Birth control is a way for men and women (especially, women) to prevent pregnancy.
Methods of Birth Control
There are many different methods of birth control, like hormonal contraception such as “the pill.” Women take the pill orally, to prevent pregnancy, and, when taken in the approved manner, it is up to 99.9% effective. However, the pill does not protect against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), like HIV (the virus that causes AIDS).
There are other types of combined estrogen and progestin hormonal contraception, like the patch and the vaginal ring. The oral contraceptive pill is a hormone-based method of preventing pregnancy, and can also help resolve irregular menstruation, painful or heavy periods, endometriosis, acne, and premenstrual syndrome (PMS).
Birth control pills work by preventing ovulation, in such a way that no egg is produced, so there is nothing for the sperm to fertilize. Thus, pregnancy cannot occur. People with different risk factors may be advised to use a particular kind of pill.
There are different types of contraceptive pills, and they all contain synthetic forms of the hormones estrogen, progesterone, or both.
Synthetic progesterone is called progestin, and while combination pills contain progestin and estrogen, the “mini-pill,” contains only progestin.
Monophasic pills all contain the same balance of hormones, and with phasic pills, two or three different types of pill are taken each month, each with a different balance of hormones.
The everyday pills” and “21-day pills is another option. A pack of everyday pills lasts 28 days, but seven of the pills are inactive, and the everyday pill may be easier to use correctly, as the routine is the same every day.
Used correctly, the pill is highly effective, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) put the failure rate for both types of the pill at 9%. Birth control pills do not prevent sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), and only a condom can help prevent this type of infection.
Different Types Of Birth Control Pills
Combination Pills (COCs): Birth control pills with two hormones (estrogen and progestin) are called combination pills. They’re the most common type of birth control pill and usually come in 28-day or 21-day packs.
You’re protected from pregnancy as long as you take 1 pill every day, and you don’t have to take it at the exact same time every day.
Progestin-Only Pills: Progestin-only pills have 1 kind of hormone (progestin), and don’t have any estrogen. You should take progestin-only pills within the same three hours every day to be protected from pregnancy.
Progestin-only pills come only in 28-day (four-week) packs, and all 28 pills have hormones. You may get your period during the fourth week, and you could also have to bleed on and off throughout the month (spotting) or get no period at all.
How Do I Use The Birth Control Pill?
Using the pill is easy. Swallow a tiny pill every day. Being that a woman becomes pregnant when an egg released from her ovary is fertilized by a man’s sperm. The fertilized egg attaches to the inside of a woman’s womb (uterus), where it receives sustenance and diet and develops into a baby.
Hormones in the woman’s body control the release of the egg from the ovary (ovulation) and prepare the body to accept the fertilized egg. Hormonal contraceptives contain a small amount of synthetic estrogen and progestin hormones. These synthetic hormones work to inhibit the body’s natural cyclical hormones to prevent pregnancy.
Birth Control Pills Side Effects
Common side effects of oral contraceptives include:
- breast tenderness
- intermenstrual spotting
- headaches and migraine
- weight gain
- mood changes
- missed periods
- decreased libido
- changes to eyesight for those using contact lenses
- vaginal discharge
The combined pill can increase the risk of cardiovascular problems, such as:
- blood clots,
- deep vein thrombosis (DVT),
- a clot on the lung,
- A stroke or heart attack.
Birth control pills have also been associated with an increase in blood pressure, benign liver tumors, and some types of cancer.
The pill should not be taken by:
- pregnant women
- smokers over the age of 35 years,
- anyone who is obese
- those who are taking certain medications
- anyone who has or has had thrombosis, a stroke, or a heart problem
- anyone with a close relative who had a blood clot before the age of 45 years
- people who have severe migraines, especially with an aura as the warning sign
- someone who has had diabetes for at least 20 years
- anyone who has diabetes with complications
- someone who has or had had breast cancer or disease of the liver or gallbladder
See the doctor immediately if any of the following occurs,
- abdominal or stomach pain
- chest pain, shortness of breath, or both
- severe headaches
- blurred or loss of vision
- swelling or aching in the legs and thighs
- redness, swelling or pain in the calf or thighs
These signs may indicate a more serious condition.
Key Factors to Remember When Taking Birth Control Pills
- Keep another form of birth control on hand in case you forget to take a pill.
- Carry your pills with you if you don’t always sleep in the same place.
- Endeavor to ingest your pill at the same time every day, as long as you are on the pill.
- Get your refills on time. You can do that soon after you start the last prescription.
- Birth control pills, patches, and vaginal rings are all medications, and always tell your doctor or pharmacist you are on the pill, patch, or vaginal ring.
Combination Birth Control
Combination birth control pills are oral contraceptives that contain estrogen and a progestin.
Combination birth control pills keep the ovaries from releasing an egg, and they also cause changes in the cervical mucus and the lining of the uterus (endometrium) to keep sperm from uniting with the egg.
When using combination birth control pills, you should make sure that your healthcare provider has fully explained how to start taking the pill and what to do if you notice unusual effects or accidentally forget to take a pill.
Combination birth control pills are a reliable form of contraception that’s easily reversed, and different brands include Loestrin FE, Seasonique, Yasmin, and Ortho Tri-Cyclen.
