No, Birth Control Pills Probably Won't Cause Birth Defects

Photographed by Jessica Nash
There are a lot of myths about birth control out there, but thankfully, we can now cross a big one off our list: A new study suggests that taking oral contraception just before or during pregnancy likely does not cause birth defects.

For the study, published in the British Medical Journal, researchers analyzed 880,694 births in Denmark between 1997 and 2011, cross-referencing data from the Danish Medical Birth Register, the National Patient Register, and the Danish National Prescription Register.

The researchers first checked if any of the infants had major birth defects, and then figured out which of their mothers had taken birth control pills during the three months prior to and during pregnancy. (They assumed that women took all of the pills they were prescribed, and they didn't differentiate between various pill formulations.)

Turns out, the risk of major birth defects didn't significantly increase if a woman had taken oral contraceptives in the months before or during pregnancy. Meaning: Birth control didn't lead to birth defects, even when mothers took it in the early months of pregnancy.

Previous studies — which relied on self-reports from women — have found links between birth control pills and birth defects. But this new research relied on actual medical records, which aren't affected by recall bias.

Birth control pills are the most popular form of contraceptive, so quite a few women can breathe a little easier now (in terms of this specific issue, at least). While it's unlikely women are choosing to take oral contraception while pregnant, some women experience what the researchers call "breakthrough pregnancies" while they're taking contraceptives. This could happen because the pill's effectiveness is compromised by missed doses, an illness, or other medications taken at the same time. Meaning, women who think they're protected end up getting pregnant, and it may be a while before they realize it — so they keep taking the pill.

But don't stress too much about this — oral contraception is considered 91% to 99% effective if used correctly, and only 9% of women get pregnant within their first year on the pill.

With all of the misleading (and completely bogus) information floating around about contraception, the nearly 10 million women taking birth control pills can now rest assured that their method of choice probably won't lead to birth defects — which is yet another health-related reason to get-it-on as much as you want.
Advertisement

More from Sex & Relationships

A version of this story originally appeared on Shape. When it comes to female pleasure, there's enough misinformation out there to fill a book. One of ...
This article was originally published on December 18, 2015. According to stereotypes, men are the sexually voracious cheaters and women are the ...
We're great fans of accessorizing in the bedroom. Au naturel stimulation is wonderful, but sex toys can do things that people just can't. The sex toy ...
Amber Rose doesn't do "off days." "I always feel confident," she tells us. "I never allow myself to not feel confident. I wake up and say, I’m going out ...
Even as the sex toy market continues to expand, there remain a few vital "firsts" for the industry to tackle. This week, with the arrival of the Buck-Off...
The Halloween-costume-planning frenzy is officially in full swing, and we still have so many questions. Is our costume idea clever without being obscure? ...
This article was originally published on April 2, 2015 and has been updated throughout. Lube is a little like masturbation. It's a big part of most people...
(Paid Content) You don't need a degree in common sense to know getting involved with a coworker is a bad idea. Yet, we probably all know someone who has, ...
It would be an understatement to say that a lot of us love superhero blockbusters. Luckily, there's really no shortage of them, but should you ever need ...
The following is an excerpt from Asa Akira's recently released memoir Dirty Thirty. Another year of wasted eggs because I chose to whore instead. “Do ...
In the best-case scenario, you go on a first date with someone, and you hit it off. The chemistry is off the charts, and you're never at a loss for what to...
Even if you think you’re not kinky, there’s a chance your brain might be. And when it comes to getting turned on and orgasming, our brains deserve more ...
Lord Ivar Mountbatten, a cousin of Queen Elizabeth's, became the first out member of the British Royal Family when he came out as bisexual last week. In ...
Dear Kelsey, My boyfriend and I have been in a relationship for almost two years. We met on Tinder — shockingly — and things have been great ever since...