What are Birth Control Pills?
Birth control pills are oral contraceptives. This means they are taken by mouth. They can be a safe and effective way to prevent pregnancy. They do so in a few different ways. First of all, birth control pills completely stop the process of ovulation. Ovulation happens once a month, when an egg is released from the ovaries. It travels through the fallopian tubes into the uterus, where it can be fertilized by sperm. Birth control pills also thicken the cervical mucous, making it more difficult for sperm to get into the uterus. They also thin out the lining of the uterus, making it unwelcoming environment for an egg if fertilization does occur. Birth control pills do all of this by containing a synthetic or fake version of certain hormones that are already found in the body. These hormones are progestin and estrogen. Throughout a woman’s menstrual cycle hormones fluctuate in the body. Using contraceptive pills and other hormonal methods regulates the fluctuation and keeps the hormones at the same level. The pill is an easily reversible method of birth control, meaning that once pills are stopped the menstrual cycle resumes and the woman has the ability to get pregnant.
What types of Birth Control Pills are Available?
There are many types of birth control pills that are available. One thing that they all have in common is that they need to be taken at the same time every day. Some contain only the progestin hormone, and those types are good for women that can’t take estrogen. Most oral contraceptives are combination pills, meaning that they contain both progestin and estrogen. Many women that are breastfeeding can take the progestin only pills, whereas the combination pills cannot be taken by breastfeeding women. Progestin only pills do contain a very low-dose of the progestin hormone, and may not be as effective as the combination pills. Most pills come in packs of 28. Pills containing the hormones are taken for 21 days, than placebo pills are taken for seven days to allow for the menstrual cycle to start. Some pills are available in larger packs and can be taken for longer periods of time, decreasing the amount of menstrual cycles per year.
What other forms of Birth Control methods are available?
Although the birth control pill is a very common method of preventing pregnancy, there are other hormonal methods available. One such method is the birth control patch. Patches are applied directly to the skin. Each patch is used for seven days, and changing it on the same day once a week is important. After the third week, no patch is used. This allows for the menstrual period to start. One of the advantages of the patch is that it can be taken care of on a weekly basis, instead of the daily basis that the birth control pill must be taken. The effectiveness rate for the patch is the same as it is for the pill. However, women that cannot take estrogen should not use the birth control patch. This is because it contains both the progestin and estrogen hormones.
Another hormonal method of birth control is the vaginal ring. It is a flexible plastic ring that is inserted into the vagina. It stays in place for three weeks, and then it is removed to allow for a menstrual period. After one week, a new ring is inserted to start the process all over again. An advantage of the ring is that it only needs attention every three weeks, unlike the patch which should be changed out weekly or the pill which must be taken every day. The failure rate for the ring is a little higher than the failure rate for the patch or oral contraceptives. And because the ring contains both estrogen and progestin, it cannot be used by women that can’t take estrogen.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of Birth Control Pills?
There are advantages and disadvantages to every hormonal method of birth control. Since the birth control pill has been available for almost 50 years, it has been researched quite a bit and the hormone levels that it contains are lower than they have ever been. Side effects of birth control pills vary, and can be mild to extreme. The most widely reported side effects include headaches, weight gain or loss, breast tenderness, mood swings and spotting between periods. Serious side effects include blood clots or stroke. Women over the age of 35 and that smoke, along with women with a history of heart attack, breast cancer, stroke or liver disease should not take contraceptive pills. Another important thing to consider is that oral contraceptives do not protect against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). A prescription from your doctor is needed in order to take birth control pills. When used as directed the birth control pill can be a very effective tool used to prevent pregnancy.