Birth control pills are the most popular female contraceptive and are said to be used by more than 80 million women worldwide to prevent pregnancy. They are oral contraceptives for women that curb the natural functioning of the hormones. However, it is important for every woman and her partner to understand how they work, before opting them.
What are birth control pills?
Hormones in the female body play an important role in controlling the release of the egg from the ovary and also prepare the body to receive the fertilized egg. Birth control pills contain certain hormones that prevent pregnancy. Apart from birth control, they are also prescribed for women who have menstruation problems, like an irregular menstrual cycle. Taking a pill on a daily basis leads to a more regular and normal menstrual cycle. They are also used to alter the date of periods. These pills are of two types, the ones containing one hormone (progesterone), known as mini-pills and the ones with two hormones (oestrogen and progesterone), known as combination pills.
How do birth control pills work?
Combination pills are available in packs of 21 pills or 28 pills. They have to be taken daily for 21 days. The pack with 28 pills contains 21 active pills and 7 placebos. They are meant for women to maintain the habit of taking a pill every day. The period occurs during the last seven days when the woman stops taking the pill. Combination birth control pills contain hormones that prevent ovulation. Ovulation is the process of releasing the egg from ovaries. When there is no ovulation, there is no release of the egg, and hence, pregnancy cannot occur.
Birth control pills containing one hormone, known as mini-pills, work in a different way. They help in thickening the cervical mucus, and thus, prevent the sperm from reaching the egg. A mini-pill has to be taken every day and it can help in completely stopping the periods for months. Although a mini-pill has a 95% efficacy, it is less effective than other pills.
There are also some birth control pills that change the natural cycle of monthly periods. When this pill is taken, a woman has a period after every 3 months, instead of the regular monthly period. These pills are to be taken for 84 consecutive days while inactive pills are to be taken for the last seven days in order to have periods.
Birth control pills and pregnancy
Birth control pills are effective if they are taken daily, regardless whether the woman has an intercourse on that day or not. The pill is to be taken at the same time regularly, without any interruption. Even if a single dose of the pill is skipped, there is an increased chance of pregnancy. You must also remember that though these pills are effective, there may also be other factors that may result in accidental pregnancy. Using contraceptives like condoms is also equally important. You must also keep in mind that taking birth control pills does not prevent transmission of Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs).
Birth control pills have to be taken only with the consent of your doctor. The doctor will also advise you on the suitable time for you to start taking pills. It is also advisable to consult your doctor if you skip the daily dose of the pills for more than 2 days. It is recommended for women to discontinue taking pills if they suspect a pregnancy. Birth control pills are not meant for women suspecting cancer women with a history of heart disease, blood clots, or vaginal bleeding.
What are the side effects of birth control pills?
Many women or young girls are unaware of the possible side effects of these pills. The prominent side effects are nausea, dizziness, weight gain, irregular menstrual bleeding, blood clots, depression, and headaches. Discomfort or pain is experienced by women in the initial days of using the pills. This is not serious and can be prevented by changing the brand. But, they need to consult the doctor first. Women who wish to get pregnant should immediately stop using birth control pills.
There are a few side effects that are rare, but serious in nature. They may indicate serious disorders such as liver disease, gallbladder disease, stroke, blood clots, hypertension, or heart disease, and therefore, they require immediate medical intervention. They are as follows:
Emergency contraceptive pills are pills to be taken after intercourse, within the first 24-48 hours, to prevent pregnancy. Taking pills is one of the most effective methods of birth control, but, one needs to be aware and have a thorough knowledge about it. It is advisable to consult the doctor before taking any contraceptive pill.