Just the Facts on Birth Control Pills

Do birth control pills cause weight gain? Should women take occasional breaks from oral contraceptives?

"It's very important for women to be educated about the birth control pill so that they are able to base their contraceptive decisions on facts, not myths and misinformation," said A. George Thomas, clinical associate professor, Mount Sinai Medical Center, New York City. "After 40 years of use, we take for granted that women are fully informed about the Pill, but I find that many of my patients are not. The survey results confirm that we need to do a better job educating women."

A woman looking at her birth control pills

IAN HOOTON / SPL / Science Photo Library / Getty Images

Does the Pill protect against HIV or other sexually transmitted diseases?

Is the Pill an effective treatment for acne?

The Survey

Survey Finding:: Sixty-one percent of women surveyed believe the Pill causes weight gain.

Fact: Not all birth control pills cause weight gain. An equal number of women tend to gain weight as lose weight while taking a birth control pill. In clinical studies of Ortho Tri-cyclen, women reported no more weight gain than women who were taking inactive pills. Women concerned about weight gain should talk with their healthcare professionals.

Survey Finding: Almost half of survey respondents believe women need to take a break from using the Pill.

Fact:: Women don't need a break from the Pill. "Today, more women are using the Pill and staying on it longer," said Dr. Thomas. "And, research shows that women do not need to take a break from the Pill." Healthcare professionals can prescribe birth control pills to healthy, nonsmoking women over 40. But, how long a woman stays on the Pill is something she should discuss with her healthcare professional.

Survey Finding: Forty-three percent of survey respondents believe that the birth control pill can be an effective acne treatment.

Fact: Not all birth control pills are clinically proven to treat acne. There is only one Pill approved by the Food and Drug Administration and clinically proven to help reduce moderate acne and maintain clearer skin. In clinical studies, nearly nine out of 10 women who took Ortho Tri-cyclen showed significant improvements in their skin.

Survey Finding: Twenty-one percent of women surveyed believe the Pill can cause infertility.

Fact: There is no clinical evidence that the Pill affects fertility. When a woman is ready to become pregnant, she should consult her healthcare professional and stop taking her birth control pills. Most women experience a rapid return to fertility.

Risks and Side Effects of Birth Control Pills

Do birth control pills increase your risk of developing breast cancer? While some studies have reported an increase in the risk of developing breast cancer, the majority of studies have found no overall increase in this risk. If you are concerned by a possible increased risk of breast cancer, talk to your clinician about your personal risk and how it relates to your use of oral contraceptives.

Certain women should never use the Pill, including women who have blood clots, certain cancers, a history of heart attack or stroke, as well as those who are or may be pregnant.

Was this page helpful?