on the first try. It takes most couples about four to five months, and about 15 percent of couples take about a year to get pregnant — and that’s without any influence from the Pill.


Myth #3: The hormones in the Pill build up in the body and can cause an abortion or health problems.

When drug companies create drugs, they are required to run studies to determine the drug’s “half-life.” This is the amount of time it takes for the drug, once it’s in the body, to be reduced in concentration by 50 percent.

The half-life of the Pill is 19 to 24 hours. That means that you will only have half of the hormone left in your body after one day, and half of that amount will be gone by the following day. So within a week, over 99 percent of the extra hormones will be gone from your body.

Your liver, kidneys and digestive tract are the organs that help to remove any residual traces of the Pill (or any other medications you may be on). These organs detoxify by combining with the hormones, breaking them down and then removing them from the body via urine and feces.

Myth #4: Birth control pills makes you gain a lot of weight.

Oral contraceptives are composed of estrogen and progesterone, the two hormones that are involved in your menstrual cycle and pregnancy. Some oral contraceptives are made solely from progesterone.

In some studies, only a very small percentage of women gained a substantial amount of weight after taking the Pill, and it is possible that some of these women may have had additional, pre-existing health issues, such as thyroid abnormalities.

Other studies have reported a small weight increase (less than 2 kilograms), with some women experiencing a 2.5 percent increase in body fat — again, very little. In one study, women with diabetes who used the diabetic medication Metformin didn’t experience the weight gain that women not on Metformin did after taking the Pill.

Weight issues are tied to many factors, such as appetite, the amount of processed foods in the diet, the presence of diabetes or insulin resistance, smoking and physical activity levels. Even the amount of water consumed in a day plays a big role in how the body breaks down fat. By focusing on the underlying factors affecting weight loss, you can find a solution.

Myth #5: The Pill can cause cancer.

This is another myth that has been debunked by research conducted on the topic. Official studies have shown no connection between women taking the Pill and being at increased risk for breast cancer. The rates of breast cancer did not rise at all with the use of oral contraceptives.

Interestingly, what the scientists did find was that women who took the Pill regularly had lower rates of both ovarian and endometrial cancer.

Myth #6: Birth control pills cause unpleasant side effects.

While it is true that some women who take the Pill experience side effects, it is still one of the most effective ways to decrease the high maternal death rate and to avoid many other health problems that often result from pregnancies that aren’t spaced out over time.

Studies have shown some incidences of nausea, dizziness, headaches, depression, shortness of breath, mood changes, breast tenderness, loss of sex drive and spotting/irregular bleeding in women taking the Pill.

But what is causing these side effects? That’s what doctors in Iran wanted to know, and they set up a study to find out. They discovered that when the women in the study took a daily multivitamin, their side effects from oral contraceptives decreased significantly.

This suggests that getting the right amount of vitamins and minerals can prevent many of the side effects of oral contraception, which makes sense because vitamin and mineral deficiencies appear over time, and many people do not get all of the nutrients necessary for good health that they should every single day.

If you are experiencing negative side effects from the Pill, look to improving your own health and nutrition, and try a multivitamin. Alternatively, you could also change to another form of contraception, but remember: giving up contraception altogether will put you back at risk for all of the dangers of pregnancy.

Your fertility will always be a deeply personal and sensitive issue, and your decisions surrounding it will depend on your own religious and philosophical beliefs. But now, armed with facts instead of myths, you have the opportunity to make a well-informed decision while still keeping your beliefs intact. Choose wisely!

Can you identify with one or more of these myths? How do you feel about them now? Share in the comments below.

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