The combined oral contraceptive pill (COCP), often referred to as the birth control pill or as “the pill”, is a type of birth control that is designed to be taken orally by women. It includes a combination of an oestrogen and progesterone.
Women take the pill by mouth to prevent pregnancy and it can be 99% effective if it’s taken correctly and continuously. However, the pill does not protect against sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV (the virus that causes AIDS).
What are the types of birth control pills?
Combination pills contain synthetic (man-made) forms of the hormones oestrogen and progestin. Most pills in each cycle are active, which means they contain hormones. The remaining pills are inactive, which means they don’t contain hormones. There are several types of combination pills like Monophasic pills(same dose of hormone in 1 cycle),Multiphasic pills(different levels of hormone in 1 cycle),extended pills(13 weeks cycle)
Progestin-only pills contain progestin and no oestrogen. This type of pill is also called the mini pill. Progestin-only pills may be a good choice for women who can’t take oestrogen for health or other reasons.
Deciding on a type of birth control pill
Not every type of pill is a good fit for every woman. Talk to your doctor about which pill option would work best 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 be taking
How do birth control pills work?
Combination pills work in two ways. First, they prevent your body from ovulating. This means that your ovaries won’t release an egg each month. Second, these pills cause your body to thicken your cervical mucus. This mucus is fluid around your cervix that helps sperm travel to your uterus so it can fertilize an egg. The thickened mucus helps prevent sperm from reaching the uterus.
Progestin-only pills also work in a few different ways. Mainly, they work by thickening your cervical mucus and by thinning your endometrium.
How do I use birth control pills?
You will receive a set of pills packaged in a thin strip. Pill packs containing regular birth control pills have either 21 or 28 pills.
Twenty-one-day pill packs contain 21 active pills.
Twenty-eight day pill packs contain 21 active pills and seven inactive (placebo) pills.
The pill packs are marked with the days of the week to remind you to take a pill every day. The seven inactive pills in the 28-day pill pack are added so that you are reminded to start a new pill pack after 28 days.
How Soon Do Birth Control Pills Work?
When taken as directed, birth control pills are usually effective the first month you begin taking them. To be safe, some doctors recommend the use of another form of birth control, such as condoms and foam, during the first month. After the first month, you can just rely on the pill for birth control.
What are the advantages?
- Up to 99% effective
- Easy to use
- Doesn’t get in the way of sex
- Lighter blood flow and lesser cramps.
- As soon as you stop taking the pill, you can get pregnant
- It reduces your risk of ovarian and endometrial (lining of the uterus) cancer by 50%
- Some pills can help with pimples/acne, ectopic pregnancy, thinning of bones, anaemia associated with excessive blood loss during periods, and non-cancerous breast growths.
What are the disadvantages of birth control pills?
Birth control pills don’t protect against sexually transmitted infections. To make sure you’re protected against these infections, you need to use condoms in addition to your daily pill.
Also, you have to remember to take your pill every day. And you need to make sure you always have a new pack ready to go when you finish a pack. If you miss a pill or delay starting a new pack after finishing a cycle, your risk of pregnancy increases.
Are there any side effects?
Serious side effects are rare. Smokers have increased risk of stroke or heart disease.
Some pills can increase the risk of blood clots in the legs from 2 in 10,000 women per year to 6 times that rate.The risk of a blood clot from the pill is higher for certain women. This includes women who:
- are very overweight
- have high blood pressure
- are on bed rest for long periods
If any of these factors apply to you, talk with your doctor about the risks of using birth control pills.
We will discuss How to use Oral Contraceptive Pills in subsequent articles.
-Dr Prerna Gaur