Oral Contraceptive “The Pill”

Are you a female who is currently sexually-active and would like to prevent any potential pregnancies from occurring for the time being? If, so oral contraceptives such as “The Pill” may be just what you need.

What is “The Pill”?

“The Pill”, or the birth control pill, is an oral contraceptive capable of preventing pregnancy through the addition of certain hormones. If used correctly, birth control pills can prevent 99% of unintended pregnancies. There are basically two types of birth control pills: combined oral contraceptive pills and progestin-only pills. Both types of pills need to be orally taken on a regular, daily schedule.

Combined oral contraceptive pills contain a combination of the hormones estrogen and progestin (or progestogen). These pills come in sets of 28 pills- 7 pills for each week of the typical 4-week menstrual cycle. The first three sets of 7 pills (or in other words, the first 21 pills) contain the hormones that prevent pregnancy and the last set of 7 pills is all placebos (which are inert pills that do not actually affect the patient; in terms of birth control pills, placebos are taken to keep up the habit of taking a pill at the same time each day).

Progestin-only pills do not contain estrogen, just progestin. Although progestin-only pills also come in a set of 28 pills, unlike combined oral contraceptive pills, there are no placebo pills- all the pills in a set of progestin-only pills contain hormones. Like combined oral contraceptive pills, progestin-only pills need to be taken every day, but progestin-only pills have a smaller window of time with which to take if every day before the pill starts becoming ineffective; combined oral contraceptive pills can be taken up to 12 hours after an incidence of forgetting to take a pill, but progestin-only pills are considered effective only if taken no more than 3 hours after an incidence of forgetting to take a pill.

What makes “The Pill” effective?

The purpose of the hormones found in birth control pills is to regulate the functions of a woman’s uterus as well as ovaries. More specifically, birth control pills work twofold: first, birth control pills thicken cervical mucus (which is the fluid secreted through the opening of the uterus), and second, birth control pills prevent the ovaries from releasing an egg during the ovulation cycle.

Thickening the mucus at the cervix prevents pregnancy because it obstructs the sperm from entering the uterus, prohibiting the fertilization of the egg. And pregnancy cannot occur if the egg is prevented from releasing during ovulation since there will not be an egg for any sperm to fertilize.

The hormones found in the Pill may also alter the lining of the uterus in order to make any potentially fertilized egg unable to attach itself to the uterine wall.

Who should take “The Pill”?

Because birth control pills contain hormones, women with a history or predisposition of adverse reactions to hormonal intake should not take the pill. Also women who are smokers over the age of 35, who may be pregnant, or who have certain serious health conditions are advised against taking birth control pills. Otherwise, healthy females are good candidates for the birth control pill.

It is recommended that women who have had a heart attack or stroke, or who have had blood clots or hypertension, take the progestin-only birth control pill since it does not contain estrogen; estrogen may increase chances of blood clots. It is also recommended that women who are currently breastfeeding take the progestin-only pill since estrogen tends to decrease the amount of milk production.

Other uses for “The Pill”

Besides preventing pregnancies, the Pill is capable of providing other benefits for females. Birth control pills can:

  • Regulate irregular menstrual cycles
  • Reduce pain and discomfort, such as menstrual cramps, experienced during the menstrual cycle
  • Diminish heavy blood flow during periods
  • Decrease the risk of anemia (iron deficiency)
  • Decrease the risk of pelvic inflammatory disease and ovarian cysts
  • Reduce acne as well as the formation of acne

Some newer types of birth control pills are actually able to reduce the number of times a woman experiences a period during the course of a year- some birth control pills allow women to have just four periods per year! However, these types of birth control pills are not for everyone so you should consult your physician before considering these types of birth control pills.

To find out more about birth control pills and whether or not they are a good fit for you and your lifestyle, please contact us at 614.882.4343. Same day appointments are available!


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