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Facts About...

Birth Control Pill


What is it?

The birth control pill, also called “the pill” contains one or two hormones, estrogen and/or progestin. The hormones prevent pregnancy by keeping the eggs from leaving the ovaries and thickening the mucous in the vagina which keeps the sperm from getting to the eggs. They can also change the lining of the uterus, making it difficult for an egg to attach to the wall of the uterus. The pill is taken each day for 28 days or for 21 days followed by 7 days pill-free.

How effective is it?

Less than 1 out of 100 women will get pregnant every year if they always take the pill each day as directed. When the pill is not taken as directed, 9 out of every 100 women are at risk of becoming pregnant.

What are the side effects of this method?

Irregular bleeding, headache, nausea, weight gain, mood changes, acne, and breast tenderness are experienced by some women. Most side effects disappear with continued use.

What are the benefits?

Benefits of “the pill” can include: regulating your period with less bleeding and cramping and decreased risk of ovarian and endometrial cancer. Some forms of “the pill” can decrease acne, and decrease the risk of fibroids. Consistent use of “the pill” provides a reliable method of birth control.

What are the limitations?

You must visit a health care provider to get a prescription for the birth control pill. Use of "the pill" requires daily attention. Missing pills greatly decreases the effectiveness of this method and increases the risk of becoming pregnant.

Women who have high blood pressure should follow up with their health care provider as some birth control pills may increase the risk of stroke, heart attack, or blood clots. Some types of the birth control pills are not recommended for women over the age of 35 years who smoke, those with severe migraines, breast cancer or liver tumors, and those with high blood pressure, a history of blood clots, stroke or heart disease.

What are the effects on breastfeeding?

Estrogen may reduce breast milk supply. It is recommended that mothers use progestin only types of birth control. If you are currently breastfeeding and would like to discuss birth control options, it is important to follow up with your health care provider.

You should know…

There are many types of "the pill" available. If you have side effects that are long lasting, you should talk with your health care provider, as a different type of pill may be better for you.

Stopping and starting the pill repeatedly (pill breaks) is not recommended. This places women at risk for unplanned pregnancy and irregular periods.

The pill does not affect your ability to have children in the future.

The pill does not prevent the transmission of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV/AIDS, and condoms should always be used during sexual activity.

Contact your health care provider immediately if you experience any of the following when taking the birth control pill: sudden and severe chest pain/heaviness, sudden and severe abdominal pain, leg pain, and trouble breathing/shortness of breath, severe headaches or visual problems.

October 30, 2015