Contraception Myths Debunked (Plus, Does Male Birth Control Exist?)

"Do I have to take the pill at the same time every day?" and other common birth control facts and fictions explained.

Selection of birth control pills
(Image credit: Jeff Westbrook)

Generic and brand-name pills are totally interchangeable.

FALSE. The quality of the drug in name brand and generics is equal, but the pill-to-pill dose variation in a name-brand drug is only 3 percent, compared to 10 percent in generics. Sensitive to mood swings? Stick to brand name.

The Pill causes breast cancer.

FALSE. Women who have breast cancer shouldn't take the Pill, but it doesn't increase your risk. What's more, women who took the Pill for five years had a 50 percent reduction in ovarian cancer and a 30 percent reduction in uterine cancer.

The Pill interacts with other medications.

TRUE. Antibiotics like rifampin, amoxicillin, and doxycycline can make birth control pills less effective.

Smoking pot on the Pill, NuvaRing, or patch is as bad as smoking cigarettes.

FALSE. Nicotine and tar — found in much smaller quantities, if at all, in pot than cigarettes — are what increase the risk of heart disease and stroke when on contraception.

I don't actually have to take my pill at the same time every day.

TRUE. No need to be overly anal, but try to stay within 12 hours from day to day. The best trick? Tie your daily pill-taking to a regular activity, like eating breakfast.

Drinking grapefruit juice can interfere with the Pill.

TRUE. While grapefruit juice doesn't seem to make the Pill less effective, its chemicals may change how your body handles estrogen or interfere with the enzymes that break down certain drugs. Studies haven't explained it, but if you drink more than two glasses a day, the juice can worsen some Pill side effects, like sore breasts. Drink less, and you're fine.

Male Birth Control: Myth or Reality?

The open secret in reproductive science? Male birth control exists. "Using Depo-Provera to turn off sperm production and an androgen replacement gel [like AndroGel or Testim] works for men in clinical trials," says Dr. Diana Blithe, expert on male contraception for the Center for Contraception and Reproductive Health Branch at NICHD. But no doc will touch this DIY male birth control kit; the products haven't been FDA-approved for this kind of use, and the sperm reduction wouldn't be 100 percent — a tiny amount could still get through. Blithe is working on a male birth control gel, but it's still 10 years away, best case. There's major moolah for whomever wins this race, she says, and "the science exists. It would just take a company that's interested in marketing the products." Can we help?