Making love to your partner feels great but the thought of having a baby terrifies you? Birth control pills are certainly an option, but are they the right option for you? Before you start taking that blue pill every day, there are a few important things you should know. After all, it is your health and well being at stake.
Birth control pills basics
As the name suggests, these pills help you prevent an unwanted pregnancy. According to the CDC, their effectiveness revolves around 91%. However, the low percentage seems to be due to the fact that many women don’t take their pill as they should. For perfect use, the efficiency rate goes as high as 99.9%.
How birth control pills work
The pills require oral administration. While they successfully prevent unwanted pregnancies, they cannot prevent sexually transmitted diseases. What they do is to provide a small amount of estrogen and progestin hormone blend. The hormones work on several levels.
- Stop the ovulation process
- Thicken the cervical mucus, making it more difficult for the sperm to cross it in order to reach the eggs
- Change the womb lining, making the implantation of the fertilized egg more difficult
Newer birth control pills, like Seasonale, take all the above actions to extreme, reducing the number of menstrual periods to one third (from 13 to 4 periods a year). The pills under discussion rely on estrogen and progestin as well and require continuous administration for 12 weeks. The pills for the thirteen week are inactive, resulting in a menstrual cycle.
There are also options for women who cannot tolerate estrogen pills. Progestin pills, also known as mini-pills, have a lower efficiency rate, of 95%. Before beginning to take birth control pills, you should consult a doctor and receive a prescription.
Most birth control pills come in packs of 21 or 28. The former type of packages contains only active pills. The latter contains 7 inactive or placebo pills as well. The package usually bears markings with the days of the week when each pill should be taken. The purpose of the seven inactive pills is to help you remember to start the new pill package on time.
When beginning to take birth control pills, you should follow your doctor’s advice. The general recommendation is to begin administration on the last day of or the first day after the menstrual cycle. This way, the active pills should cover the period between cycles, while the inactive ones, if any, will cover the menstrual cycle period.
It is important to take the pills around the same hour every day. To avoid having to carry them with you and forgetting to take it one day, you should consider taking them early in the morning or before bedtime. Don’t hesitate to set an alarm clock or your smartphone to ring and remind you to take your pill, at least on the first days, until it becomes routine.
Although most birth control pills start paying results during the first months of use, many doctors advise their patients to use an additional birth control method during that period, just in case. After the first month, assuming you take your pill on time, you should have no reasons to worry, at least as far as pregnancies are concerned. Side effects are a completely different story.
Side effects of birth control pills
Since birth control pills contain hormones, they affect your body’s balance, inducing side effects. The variety and intensity of those side effects will depend on your hormonal profile and other physiological factors.
Here is what you should expect:
- Weight gain
- Swollen breaths
- Light bleeding or spotting between your menstrual periods
- Shorter and lighter menstrual periods
- Mood changes
- Abdominal pain
- Chest pain
- Blurred vision
- Swollen or aching thighs and legs
A while ago, the FDA initiated an investigation on some birth control pills containing drospirenone starting from the presumption that they may increase blood clot risks. Other studies targeted the relationship between the pills and cancer. However, the results obtained so far were inconclusive.
Generally, doctors do not recommend birth control pills to women who have exceeded 35 years of age and smoke. For those who do not smoke, the blue pills remain a valid alternative until menopause.
You should also avoid them if you:
- Developed lung, arms, or legs blood clots
- Suffer from liver or heart disease
- Are at risk of developing or were diagnosed with uterus or breast cancer
- Have high blood pressure
- Suffer from migraines with aura
You should definitely consult your doctor before starting to take the pills if you are taking any drugs, especially antibiotics or antiseizure meds, as they may diminish the pills’ effectiveness. Until the pills become effective and you make their administration routine, it helps to have another contraceptive method available.