Getting on birth control might be a little confusing, as there are so many types of devices and treatment methods available for men and women. Some methods work better than others; but often how well a method works also depends on how it’s used. A common birth control method used among women is a contraceptive pill, which is essentially medications taken by mouth to prevent pregnancy.
However, although the birth control pill is over 99 percent effective, some women still get pregnant while on it as they do not use it correctly. Don’t make the same mistake — this article will explain all you need to know about birth control pills, including possible side effects.
How do birth control pills work?
All hormonal contraceptives, including birth control pills, contain a small amount go man-made estrogen and progestin hormones. These hormones hold back the body’s natural cyclical hormones and stops the body from ovulating to prevent pregnancy. Hormonal contraceptives also thicken your cervical mucus, preventing sperm from reaching the uterus and thus preventing pregnancy.
What are the types of birth control pills?
Broadly, there are a few categories of birth control pills, with the first being combination pills.
Combination pills contain synthetic estrogen and progestin. There are several types of combination birth control pills:
- Monophasic pills – Monophasic pills are used in one-month cycles; each active pill contains the same dose of hormone. You get your period during the last week of the cycle, where you take inactive pills.
- Multiphasic pills – Multiphasic pills are used in one-month cycles; each providing different levels of hormones during the cycle. Like monophonic pills, you take inactive pills during the last week of the cycle and get your period.
- Extended-cycle pills – Extended-cycle pills are typically used in 13-week cycles. They are taken for 12 weeks, and inactive pills are taken on the last week of the cycle. As such, you only have your period 3 to 4 times a year.
There’s also progestin-only pills, whereby these birth control pills contain only progestin. Progestin-only pills are also called minipills. These are good for women who can’t take oestrogen due to health reasons. All pills in a progestin-only cycle are active, which means you may or may not have a period.
Which type of birth control pill works best for me?
Different pills work best for different women. Your doctor would be able to advise which pill works best for you, depending on factors like your menstrual symptoms, cardiovascular health and other chronic health conditions you may have. Are you currently breastfeeding? This will also affect the type of birth control pill prescribed.
How often do I have to take the birth control pill to render it effective?
As long as you take 1 pill everyday, you’ll be protected from pregnancy. Taking your pills around the same time everyday will be a good idea too, as this creates a habit of remembering to take your pill. We suggest using a calendar reminder or birth control app.
If you have 28-day packs, take one pill everyday for 28 days in a row. Remember to take your next pack on time too.
When taken as directed, birth control pills are usually effective from the first month. To be safe, some doctors might recommend the use of another type of birth control such as condoms during the first month.
Help! I missed a pill. What do I do?
What to do when you miss a birth control highly depends on the brand of your pill. However generally if you miss a pill, take two pills the next day. If you miss more than two pills, call your doctor.
Can I still get pregnant in future if I’m on birth control pills?
Yes. Any time you decide you want to conceive, just stop taking the pill. Although it might take a few months for your period cycle to readjust, it’s possible to get pregnant right after you stop taking the pill.
What are the side effects of birth control pills?
Some side effects of birth control pills include:
- Swollen breasts
- Mood swings
- Spotting between periods
However, if you encounter the following side effects, see a doctor immediately. They include:
- Abdominal pain
- Chest pain
- Severe headaches
- Eye problems, such as blurred vision
- Swelling in the legs and thighs
Can anyone take birth control pills?
Birth control pills are not recommended for women over 35 who smoke. Women over 35 who don’t smoke can use birth control pills till they reach menopause. Individuals with blood clots in the arms, legs or lungs, have serious heart or liver disease, breast cancer or uncontrolled high blood pressure should refrain from taking birth control pills too.
Do you have a question for me?
Brown, E. J., Deshmukh, P., & Antell, K. (2017). Contraception Update: Oral Contraception. FP essentials, 462, 11–19.
Rott H. (2019). Birth Control Pills and Thrombotic Risks: Differences of Contraception Methods with and without Estrogen. Hamostaseologie, 39(1), 42–48. https://doi.org/10.1055/s-0039-1677806