Busting Birth Control Myths and Real Reproductive Health Advice

Birth Control Myths Busted

HEALTH- A study published recently in The Journal of Adolescent Health shows that only half of adolescents and young adults (13-26 years old) have ever had private time with their health care provider.

“Those who did were found to have more positive attitudes about their providers, were more willing and comfortable discussing sensitive topics (such as sex, family planning, substance use, and suicidality), and thought these discussions should happen at a younger age,” says Dr. Kanani Titchen, director of adolescent health at SBH Health System (St. Barnabas Hospital in the Bronx).

This is particularly important in the Bronx.  

Although the rate of teenage pregnancies in the borough has fallen dramatically since 2005, at 68.8 pregnancies per 1,000 females ages 15 – 19 down from nearly twice that much, it is still significantly higher than New York City’s 48.1 pregnancies per 1,000.

Dr. Kanani Titchen

Specialists like Dr. Titchen, are working to improve adolescent sexual and reproductive health outcomes in the south and central Bronx (where the numbers are higher).  A good part of what she provides is education.

Here are some mythbusting facts she offers about birth control:

·   The birth control pill does not cause weight gain. 

The only form of birth control with known, proven weight gain is the hormone shot. For this reason and others, Dr. Titchen says she doesn’t often prescribe the shot more than once or twice to teenage girls.

· Birth control does not encourage girls to have sex. 

“In fact, more often than not, the girl has already had (unprotected) sex before she starts birth control,” says Dr. Titchen. “Therefore, she is at risk of an unplanned pregnancy.” 

According to Dr. Titchen, among the best things for encouraging abstinence are open dialogue with parents/guardians and extra-curricular activities like sports and music and arts and academic activities.

·   A girl can become pregnant the first time she has sex…but, said Dr. Titchen “this risk diminishes dramatically if the girl has already been taking birth control and is able to have open, private conversations with her doctor.”

Dr. Titchen offers all reversible forms of birth control that do not interfere with a young woman’ future fertility. These include long acting reversible contraception (LARC) such as the hormonal implant and the hormonal or copper IUD; birth control pills; hormonal patch; hormonal vaginal ring; and hormone shot.

“We offer combined-hormone contraception (estrogen + progestogen), as well as progesterone-only forms and give out free condoms.”

The center also prescribes Plan B.  “This is NOT an abortive drug, but rather a medication for young women to take within 72 hours in the event of unprotected sex or if the condom broke,” she says. “It’s called Plan B, because Plan A failed. Plan B helps prevent pregnancy, not terminate an existing pregnancy!”

She also provides forms of birth control for medical reasons that have nothing to do with preventing pregnancy. “This can include girls with very heavy or painful periods, acne or with PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome),” she says. “A visit with an adolescent medicine doctor can help determine what form is safest, most convenient, and best for the patient.”

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