Contraceptive pills or birth control pills are medications you take orally to prevent pregnancy and they work by stopping ovulation and are counted as the most effective way of birth control. The pills are composed of synthetic hormones like those that occur naturally in your body.
What are the Advantages of using Birth Control Pills?
- Lighter and less frequent periods or in some cases no periods at all depending upon the type of pill taken and dosing schedule
- If the birth control pill is administered correctly, it has a high level of effectiveness to prevent pregnancy
- Lowered chances of heavy bleeding, pain and severity of endometriosis and fibroid tumors
- Acne or premenstrual disorder may improve with some birth control pills
- Lowered risk of pelvic inflammatory disease, uterine cancer and ovarian cancer
Types of Pills
There are basically two different kinds of pills, the combination pills and Progestin-only pills.
Combination pills contain 2 types of hormones, estrogen and progestin. They work in several ways to prevent pregnancy by suppressing ovulation (meaning your ovaries won’t release an egg each month); by thickening cervical mucus (making it harder for sperm to reach the uterus); and by thinning the lining of the uterus (making it harder for an egg to attach there). Combination pills vary by the type and amount of progestin and estrogen, and are linked to lesser cramps, lighter periods and lesser chance of anemia. These pills may also clear up acne, and in some cases reduce the risk of ovarian and endometrial cancer. Combination pills may also provide some protection against:
- Ectopic pregnancy
- Non-cancerous breast growth
- Endometrial and Ovarian cancer
- Heavy periods
- Severe menstrual cramps
Examples of Combination Pills Names:
- Estrostep Fe
Refrain from taking combination pills if you have certain health conditions like high blood pressure or migraines with aura. It’s always important to talk to a health care provider about your medical history before starting a new birth control method, as it may have certain side-effects like spotting between periods, possible weight gain, breast swelling or tenderness, mood fluctuation and nausea or upset stomach.
A serious risk of using birth control pills, especially combination pills, is an increased risk of blood clots, which can result in deep vein thrombosis, increased chances of heart attack, stroke and pulmonary embolism.
Also called Mini-pills, these contain only progestin and prevent pregnancy by thickening your cervical mucus and thinning the lining of the uterus. These are great bet for women who are sensitive to estrogen due to health or other reasons. With these progestin-only pills, all pills in the cycle are active and there are no inactive pills, so you may or may not have a period while consuming these pills. In fact, these are even safe for women who are at risk of heart disease or strokes, or are heavy smokers.
Examples of Progestin-only Pills Name:
Deciding on a Type of Birth Control Pill
Talk to your doctor about which pill option would suit you as not every type of pill may be a good fit for you. Factors that can affect your choice include:
- your menstrual symptoms
- whether you are breastfeeding
- your cardiovascular health
- other chronic health conditions you may have
- other medications you may take
How Effective are Birth Control Pills?
If taken as prescribed, birth control pills are very effective in preventing pregnancy. According to the CDC, both the combination pill and the progestin-only pill have 9% failure rates on an average. That translates to 9 out of 100 women who use the pill are likely to get pregnant. To be fully effective, progestin pills must be taken within the same 3-hour time frame every day. While, you should try to take combination pills at the same time each day, but you can take them within the same daily 12-hour window and still have pregnancy protection.
Are There any Side-Effects or Risks of Birth Control Pills?
While birth control pills are safe for most women, they do have some side effects and risks. Every female reacts differently to the hormones in birth control pills. Some may have side effects, such as:
- decreased sex drive
- weight gain
- vaginal discharge
- bleeding between periods
- breast tenderness