Benefits of The Combination Pills
Fertility can return to normal almost immediately after stopping the pills and other benefits of these pills include:
- Decreased risk of ovarian and endometrial cancers
- Decreased risk of ectopic pregnancy, ovarian cysts, benign breast disease
- Improvement in acne
- Less-severe menstrual cramps (dysmenorrhea), and reduction in heavy menstrual bleeding due to uterine fibroids and other causes,
- reduction in related iron iron-deficiency anemia
- Reduction in androgen production caused by polycystic ovary syndrome
- Relief from premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
- Shorter, lighter and more-predictable periods or fewer periods yearly
- Better control of the monthly cycle
- Reduction in hot flashes for women nearing menopause (perimenopause)
Birth Control Pills Effectiveness and General Guidelines
- Pick a time of day to take the pill that’s easy to remember, since taking the pill at the same time each day makes it more effective.
- If the pill pack is started during your period, you will be protected against pregnancy immediately and will not need to use a backup birth control method.
- You can decide to take the first active pill in the pack at any time, but if you start the pill pack during any other time during your menstrual cycle (and not during your period), protection will begin after seven days.
- You should use an additional method of birth control if you’re having sexual intercourse during the first week of combination pill use.
- It may be useful to check the pack of pills each morning to make sure that yesterday’s pill was taken.
More Guidelines On How To Use Combination Birth Control Pills
- The active ingredients contained in the active pills that are usually taken during weeks one to three prevent pregnancy throughout the month. Thus, even during the fourth week, you’re protected against becoming pregnant regardless if you’re taking reminder pills or no pills at all.
- Continue to take one pill a day until the pack is finished, and if you’re using a 28-day pack, you should begin a new pack immediately and not skip any days between packages. But, if you’re using a 21-day pack, you should stop taking pills for 1 week and then start your next pack.
- Ensure to read and follow the instructions inside the pill package.
- Anytime you want to become pregnant or don’t want to use the pill anymore, you can just stop taking it. However, it may take up to three months for your period to return to the normal cycle you had before starting the pill.
- If pills are missed, the best thing to do is to refer to your particular pill’s package insert, and you should always keep one copy of your package insert in a place where you can find it easily.
Birth Control Patch
The birth control patch is a transdermal contraceptive patch that is a safe and convenient birth control method. It works really well if you always use it by wearing the patch on certain parts of your body correctly. One of its functions is that it releases hormones through your skin that prevent pregnancy. The birth control patch has lots of other health benefits.
The birth control patch prevents pregnancy by stopping fertilization. Like most birth control pills, the patch contains the hormones estrogen and progestin, which are similar to the hormones our bodies make naturally. You can wear the patch on your body (belly, upper arm, butt, or back), and your skin absorbs the hormones into your body.
The hormones in the patch then stop ovulation; pregnancy can’t happen.
The patch also releases active elements that thicken the mucus on your cervix (like a sticky security guard) which blocks sperm so it cannot swim to an egg.
Most Common Birth Control Pill Side Effects
When used correctly, the pill is highly effective, but people do make mistakes, and as such, 6 to 12 pregnancies in every 100 are thought to occur each year while using the birth control pills.
Birth control pills do not prevent sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), but a condom can help prevent this type of infection.
Common side effects of oral contraceptives include:
- Intermenstrual spotting or bleeding: During spotting, the pill is still effective, as long as it has been taken correctly and no doses are missed.
- Nausea: Some people experience mild nausea when first taking the pill, but symptoms usually subside with time. Taking the pill with food or at bedtime may help, but if nausea is severe or persists for longer than 3 months, you should consult your doctor or seek medical guidance.
- Breast tenderness: Birth control pills may cause breast enlargement or tenderness, which normally resolves a few weeks after starting the pill. Anyone who has persistent pain or tenderness or severe breast pain should seek medical help. To relieving breast tenderness, reduce caffeine and salt intake and wear a supportive bra.
- Headaches and migraine: The hormones in birth control pills can increase the likelihood of headaches and migraine, and pills with different types and doses of the hormone may trigger different symptoms. Conditions normally improve over time, but if severe headaches start when you begin taking the pill, you should seek medical advice.
- Weight gain: Clinical studies have not found a consistent correlation between the use of birth control pills and weight fluctuations; however, fluid retention may occur, especially around the breasts and hips. Experts have found a link between some types of hormonal contraceptives, and a decrease in lean body mass.
Other Side effects Include:
- Mood changes: Studies suggest that oral contraceptives may affect mood and increase the risk of depression or other emotional changes. Anyone experiencing mood swings during pill use should contact their medical provider.
- Missed periods: Even with proper use of a pregnancy pill, a period may sometimes be missed. Stress, illness, travel, and hormonal or thyroid abnormalities are some factors that can influence this outcome. In this case, experts will recommend a pregnancy test before starting the next pack.
- Decreased/Increased libido: The hormones in the contraceptive pill can affect sex drive or libido in some people. In other people, however, the birth control pill can increase libido. Using pills remove concerns about pregnancy and reduce the painful symptoms of menstrual cramping, premenstrual syndrome, endometriosis, and uterine fibroids.
- Vaginal discharge: Changes in vaginal discharge may occur when taking the pill, but if vaginal dryness results, added lubrication can help make sex more comfortable. These changes are not usually harmful, but fluctuations in color or odor could indicate an infection, and you should speak with your medical provider.
- Eye changes: Hormonal changes caused by the birth control pills have been linked to a congealing of the cornea in the eyes. Oral contraceptive use has not been associated with a higher risk of eye disease, but the contact lenses may no longer fit comfortably. Thus, contact lens wearers should consult their ophthalmologist if they experience any changes in vision or lens tolerance during pill use.