Birth control, also known as contraception or anticonception has multiple forms and methods of usage. Regardless of the type of birth control one consumes, the objective of the birth control pills or methods is to stop conception from happening.
That is, birth control methods aim at preventing pregnancy from happening rather than causing abortion or miscarriage after pregnancy has already happened.
Although there is some research to support the claim that in some cases under certain circumstances birth control may cause miscarriage, with the implementation of proper precautions and knowledge this can easily be avoided.
With proper awareness about birth control dosages and the risks they pose in case one gets pregnant, threats regarding miscarriage and abortion can be lessened significantly if not completely removed.
Birth control has been around since a long time ago, but effective and safe forms of birth control have only come up in the last century. The umbrella term of “Birth Control” refers to contraceptives that can be used by both men and women to prevent the conception of a fetus after sexual intercourse.
1. Birth Defects and Miscarriages
There is not much evidence to support the speculations regarding the effect of birth control on birth defects and miscarriages. It is very important to note that this may be because there has been not much research conducted regarding this field.
This is the case due to ethics and not due to a lack of interest or care surrounding this particular area of research. The local ethics committee of any place poses objections to experimentation and scientific study on pregnant persons and fetuses for the sake of humanity.
Research also suggests that consumption of birth control pills during early pregnancy or close to the date and time of conception may lead to low birth weight, preterm birth, or urinary tract issues in the baby.
The use of oral contraceptives generally reduces the risk of the occurrence of an ectopic pregnancy, a pregnancy where the fertilized egg is implanted someplace other than the uterine wall of the pregnant person.
The chances of ectopic pregnancy increase with an increase in the consumption of minipills, also known as progestin-only pills.
Therefore, it is a crucial precaution to stop the consumption of oral contraceptives (especially progestin-only pills) as soon as one discovers that they are pregnant.
If you are unsure or in doubt regarding whether you may be pregnant or not, please conduct a home pregnancy test using a ready-to-be-used pregnancy test.
If the test comes out to be positive, immediately stop the consumption of any kind of oral contraceptive and book an appointment with your gynaecologist as soon as possible. In the meantime, you may use other forms of birth control such as condoms, and diaphragms.
Even if the home pregnancy test comes out to be negative, if you are unsure regarding whether you may be pregnant or not, it is greatly advisable to visit an expert.
2. Types of Birth Control
2.1. Hormonal Birth Control
There exist many different types of hormonal birth control methods. Oral contraceptives also come under this division but they have been talked about separately because of their immense popularity and usage among users.
Hormonal contraception employs hormones to prevent pregnancy in people. The different types of hormonal birth control methods (excluding oral contraceptives) are discussed below:
These are adhesive patches that are put on the skin. They release hormones such as estrogen and progesterone into the skin directly. Patches must be changed every week.
2.1.2. The Birth Control Shot:
These shots contain the hormone progestin. They can only be administered by doctors every 12 weeks
2.1.3. Intra-uterine devices (IUDs):
IUDs are placed inside the uterus to help prevent pregnancy. Some IUDs contain hormones and also some that do not.
These should be placed inside the uterus by medical professionals only and must be changed every 3-10 years depending on the type of the IUD.
Rings are placed inside the vagina. They release hormones such as progestin and estrogen directly into the vaginal lining which are then absorbed. They must be replaced every month.
Birth control implants are mostly placed on the inner upper arm under the skin. They release hormones directly into your body. Implants must be replaced or removed every 3 years. They should be only put on your body by a medical professional.
2.2 Oral Contraceptives
Oral contraceptives are birth control pills that are taken orally by people to prevent pregnancy. Taking birth control pills causes hormonal changes as these contain hormones that either stop ovulation from happening or thicken the cervical mucus to prevent the sperm from getting past the cervix.
The two commonly used oral contraceptives are ‘Combined estrogen-progesterone pills’ and ‘Progestin-only pills or ‘Minipills’.
As the names suggest, the former has a combination of both the hormones estrogen and progesterone present in it whereas the latter consists of only the hormone called progestin.
Progestin is a man-made version of the hormone progesterone, which is naturally synthesized by the body.
2.3 Barrier Methods
Also known as “pericoital contraception methods”, these are used at the time of having sexual intercourse. There exists a myriad of barrier birth control methods such as both interior and exterior condoms, diaphragms, vaginal spermicides, and sponges.
These barriers create a physical distance between the sperm and eggs so that they do not come in contact with each other.
These don’t have any hormonal side effects as they do not possess any hormones in them. Condoms also help in the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases. They are mostly available for purchase without the requirement of a prescription.
This birth control method is considered to be permanent and irreversible. In this method, people who are assigned male at birth undergo a process called vasectomy and people assigned female at birth undergo a process known as tubectomy.
In a vasectomy, the tubes that carry the sperm from the person’s body to their urethra are cut and sealed so that no more sperm can be carried out.
Similarly, in the tubectomy procedure, the fallopian tubes which are responsible for carrying the eggs from the ovaries to the uterus are cut.
While the eggs travel from the ovaries to the uterus, they hold a chance of getting fertilized in the fallopian tubes thus causing a pregnancy. Therefore cutting the tubes prevents any chance of occurrence of a pregnancy.
Sterilization is a serious process and must only be decided upon if one is sure they do not want to cause or experience a pregnancy.
2.5 Emergency Contraception
Emergency contraceptive methods are used in the case of unprotected sex or when one is in doubt regarding the failure of the contraception they use. They can prevent up to 95% of pregnancies if taken within the first 5 days of conception.
Methods of emergency contraception are IUDs and pills. A copper-bearing IUD is the most effective form of emergency contraception available. The pills contain hormones such as estrogen, progestin, etc.
3. Myths Regarding Miscarriage and Birth Control
3.1 MYTH: Hormonal Birth Control Methods Cause Miscarriages
This is a myth because hormonal birth control methods aim at preventing pregnancy in the first place. They aim at preventing the fertilization of the egg.
Therefore, if somehow the contraception fails and pregnancy occurs, hormonal birth control methods can’t cause an abortion or miscarriage as that is not what they functioned to do.
Some research says exposure to hormonal birth control methods may cause birth defects in the fetus, but this is rarely ever observed in real-life scenarios.
3.2 MYTH: Emergency Contraception Causes Abortion
This is not true. Emergency contraception aims at preventing ovulation and thus preventing pregnancy. But it cannot interrupt a pregnancy that has already occurred.
Once an egg is fertilized and implanted in the uterus, this condition is known as pregnancy. The emergency contraception methods cannot interrupt this process, they can only prevent it from happening.
3.3 MYTH: Any Form of Birth Control Usage in the Past Increases the Chances of Miscarriage
Birth control pills pose absolutely no chance of increasing the risk of a miscarriage. IUDs may cause harm to the fetus and the pregnant person if they are in place during a pregnancy.
If a person has had an IUD in the past but has it removed now, there is nothing to be worried about. But an IUD present in the uterus, while a person is pregnant, may be dangerous.
One must get their IUD removed as soon as they discover they are pregnant or that they remove it beforehand if they are planning to get pregnant.
4. Risk Factors Involved in the Usage of Birth Control During Pregnancy
Although there is no substantial research that says taking birth control pills causes early pregnancy loss or spontaneous abortion, recent studies show that babies exposed to hormonal birth control during early pregnancy are more likely to develop rhinitis and a case of wheezing.
Taking oral contraceptives must immediately be stopped if one suspects that they may be pregnant. Other than that, IUDs can cause infections and placental absorption if they are still in place when the pregnancy is developing.
Barrier methods are safe to use during pregnancy.