Birth Control Pills:Overview, Benefits, Downsides, Risks

In this day and age, there are many contraceptives you can use to prevent pregnancy and birth control pills are one of them. Birth control pills are also known as oral contraceptives as they are administered through the mouth. They are highly recommended to every sexually active female. There are a variety of birth control pills that you can choose from dependent on the hormones present in them. They are combination pills and progestin only pills.

Photo by Reproductive Health Supplies Coalition on Unsplash

Combination pills are contraceptives that have both synthetic forms of the hormones estrogen and progesterone equally. The synthetic name of progesterone hormone is progestin. There are several types of combination pills and they are:

  • Monophasic pills: they are administered throughout a month of every cycle and contain equal amounts of progestin and estrogen. Some doses have 21 day pills that contain active hormones and others have 28 day pills with the last seven pills being inactive giving room for your period.
  • Multiphasic pills: they are also administered throughout a month of every cycle. With every passing day of taking the dose, the level of hormones in the doses keep reducing mimicking how your body produces hormones in its cycle. During the last days of your cycle, you will take inactive tablets from your dosage allowing your body to experience its periods.
  • Extended-cycle pills: they are used in 13 week cycles. For the first 12 weeks, you take active hormones and on the 13th week you take inactive hormones. Usage of extended-cycle pills will make you experience your periods 3 to 4 times annually.

Progestin only pills are also known as mini pills. As the name suggests, they just contain the hormone progestin. These are suitable for any woman who cannot take estrogen for any reason. Progestin only pills may or may not lead to you having your periods since all the pills contain active progestin hormone.

How birth control pills work

Combination pills mainly work by preventing ovulation whereas progestin only pills mainly work by altering your cervical mucus by making it very thick to prevent sperms from swimming in to fertilize the egg and by making your uterine wall thin preventing implantation of a fertilized egg.

All in all, all of them affect your cervical mucus, your uterine wall, and your ovulation patterns. Birth control pills are very effective if used as advised by your doctor. The combination pills are more flexible compared to the progestin only pills. Progestin only pills should be taken at the same time everyday strictly.

There are certain medications that can however affect the effectiveness of birth control pills in your system. These medication are:

  • Rifampin (an antibiotic)
  • St. John’s wort
  • Certain HIV medication such as lopinavir and saquinavir
  • Certain antiseizure medication such as carbamazepine and topiramate

Birth control pills can also be less effective in your body if you have stomach problems that lead to diarrhea or vomiting.

NOTE: As you consult your doctor on birth control methods, ensure to have mentioned any underlying medical condition or medication present.

Benefits of birth control pills

The benefits that come along with using birth control pills are:

  • continuous and effective protection from pregnancy
  • regulation of your periods especially if you have heavy or irregular periods
  • you can stop them at any time and your cycle will return back to normal
  • help in managing acne or pimples
  • help with menstruation symptoms
  • reducing your chances of getting ovarian cancer, ectopic pregnancy, anemia, endometriosis
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Downsides of birth control pills

Some of the downsides of birth control pills are:

  • if you miss a pill you risk getting a pregnancy
  • they do not protect against Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs)

Side effects of birth control pills

The side effects that come along with birth control pills vary from woman to woman but resolve by themselves within the first 2-3 months of usage. The side effects occur due to the changes your body will be going through due to the hormones and the effects they bring about. Some of the side effects associated with birth control pills are:

  • Spotting in between your cycle, otherwise known as breakthrough bleeding.
  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Reduced sex drive
  • Weight gain
  • Breast tenderness
  • Mood swings
  • Missed or delayed periods
  • Changes in vaginal discharge, it can increase or decrease

If the side effects do not go on their own, you should visit your doctor for consultation and diagnosis.

Risks associated with birth control pills

Birth control pills may lead to the formation of blood clots in the body. The formation of blood clots could lead to conditions such as heart attack, stroke, thrombosis, or pulmonary embolism. However, scientists say that there is only a 10% chance of you developing blood clots due to the use of birth control pills.

Conclusion

There are a variety of birth control pills for you to choose from, however you should do this under the guidance of your doctor. Do not fear to ask any questions you or raise any concerns you may have a long the process.

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