Since the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved “the pill” in 1960, it has become the most popular and one of the most effective forms of reversible birth control ever invented. According to The Guttmacher Institute, among U.S. women who use birth control, more than 27 percent use the pill. A 2013 National Health Statistics Report says that 82 percent of women who use contraceptionhave used the pill at some point.e most popular and one of the most effective forms of reversible birth control ever invented. According to Planned Parenthood, among U.S. couples who use birth control, more than 30 percent use the pill.
In recent years, birth control pills have changed to include less hormones, resulting in fe
Since the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved “the pill” in 1960, it has become th
wer side effects. In fact, almost all healthy women who don’t smoke may use birth control pills, regardless of their age. Unlike the original oral contraceptives, low-dose pills have few health risks for most women and even offer some health benefits, such as lighter periods (which reduce risk of anemhttps://www.safegenericpharmacy.comia), less severe menstrual cramps and lessening of acne breakouts.
Birth control pills do carry some health risks. For example, if you are over 35 and smoke or have certain medical conditions such as a history of blood clots or breast orendometrial cancer, your health care professional may advise against taking oral contraceptives. Also, birth control pills do not protect you from sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), including HIV (human immunodeficiency virus), the virus that causes AIDS, or HPV, the human papillomavirus that can cause cervical cancer.
Unlike forms of birth control sold over the counter, you need a health care professional’s prescription to purchase birth control pills, and many health insurers cover their cost. The one exception is the emergency birth control pill, Plan B One-Step, which is sold over the counter.
Understanding Your Menstrual Cycle
At the beginning of each menstrual cycle, levels of the hormone estrogen begin to rise. Estrogen helps thicken the bloody lining of the uterus (endometrium) to prepare for a fertilized egg. Once estrogen levels peak, about 14 days into the menstrual cycle, one of the ovaries releases one or more eggs—this release is called ovulation.
After ovulation, levels of another reproductive hormone—progesterone—rise to help prepare the uterus to receive a fertilized egg by thickening its lining. The egg travels through the fallopian tubes toward the uterus, and if the egg is fertilized and successfully implants itself in the uterine lining, conception (pregnancy) takes place. If conception does not occur, both estrogen and progesterone levels drop, signaling the now thickened uterine bloody lining to slough off or shed, and menstruation begins.
How Birth Control Pills Work
Birth control pills are a synthetic form of the hormones progesterone and estrogen. They prevent ovulation by maintaining more consistent hormone levels. Without a peak in estrogen, the ovary doesn’t get the signal to release an egg. Remember that no egg means no possibility for fertilization and pregnancy.
The pill also thickens cervical mucus so the sperm cannot reach the egg. It makes the lining of the uterus unreceptive to the implantation of a fertilized egg.
How to Take Birth Control Pills
There are a few different ways you can start to take birth control pills. Discuss the pros and cons of the following methods with your doctor:
You can start taking them on the first day of your period, in which case you won’t need backup birth control.
You can start taking them the Sunday after your period starts, in which case you will need backup birth control for seven days.
You can start taking birth control pills on the day they are prescribed, in which case you will need to make sure you’re not pregnant and you will need to use backup birth control for the first month. If you have a negative pregnancy test and it has been at least 10 to 11 days since you last had intercourse, you can be nearly sure you are not pregnant and it is OK to start the pill.
No matter when you start taking birth control pills, you will need to start each new pack on the same day of the week that you began your first pack. For example, if you start taking your birth control pills on a Monday, you will always begin taking them on a Monday. Keep in mind that birth control pills only work if you take them every day. They do not accumulate or collect in your body, which is why you must take a pill every day! You shouldn’t skip pills (on purpose or by accident) or stop taking them, even if you’re not having sex often. Also be aware that certain medications, such as certainantibiotics taken for a long time, can make your birth control pills less effective. If you regularly have diarrhea or vomiting, that can interfere with absorption of the pill. If you miss a pill or have gastrointestinal problems or are taking medication that could interfere with your birth control pills, use a backup method for the rest of your cycle. Just remember, don’t stop your birth control pills.
Types of Birth Control Pills
The three most common types of birth control pills are combination pills and progesterone only pills (POP). Combination pills contain both estrogen and progestin. Each pill in the pack contains a combination of these two hormones. Progesterone Only Pills contain no estrogen. Called the progestin-only pill, or “mini-pill,” it’s ideal for breastfeeding women because estrogen reduces milk production. It’s also ideal for women who cannot take estrogen. Both types are equally effective, and you should work with your doctor to determine the one that’s right for you. There are also and emergency contraceptive pills, which are not intended to be used regularly as a contraceptive. They are designed to prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex (when standard contraceptives fail or no method was used).
