Contraceptive pills are a very popular and reliable form of contraception, used by women all across the globe. This type of medicine consists of hormones that, through their mechanism of action, prevent pregnancy, with the success rate as high as 99% (when used properly). The reliability and effectiveness of contraceptive pills is at the root of the immense popularity of this form of contraception.
Below, you will find a short overview of the essential information about contraceptive pills, including their mechanism of action, their benefits and disadvantages, pros and cons, potential side effects and prices and availability.
What’s on this page?
How do birth control pills work?
Contraceptive pills are based on the hormones oestrogen and progestogen with the ratio and concentration of these hormones varying depending on the exact type and brand of the pill. The most modern, state of the art contraceptive pills aim to minimize the amount of hormones without reducing effectiveness.
However, despite the fact that exactly the presence of hormones is what leads to potential side effects, they cannot be excluded from the conventional birth control pills due to the fact that those same hormones play an integral role in preventing pregnancy. During the period of fertility, an egg cell is released from the woman’s ovary – which happens once a month – and it can be fertilized by the man’s semen. Both combined birth control pills such as Cilest, Cimizt or Femodene and progesterone-only mini-pills such as Aizea, Nacrez or Zelleta contain synthetic version of progesterone because of this.
The hormones in the pills, once introduced into the organism, prevent ovulation, so the egg is absent and the woman cannot conceive as long as she continues the treatment. In addition, the hormones also affect the cervical mucus, making it harder for the sperm cells to reach the egg. And finally, by affecting the uterus, contraceptive pills make it physically more difficult for the egg to get stuck.
So, birth control pills based on hormones rely on three distinctive, yet fundamentally connected mechanism in order to prevent pregnancy. This is what is at the root of their high efficiency.
Why should I choose birth control pills?
There are many advantages to choosing birth control pills as the preferred form of contraception. Some of the most wide known include:
- Very high efficiency (99% protection against pregnancy)
- Easy intake (once a day at roughly the same time)
- Sexual act isn’t interrupted or made uncomfortable
- Effective immediately if taken on the first day of menstrual period
- Prevents pregnancy even during 7 day break period
- Can cause shorter and less intensive periods
Are there any side effects or risks?
As with all medicines, some side effects may manifest over the course of the treatment. It is important to get familiar with the potential unwanted effects prior to the treatment so in case they do appear, you can contact your doctor and ask for a different type of contraceptive pills that will have fewer side effects on your organism.
This is not that uncommon – many women change several brands of contraceptive pills prior to finding those that produce no side effects. The most common problems encountered include:
- Nausea, pressure in the chest headache and mood swings, especially in the first months of the treatment
- Pigment changes (in around 5% of women)
- Lower blood pressure (less common)
- Increased risk of blood clots
- Slightly increased risk of breast cancer
- Women over 35 and active smokers have a higher risk of haemorrhage in the brain
- Diarrhoea or vomiting reduce the protection
- Forgetting a dose reduces the protection
- Pills do not protect from STDs such as chlamydia or herpes
Can I use contraceptive pills?
While birth control pills have many advantages compared to other forms of contraception, there are certain risk groups where this kind of treatment is not recommended. These include:
- Women older than 35
- Women with breast cancer
- Women with diagnosed problems related to blood clots of artery inflammations
- Women with diagnosed liver diseases
Aside from these groups considered high risk, contraceptive pills are also not recommended for overweight women, active smokers, or those who suffer from migraine, diabetes, heart diseases or high blood pressure. Women who are breast-feeding should also avoid using this method of contraception.
However, even if you don’t fall into one of the abovementioned categories, it is still highly recommended to thoroughly discuss the potential birth control pills therapy with your doctor. What’s more, since they can’t protect from STDs, the pills are mostly recommended for women who have a long-term partner.
What should I expect?
When taking birth control pills, you won’t get menstrual period, well, at least not in the conventional sense of the word. You will still experience bleeding during the y day pause period. This happens because the hormone levels will drop in that period, causing the mucous membrane of the womb to loosen, causing the bleeding.
With prolonged use, bleeding will decrease over time, which is normal and you shouldn’t be alarmed by that. This happens because the mucous membrane is not completely reconstructed between each period.
Aside from being a sign that you’re not pregnant, this bleeding doesn’t have any health benefits, nor is it harmful. For some women, the bleeding can be completely absent. It’s not an unusual occurrence, but it might be a sign that you’re pregnant so visiting a doctor or at least taking a test is a good idea.
Can I get pregnant while on the pill?
The effectiveness of contraceptive pills is very high, being successful in up to 99% of cases. So, cases of women getting pregnant while on the pill are very, very rare. However, that does happen. 99% protection is not 100% protection, but in the majority of unwanted pregnancies, there were some external factors that caused diminished protection – for example, having diarrhoea, vomiting or forgetting to take the pill (especially if it happens for several days in a row). If you’re in a situation like that, it is better to use extra protection, such as condom until you’re certain the pills are at their full effectiveness again.
Taking the pills regularly is extremely important, so it’s advisable to use a reminder of some sort in order to keep track of the treatment. However, if you missed more than one dose per month, it might be better to use additional protection until after your next period. Additional information regarding your specific type of pills is available on the official leaflet and can also be obtained from your doctors.
If you follow the instructions and remember to take your dose the right way at the right time, the chances of getting pregnant are extremely small. As mentioned, menstrual bleeding might be absent, so you should take a test or visit a doctor in order to find out what the cause of it is and whether there’s any reason for worrying.
How much do contraceptive pills cost?
The price of birth control pills is mostly dependant on the exact brand you use. With numerous of them available on the market, the doctor will help you choose the most suitable one for you. In addition, the price will also be influenced by the choice of the original or, alternatively, generic version of the given brand.
Do I need a prescription?
While contraceptives such as condoms can be bought without prescription, it’s different with contraceptive pills. So in order to obtain them, you’ll need to go through your doctor. Either a face to face meeting or digital consultations through an online clinic will do. The medical expert will determine whether you’re fit for birth control treatment after which you will be issued a prescription which you can use to get the pills, again, either through a regular pharmacy, or an online clinic that will deliver you the medicine on you address