Birth Control Options
Oral Contraceptive Pills
What is it?
"The Pill" is a simple and highly effective method of contraception for women. Pills must be taken once a day, at a specific time and is prescribed by a health professional.
There are two main types:
1. Combination pill, which contains both estrogen and progesterone
2. Progestin-only pill (or mini-pill), which contains progesterone only
One hormone pill is taken each day for 21 days, followed by one hormone-free week. (You should expect your period during this hormone-free week)
How does it work?
- Stops the ovaries from releasing eggs
- Thickens the cervical mucus making it difficult for sperm to get to the egg
- Changes the lining of the uterus, making implantation difficult
How effective is it in preventing pregnancy?
Oral contraceptive pills are about 99.9% effective if taken exactly as prescribed. However, there is a 3% user failure rate.
What are the advantages?
- One of the most effective, reversible birth control methods (when taken consistently)
- Simple and easy to use
- Regulates the menstrual cycle
- Reduces menstrual cramping
- Reduces menstrual flow
- Does not interfere with sex
- Decreases acne
- Reduces the risk of endometrial and ovarian cancer
- May reduce perimenopausal symptoms
What are the disadvantages?
- The pill does not protect against sexually transmitted infections
- Hormones may cause side effects, such as: bleeding between periods (break-through bleeding), nausea and vomiting, headaches, breast tenderness and moodiness. These side effects generally disappear after a few months.
- Must be taken at the same time every day
- Effectiveness may be reduced by other medications
- Need a prescription
- Should not be used by women over the age of 35 who smoke
- May increase the risk of blood clots, particularly in women who have certain blood disorders or a family history of blood clots
- May not be suitable for breastfeeding women or women who cannot take estrogen because of a medical condition. The progestin-only pill may be offered for these women.