Health Benefits of Birth Control Pills
Birth control pills provide certain health benefits in addition to preventing pregnancy. Before you start taking oral contraceptives, discuss the health benefits with a health care professional. Some of the main health benefits of birth control pills include an improved menstrual cycle (less bleeding and cramps), decreased risk of certain types of cancers, protection from ovarian cysts and an improved complexion.
Risks & Side Effects of Birth Control Pills
Despite the fact that they are safe for most women, BCPs do carry some health risks. For example, if you are over 35 and smoke or have certain medical conditions such as a history of blood clots or breast or endometrial cancer, your health care professional may advise against taking BCPs. Also, birth control pills do not protect you from sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), including HIV (human immunodeficiency virus), the virus that causes AIDS, or HPV, the human papillomavirus that can cause cervical cancer.
Unlike other forms of birth control sold over-the-counter, you need a health care professional’s prescription to purchase BCPs, and many health insurers cover their cost. The one exception is the emergency birth control pill, Plan B One-Step, which is sold over the counter.
Types of Pills
The three most common types of birth control pills are:
1. Combination Pills. When you hear the term “birth control pill,” it most often refers to oral contraceptives containing estrogen and progestin. Each pill in the pack contains a combination of these two hormones.
Combination birth control pills may be monophasic, where each of the active pills contains the same amount of estrogen and progestin and all the pills will be the same color, or multiphasic where the active pills contain varied amounts of hormones designed to be taken at specific times throughout the pill-taking schedule. The multiphasic pills will be different colors to indicate the hormonal dose changes.
There are a few different ways you can take combination pills—for 21 days, 28 days, 91 days or continuously.
28-day pills (21 active; 7 inactive): With 28-day pills, you take a pill at the same time each day for 28 days. Usually, the first 21 pills contain hormones, and the last seven pills are placebo pills. During the week when you take the last seven pills, you will get your period. Once you’ve finished all the pills in your pack, you’ll start a new pack of 28 pills.
28-day pills (24 active; 4 inactive): And now tIncreasingly popular are thehree pill packs containing 24 days of hormone pills and four days of placebo pills, sometimes resulting in a shorter, lighter period. s The hormone pills may contain a combination of drospirenone, a progestin, and ethinyl estradiol (Yaz, Beyaz, Gianvi, Loryna, and Nikki) or a combination norethindrone, another progesterone, and ethinyl estradiol (a combination of drospirenone, a progestin, and ethinyl estradiol; Beyaz, which contains the same hormones as Yaz plus a daily dose of folic acid; and Loestrin 24 Fe, Generess Fe and Minastrin 24 Fe)a combination of ethinyl estradiol and norethindrone, another progesterone) contain 24 days of hormones and four days of placebo pills, usually resulting in a shorter period.
21-day pills: If your birth control pack contains 21 pills, you will take one pill at the same time each day for 21 days and then wait seven days to start a new pack. During these seven days, you will get your period. It may not start until you have taken two or three of the placebo sugar pills.
91-day pills: Also called extended-use pills, they are marketed under the brand names Seasonale, Seasonique, LoSeasonique, Jolessa and Quasense. This dose regimen calls for taking a pill at the same time every day for 91 days. The first 84 pills contain hormones, and the last seven are placebo (sugar) pills or a very low dose of estrogen to help control some period symptoms. You get your period when you take the sugar pills, so you if you opt for extended-use pills, you only get your period four times a year. But you may have some light bleeding or spotting of blood as your body adjusts to the extended-use pills.
Continuous birth control pills: Lybrel is the firstThe FDA has -approved continuous-use birth control pills that contain ethinyl estradiol and levonorgestrel. Brand names include Lybrel, Alesse, Lessina, Nordette, Triphasil-28, Triphasil-21, and others. It is a monophasic pill (containing the same levels of estrogen and progestin throughout the entire pill-taking schedule) that comes in a 28- or 21-day pack and is designed to be taken continuously, with no break between pill packets. That means you won’t have a period. You may have some spotting or breakthrough bleeding, particularly when you first start using Lybrelcontinuous birth control pills. But most women will have no bleeding (or hardly any) by the end of a year.
In order to skip their periods (in other words, to create continuous birth control pills on their own), some women take their 21-day pills continuously or refrain from taking the sugar pills in the 28-day pack so they are only ever taking pills that contain hormones. This may work best for women using monophasic pills. If you’re considering this option, discuss it first with your health care provider. Additionally, be aware that insurance may not cover pills used in this way.
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