From weight requirements to supposed ID laws to cancer risk — with each new advancement in contraception, myths seem to follow. Here are some that dailyRx News would like to help clear up.
Myth: Size Doesn’t Matter
It most likely does.
A 2013 study published in the journal Contraception found that the most common morning-after pill, or emergency contraception (EC), was not effective at all for women over 176 pounds, and it began losing its effect at only 165 pounds, reports NPR.
According to Princeton University’s Office of Population Research (OPR), women with a body mass index (BMI) higher than 30 are three times more likely to get pregnant with pills that only contain the hormone progestin, like Plan B One-Step. However, ella, a brand of the pill that regulates progestin in the body, was effective for patients with a BMI of up to 35.
BMI is a measurement of body fat based on height and weight. For instance, a woman who is 5’4″ and 174 pounds has a BMI of 30, while a woman who is 5’4″ and 204 pounds has a BMI of 35. You can use an online calculator to find out your BMI.
The best emergency contraception for women with a higher BMI may be Copper-T, which is 99 percent effective regardless of size, according to Planned Parenthood. Copper-T is a small, flexible device inserted into the uterus. Getting Copper-T requires going to a clinic or doctor’s office.
Myth: Show Them Your ID, with a Prescription
Some EC brands are available over the counter at your local pharmacy, including inside stores like Target and Walgreens — no matter your age.
According to Princeton’s OPR, these brands include Plan B One-Step, Take Action, Next Choice One-Dose, My Way and some generics. Be sure to call your pharmacy to check what they have on hand. And while all emergency contraception is available to anyone of child-bearing age, including men, those younger than 17 need a prescription for select brands.
Myth: You’re Going to Get Cancer
While birth control has been found to increase cancer risk, the numbers require some explanation.
It was not until a study last year in the journal Cancer Research that the composition of a pill was considered — researchers found that the higher the dose of the hormone estrogen in a pill, the higher the cancer risk. Most birth control pills today have a low dose that does not appear to raise cancer risk, Princeton reports.
Also, the risk numbers may be confusing. If a study finds that a birth control pill raises the relative risk of breast cancer by 60 percent, that doesn’t mean patients have a 60 percent absolute risk of getting cancer. It means that their risk is 60 percent greater than the original, absolute risk of getting cancer. So if that absolute risk is 2 percent, then the increased relative risk is 60 percent greater than that (for math minds: 1.6 X 2 percent), which can still leave risks relatively low.
For example, Science in the News, a Harvard Medical School publication, found that women with no family history of breast cancer who took birth control had a roughly 3 percent chance of getting breast cancer — compared to 2 percent for the general population. This study found that birth control raised these patients’ cancer risk by around 60 percent.
And this cancer risk is only raised while you’re using the pill and for 10 years afterward, according to BreastCancer.org. Once this 10-year window is over, the breast cancer risk appears to go back to normal.
Birth control can also decrease the chance of ovarian and endometrial cancers, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Myth: You Only Have Two Days
EC methods can be effective for up to five days after sex.
Copper-T is 99 percent effective for up to five days, according to the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals.
A Canadian study reported that morning-after pills were effective from anywhere to 72 to 87 percent for up to 120 hours. Ella is 85 percent effective for the whole five days, Princeton’s OPR reports.
But it may still be best to take action as soon as possible — progestin-only pills are 95 percent effective during the first 24 hours after intercourse, Planned Parenthood reports, and they are 89 percent effective within 72 hours. Morning after pills that contain both of the hormones estrogen and progestin are 75 percent effective within 72 hours.
Myth: There Goes Your Budget
EC is relatively low-cost — about $45, as of early 2015. And Plan B One-Step, offers a $10 coupon online. Ella is also available online for $59 — with overnight delivery.
A progestin-only pill is also available online for an even lower price of about $20 from AfterPill — for those who want to keep it on hand. Most morning-after pills don’t expire for a few years, Princeton University reports.
Your insurance could also cover the cost of EC, but be sure to ask about this first.
Myth: Male Birth Control Is Here
Despite the hype about a male birth control gel injection, research is still being done on baboons and not yet on humans. The developers of the injection, the Parsemus Foundation, say the method could be on the market within three years.
Currently, there are only two options for birth control for men during sex — condoms and withdrawal.
The withdrawal method results in a 4 percent chance of pregnancy if done correctly, but if done incorrectly, that chance rises to 27 percent, Planned Parenthood reports.