The Contraceptive Chronicles with Afaxys – The Misconception Edit
By: Dr. Kristen Feldman
This month, we recognize September 26th as World Contraception Day. For those who have access to contraception and contraceptive counseling, this recognition may be like any other day. For others who do not have full access to the contraceptive method of their choice and counseling, it’s a time to further elevate education and awareness efforts. It’s important for all currently on birth control, considering contraception for the first time, or looking to switch their method to have the space to ask questions and receive answers about contraception. Sexual and reproductive healthcare, including access to contraception and contraceptive education, should be a right, not a privilege.
To start the conversation on contraception today, we’re going to myth-bust a few common contraceptive misconceptions including:
- Birth control = pills and condoms
- Social media is always a viable source of information
Misconception #1 – Birth Control = Pills and Condoms
While the most commonly recognized methods of contraception are the birth control pill and male condoms, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration acknowledges 17 contraceptive methods, which can be sorted into five main categories. They include long-acting reversible contraception (LARCs), short-acting methods, barrier methods, emergency contraception, and sterilization.
As technology has continued to advance, expanding these different categories with an increased number of contraceptive methods available, patients are able to explore the different contraceptive methods to understand which method may best fit into their current lifestyle and needs. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, FDA-approved contraceptive methods prescribed by a healthcare provider must be covered under most healthcare insurance plans in the U.S.
Misconception #2 – Social Media is Always a Viable Source of Information
Social media can be a helpful place to gather information and understand real-life patient experiences, but its content must be taken ‘with a grain of salt.’ Negative experiences and stories tend to receive higher engagement on social media, so users may more easily see the negative portrayals of contraception over the positive ones.
For students, many universities have a peer education program or health services where patients can speak to a healthcare provider about their options.
If you’d like to have a discussion in person, most counties in the U.S. have a health department that offers contraceptive services (or a referral for contraceptive services). Any organization that is a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) is required to provide this service. You can use this online tool to find a health center near you. The best way to receive medically accurate information is to consult a healthcare provider. If you’re nervous about talking to a provider, you may find it helpful to first talk with friends, family, and peers about their experiences and tips on how to approach a conversation.
There are many other reputable, unbiased online resources where patients can find more information about each contraceptive method, side effects, and patient reviews like Power to Decide or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
There are many misconceptions around contraception. With further research on contraception, more reliable educational resources, and continued advancement of contraceptive options, access to affordable contraception will continue to expand.
As a practicing physician, my recommendation is to talk to a healthcare provider about what options may interest you or concerns you have. Talk to us about your lifestyle, what you’re looking for, anything you’re worried about, and whether you have any issues with your current method. I strive to work with my patients to find the option that suits them, their lifestyle, and their needs the best.