Birth control pills have been around for 50 years! And it is the most commonly used birth control technique. If you are considering taking pills as a means to birth control, here is everything you need to know about it – how it works, its effectiveness, benefits, risks and side effects.
How Do Birth Control Pills Work?
Oral contraceptive pills, or birth control pills, contain hormones – it could be just estrogen, or just progestin, or a mix of both estrogen and progestin. These hormones help in few ways.
- First of all, it prevents ovulation. That means, it stops the egg from leaving the ovaries. And without ovulation, there cannot be fertilization and hence no pregnancy
- Secondly, these hormones also make the cervical mucus very thick. This will literally keep the sperm out of your uterus! This is how birth control pills control pregnancy
- Thirdly, at times, the pills also help in thinning the uterus lining, which will make it difficult
How Soon Do Birth Control Pills Work?
If birth control pills are taken as directed, they are effective from the very first month that you start taking them. However to be on the safer side, some doctors recommend using other form of birth control such as condoms during the first month of its use . After the first month, you can completely rely on the birth control pills.
How Is The Birth Control Pill Taken?
Combined pills are available in two formats: 21-day or 28-day pack. You take these pills once daily at the same time of day.
Progestin-only pills come in a 28 day pack. Like the combination pills, you will have to take these pills once daily at the same time of the day.
Effectiveness Of Birth Control Pills
- Birth control pills’ effectiveness can be as high as 99%, as long as you take it the way it is prescribed, at the same time every day, in the right dosage, without skipping a dose
- Of course, realistically, it is difficult not to skip a dose! And more you skip, lower the effectiveness of the pill. One study showed that out of 100 women who skipped a dosage, 9 became pregnant
- Another thing to remember is that, often times the effectiveness of the pills is reduced when you are under medication for something else. For instance, some antibiotics can lower the effect of birth control pills. So make sure you check with the doctor about it. And when in doubt, always use an extra level of birth control precaution like condoms
Benefits Of Birth Control Pills
Birth control pills have many advantages, in addition to pregnancy prevention. Here are some of them:
- Health benefits: Some of the side effects of birth control pills are actually good for health! They are known to:
- Reduce acne
- Reduce menstrual pain
- Prevent bone thinning
- Reduce PMS (premenstrual syndrome)
- Lower the risk of ovarian cancer and endometrial cancer
- Lower the occurrence of cysts in ovaries and breasts
- Prevent anemia
- Convenience: Pills are also very convenient to take, as long as you remember to take them as per the prescription. They give you the control and also since it is not taken during sex, it does not interfere with it either
- Easy periods: We mentioned before how these pills reduce menstrual cramps. In addition, many women report that pills make their periods more predictable and easier to manage. It can also help stop your period altogether
- You can get pregnant easily when you stop pills: One of the biggest benefits of using pills is that women do not face any difficulty in getting pregnant once they stop using the pills. For some, it might take a few months for regular periods to kick start, but for most, pregnancy is a possibility immediately after the pills are stopped. To know more read here
Risks Of Using Birth Control Pills
As always, there are some serious risks also associated with birth control pills. Although the chances of you being affected by any of them are pretty slim, it is still important to understand the increased risks you are exposed to due to taking birth control pills. If you are taking birth control pills for a long term, you are at an increased risk of:
- Heart attacks
- Cervical cancer
- Breast cancer
- High blood pressure
- Yeast infection
- Gall bladder disease
- Does not protect you against sexually transmitted disease
Side Effects Of Birth Control Pills
Thankfully, most of the side effects of birth control pills are not as worrisome as the list above. Some of them are definitely inconvenient, but not dangerous. These side effects include:
- Bigger breasts
- Tenderness in breasts
- Increase in weight
- Weight loss
- Mood swings
- Irregular bleeding
What If I Forget To Take A Birth Control Pill?
If by any chance you forget to take your daily dose of birth control pill, then take it as soon as you remember. If you realize the next day that you have missed taking the pill, then take two pills that day. And if you forget to take the pill for two consecutive days, then take two pills the day you remember and two pills the next day. This will put you back on schedule. However if you miss taking pills for more than two days then check with your doctor who will advise you on how to get back to your schedule either by asking you to add an additional pill for few days or by asking you to start with a new pack altogether.
How Do I Make The Pill Work Best For Me?
One of the main reason why the birth control pills fail is that we forget to take the pill and this mistake can result in pregnancy. There may be instances where you lose the pill pack or forget to get a new pack. All this can mess up the effectiveness of birth control pills. Here are some ways that will help you to remember to take pills every day:
- Try setting an alarm on your phone or use an app to remind you of the same
- Keep the pack of birth control pills next to your phone or charger or something that you use every day
- Ask your partner to remind you about taking the pill
- You can also keep your pills in your bag so that you have them with you all the time
As is always the case, it is best to consult a gynecologist before you consider taking birth control pills. Your doctor might be at a better place to gauge your health and other physical conditions and suggest the best birth control option for you.
To know more read: 8 Common Oral Contraceptive Pills In India and Top 8 Emergency Contraceptive Pills In India– Top Brands and Effectiveness