Birth Control

Oral contraceptives include hormones that stop the ovulation process. These hormones also produce other variations in the body that assist in preventing pregnancy. The mucus within the cervix thickens and the uterus lining thins. The effectiveness of birth control pills in preventing pregnancy does vary. With normal use, around 8 out of 100 will become pregnant over the first year of taking birth control pills. However, when exactly as prescribed, only 1 out of 100 will result in a pregnancy during the first year. The effectiveness of preventing pregnancy with oral contraceptives is dependent upon taking the pill every single day at the same time each day.

There are two main categories of birth control pills: the first is combination pills, that include estrogen and progestin hormones, and the second is progestin-only pills. Continuous-dose – also called extended-cycle pills – are a type of combination pill that decreases the number of menstrual periods a woman has or eliminates them completely.  There are different alternatives for beginning to take the combination pill. You can begin taking the pill on the day one of your menstrual period. An alternative would be to begin taking the pill on the Sunday that follows the first day of your menstrual period. This method will require you to use a backup contraception method for the following 7 days of the initial cycle. Regardless of what day you decide to begin taking the pill, you must start each new pack of pills on the same day of the week as you started the first pack.

There are other medications that alter the effectiveness of the combination pill. Particular drugs may hinder the effectiveness of taking contraceptive pills. These drugs can include certain antibiotics, various medications for seizures, and some drugs used for treating HIV – human immunodeficiency virus.  There are additional health benefits when taking the combination birth control pill. They help to keep bleeding cycles lighter, shorter, regular and they can reduce cramps. This medication can be used in the treatment of particular disorders like fibroids, endometriosis, as well as others caused by hormone imbalances. Some pills may also help to control acne. Combination pills may also reduce the risk of uterine and ovarane cancer and increase bone density during pre-menopause.

As with any drug, there are some increased risks when taking combination birth control pills – some of which can be serious.

The risks can include the following:

  • Gallbladder disease
  • Liver tumors
  • Heart attacks and stroke (smoking greatly increases the risk of these complications)
  • Blood clots in the legs

Women older than 35 years who smoke or women who have multiple risk factors for cardiovascular disease should not use combined hormonal methods.

The progestin-only contraceptive pill might be a better option for women with certain health conditions, like blood clots who can’t take pills that contain estrogen. Progestin-only pills can typically be taken shortly after childbirth even by women who are breastfeeding. Progestin-only pills may not be a good solution for women who have liver tumors or lupus. Additionally, women who have breast cancer should not take progestin-only pills.

If you miss a dose or doses of the pill you should know what to do next. Make sure you read and follow the directions that are included with your pills carefully. You may also want to get in touch with your health care provider for further instruction. Depending on the type of pills and how many pills are missed, you might need to utilize a back-up means of birth control.

Most side effects from taking the pill are minor and will often subside after a few months of use. There number and severity of side effects will be reduced if the pill is taken at the same time every day.

The most common side effects of using birth control pills include the following:

  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Irregular bleeding
  • Breast tenderness
  • Weight gain (progestin-only pills)
  • Missed periods
  • Excessive body hair growth (progestin-only pills)
  • Anxiety or depression (progestin-only pills)
  • Acne (progestin-only pills)

Intrauterine Device (IUD)

An IUD is a small device placed in your uterus visit to prevent pregnancy. The procedure is completed in minutes in an office visit. Effectiveness can vary with up to 99% effectiveness. It is hormone free and can be easily removed by your physician at any time.