Birth control is a way for men and women to prevent pregnancy. There are many different methods of birth control, including hormonal contraception such as "the pill."
Hormonal contraceptives (the pill, the patch, and the vaginal ring) all contain a small amount of human-made estrogen and progestin hormones. These hormones inhibit your body's natural hormones to prevent pregnancy in a few ways. The hormonal contraceptive usually stops the body from ovulating. They also change the cervical mucus to make it difficult for the sperm to go through the cervix and find an egg. They can also prevent pregnancy by changing the lining of the womb so it's unlikely the fertilized egg will be implanted. There are several types of birth control pills available.
What Are the Main Types of Birth Control Pills?
Most people who are on the pill take what’s called the combination pill. Estrogen and progesterone stop your ovaries from releasing eggs, and they make changes in your cervix and uterus that lower your chance of a pregnancy. You have less than a 1% chance of getting pregnant if you use them exactly as directed. That means taking your pill every day. Their effects are easy to reverse, too. When you want to get pregnant, stop taking them. It’s possible to get pregnant right away!
The minipill uses only progesterone. It works mostly by causing changes that keep sperm from reaching eggs.
They don’t have estrogen and may be prescribed for people who are breastfeeding or have nausea or other side effects of estrogen.The hormone in the pills also changes the lining of the uterus so that implantation of a fertilized egg is much less likely. In some cases, minipills prevent the release of an egg. If minipills are used consistently and correctly, they are about 95% effective -- somewhat less effective than standard birth control
Are There Side Effects of Birth Control Pills?
There are side effects of birth control pills, although the majority are not serious. Side effects include:
* Sore or swollen breasts
* Small amounts of blood, or spotting, between periods
* Lighter periods
* Mood changes
* Mild headache
The following side effects are less common but more serious. If you have any of these, contact your doctor right away. These symptoms may be signals of a serious disorder, such as liver disease, gallbladder disease, stroke, blood clots, high blood pressure, or heart disease:
* Abdominal pain (belly pain)
* Chest pain
* Headaches (severe)
* Eye problems (blurred vision)
* Swelling or aching in the legs and thighs
Who Can Take Birth Control Pills?
Birth control pills can be taken safely by most women. They are not recommended, though, for those over age 35 who smoke. If you don't smoke, you can use hormonal contraceptives until menopause. You shouldn’t take hormonal contraceptives if you have had:
* Blood clots in the arms, legs, or lungs
* Serious heart or liver disease
* Cancer of the breast or uterus
* Uncontrolled high blood pressure
* Migraines with aura
Things to Keep in Mind When Taking Birth Control Pills
* Keep another form of birth control, like spermicidal foam and condoms, on hand in case you forget to take a pill.
* Carry your pills with you if you don't always sleep at the same place.
* Take your pill at the same time every day.
* Get your refills soon after you start the last prescription.
* Birth control pills are medications. Always tell your doctor or pharmacist you are on the pill if you see them for any reason.
Other Uses of Birth Control
Hormonal birth control, including the pill, some IUDs, implants, and patches, offer a range of benefits beyond pregnancy prevention.
It regulates menstrual cycles
Hormonal birth control methods may balance the hormonal fluctuations that happen throughout your cycle. This can help with a variety of menstrual issues, including irregular or heavy bleeding. It can even help with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) symptoms, including acne and excess hair.
It makes periods less painful
About 31 percent of women who use birth control pills cite menstrual pain as one of the reasons they continue to take them. Hormonal birth control prevents ovulation. When you don’t ovulate, your uterus doesn’t experience the painful contractions that cause cramps during ovulation.
It can banish hormonal acne
Hormonal fluctuations are often major acne triggers. That’s why acne is usually at its worst during adolescence. By minimizing these fluctuations, hormonal birth control can help to tame hormonal acne.
It reduces your risk of uterine cancer
Hormonal birth control also has some long-term benefits. Women who take combination birth control pills are 50 percent less likely to get uterine cancer. These effects can last for up to 20 years after you stop taking the pill.
It helps to manage endometriosis
Hormonal birth control methods help because they allow you to skip periods. Continuous birth control pills and IUDs are usually good options for managing endometriosis.
The pill is safe, affordable and effective if you always take it on time.
Content by: Niyati Arun
Graphics by: Ananya
How To Figure Out Which Birth Control Method Is Right For You (Healthline)
Birth Control Pills (webMD)
The Pill (Planned Parenthood)