What Are Birth Control Pills?
Birth control pills are oral medications used to prevent
More than 80 percent of sexually experienced American women
have used birth control pills, according to research from the Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “The pill” is very popular and highly
effective at preventing pregnancy. The CDC
found that out of 100 women using the pill, nine became pregnant in a 12-month
period of using it, giving the pill a 9 percent failure rate. Birth control
pills are also known as oral contraceptives.
How Do Birth Control Pills Work?
hormonal contraceptives work by preventing ovulation and thickening cervical
mucus to keep sperm from entering the uterus.
minipill,” which contains progesterone only, works primarily by thickening
cervical mucus and thinning the endometrium. It may also prevent ovulation.
What Are the Types of Birth Control Pills?
There are two types of birth control pills: combination
pills and progestin-only pills. Combination pills contain synthetic forms
of the hormones estrogen and progestin. Progestin-only pills do not contain
estrogen. Progestin-only pills are also called “the minipill.”
Women have a number of options when choosing birth control
pills. There are several types of combination pills:
pills give you the same dose of hormone every active day in the cycle
pills provide different levels of hormones during the cycle
regimens are designed to provide contraception and decrease frequency of
the minipill is a type of progestin-only pill that is suitable for women who
are not able to take in additional estrogen for medical or other reasons.
type of pill is appropriate for every woman. Talk to your doctor about which
pill option would work best for you. Factors that can affect pill choice
- menstrual symptoms
- whether you are breastfeeding
- cardiovascular health
- other chronic health conditions
- use of certain medications
How Do I Use Birth Control Pills?
You need a prescription to use birth control pills. Visit
your doctor or a healthcare clinic to discuss what type of birth control is
right for you.
Combination pills come in a variety of schedules, including
monthly packs, where you might have 21-, 24-, or 28-day cycles, or extended
regimens like 91-day cycles. One pill is taken each day at the same time of
day. The pills that are specially marked or different colors usually do not
contain hormones (placebos), depending on the brand and type of pill. You take them
to help you stay on a pill-taking routine. You will get your period during the
week you are not taking hormones.
Progestin-only pills come in packs of 28. You must take one
pill at the same time every day. There are no placebos in packages of the
minipill. All progestin-only pills
How Effective Are Birth
correctly, birth control pills are extremely effective in preventing pregnancy.
According to Planned
Parenthood, the failure rate is less than 1 percent if always taken
properly and 9 percent if the pill is not always taken daily as directed.
pills must be taken within the same three-hour time period every day to be
fully effective. There is slightly more flexibility with combination pills.
medications may make the pill less effective. These include:
- rifampin (an antibiotic)
- certain oral yeast infection medications
- certain HIV medicines
- certain antiseizure medicines
- St. John's wort
The pill may also be less effective if you have diarrhea or
are vomiting. Check with your doctor to see if you are at risk after a stomach
illness. Use backup methods of contraception until you know it is safe not to.
What Are the Benefits of Birth Control Pills?
control pills have a number of benefits. They are:
- able to regulate the menstrual cycle
- fully reversible
pills may also offer some protection against:
- ectopic pregnancy
- bone thinning
- non-cancerous breast growths
- endometrial and ovarian cancer
- heavy periods
- severe menstrual cramps
What Are the Disadvantages of Birth Control Pills?
Birth control pills do not protect against sexually
transmitted infections. To ensure protection against sexually transmitted
infections, it is necessary to use condoms as well.
If a woman
delays starting a new pack of pills after finishing one cycle, the risk of
pregnancy increases. Women have to be diligent about picking up a new pack on
reacts differently to the hormones in birth control pills. Some women
experience side effects, such as:
- decreased sex drive
- bleeding between periods
- breast tenderness
usually improve after a few months. If they do not, talk to your doctor about
whether you might do better on a different pill.
What Are the Risks of Birth Control Pills?
multiple risks associated with birth control pills. One serious complication
associated with combined hormonal contraceptive use is an increased risk of
blood clotting. This can lead to:
- deep vein thrombosis
- heart attack
- pulmonary embolism
risk of a blood clot is low. According to the American
Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, out of 10,000 women, only
about six to nine women will develop a blood clot after taking the pill for a
year. This is still lower than a woman’s risk of developing a blood clot during
pregnancy and immediately post-partum. However, the risk is higher for certain
women. This includes women who are:
- very overweight
- suffering from high blood pressure
- on bed rest for long periods
Talk to your doctor about your risk factors and whether the
pill is a good birth control option for you.