The contraceptive pill

Contraception, and in particular the contraceptive pill, is certainly one of the most important social innovations of the 1900s. In this article, we dispel some false myths that today limit its acceptability.

The contraceptive pill is a drug based on estrogen and progestogen, used to inhibit ovulation and thus control births. It appeared on the American market at the end of the 1950s, and then arrived in Europe in 1961. In these last 60 years, the composition of the “pill” has profoundly changed: new progestogens have been synthesized, their dosages decreased and their side effects limited.

Despite this, there is still a cultural resistance to its use and many false myths limit its acceptability. Let’s see some of them:

  • The pill makes you gain weight. While it is true that the first pills on the market could cause an increase in water retention, with modern dosages this risk is very low. The situation has also improved thanks to the wide range of oral contraceptives on the market that allows to choose the one that best suits the different physiology and tolerance of the woman;
  • The pill causes tumors. The analysis of all the studies available to date has shown, contrary to the common belief, that the use of the pill would not only not be a risk factor but would even have a protective effect against ovarian, colorectal and body of the uterus. Furthermore, the protection is proportional to the length of the usage period. If the data for these types of tumors are solid, for those concerning breast cancer they are still uncertain and related to the type of pill used;
  • The pill increases the risk of venous thrombosis. This finding has been confirmed by a lot of research. However, the risk is low (about 10 times lower than during pregnancy) and depends on the dose and type of estrogen and progestin contained in the drug. What really seems to make a difference is having a family history of thrombosis or suffering from coagulation diseases; in these cases, the use of the pill is not recommended;
  • The pill makes you less fertile. This is another false myth. When you decide you want a child, just stop taking the contraceptive and the menstrual cycle will return, bringing the situation back to “normal”;
  • The pill can worsen mood. In reality, the observed effect is the opposite. The pill is able to smooth the symptoms of severe PMS, such as anxiety, short temper, depression and relationship difficulties;
  • The pill is not suitable for young women. By inhibiting the activity of the ovaries and consequently reducing the production of androgens, oral contraceptives reduce inflammatory and non-inflammatory lesions of facial acne, hair loss and unwanted hair. For these reasons and their proven safety, the pill is also often recommended for teenagers.

Contraception, and in particular the contraceptive pill, is certainly one of the most important social innovations of the 1900s. Many fears have been resolved thanks to the continuous improvement of the formulation of these drugs, the increase in their safety and the use of increasingly lower dosages. There are now many types of oral contraceptives on the market, including natural ones. The choice of the right contraceptive should be made with a gynecologist, minimizing the probability of unwanted effects and thus being able to use its benefits in complete safety.

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