Contraceptive Pill
Birth Control Pills For Preventing Pregnancy

Contraception

Picture of birth control pills

Birth Control Pills

Contents

What Are Contraceptive Pills?
Types Of Pills
How The Pill Works
How Are Pills Taken?
When Can Pills Be Started?
How Effective Is The Pill In Preventing Pregnancy?
Brand Names



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Birth Control Methods
What Are Contraceptive Pills?

Terminology: The contraceptive pill is also known as the birth control pill or simply the Pill.

Oral contraceptive pills are a kind of medication containing man-made hormones that women can take daily to prevent pregnancy. The Pill is the most popular form of contraception in America. In the past, risks associated with the Pill were due to high doses of estrogen contained in earlier versions and those risks were limited to women over 35 who smoked. Today, new safer formulas are a reasonably safe method of birth control for most women who do not smoke until menopause. The pill has many advantages for women. Studies seem to show it may help in preventing endometrial cancer and ovarian cancer. It may also help prevent benign breast lumps, and offers a degree of protection against pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) - a condition that causes severe pelvic pain and even infertility. The Pill may also help prevent osteoporosis by increasing bone density when taken by women near menopause.

Types Of Contraceptive Pills

There are two main types of Pill: the combined pill and progestin only pill. They are only available by prescription from a doctor.

Combined oral contraceptives: These are by the far the most popular type on the market (leading brand names are Yas and Yasmin). They contain both estrogen and progestin hormones.
Progestin only pill: Also called the mini-pill, these only contain progestin and may be a better option for women who are estrogen sensitive or breastfeeding. As they contain fewer active ingredients, they need to be taken at the same time every day or else they may not be effective (mini-pills are more time-sensitive than combined pills).

Other Types Of Pills

Emergency contraception: Also called the Morning After Pill - this is not a regular method of birth control, but rather an emergency contraception to be used after sex if no birth control was used or if the birth control method failed (if a condom broke for example). You can take emergency contraception for up to 5 days after unprotected sex, but the sooner you take it, the more likely it is to be effective. You can buy emergency pills over the counter in a pharmacy without prescription if you are over 17. If you are under 17 you will need a prescription.

Related Questions
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What is the difference between the emergency contraception pill and the normal pill?
Can I use ordinary birth control pills for emergency contraception?

Continuous-Cycle Pills: Also known as extended-cycle pills. These types of pills are designed to be continuously taken to stop periods for a certain time. Seasonale, Jolessa and Quasense (brand names) are taken continuously for 84 days (12 weeks) followed by one week of inactive pills (placebo pills containing no active ingredients). Your period occurs on week 13, which means you only have a period every 3 months. Seasonique and Camrese (brand names) are also designed to be taken for 12 weeks but on week 13 you take a lose dose estrogen pill instead of an active pill. This helps reduce tummy bloating and PMS symptoms associated with taking inactive pills. Finally Lybrel (brand name) is a low dose combined pill that can be taken continuously for one year without periods.

How The Pill Works

Birth control pills contain man-made hormones which 'trick' the body into acting in a certain way. They work by stopping eggs leaving the ovaries (preventing ovulation) - if there is no egg, there is nothing for the sperm to penetrate and pregnancy cannot occur. They also work by making the cervical mucus thicker, making it more difficult for sperm to travel through the cervix and into the womb. Sometimes the hormones in the Pill can interfere with the lining of womb making it difficult for any fertilized egg to implant and grow. Birth control pills are also sometimes prescribed as a treatment for irregular or heavy periods and endometriosis (a gynecological condition).

How Are Pills Taken?

Most combination pills come as either a 21 day pack or 28 day pack. One hormone pill is taken every day, preferably at the same time, for 21 days. Depending on which pack you have - you will either stop taking pills for 7 days (21 day pack) or you will take a pill that contains no hormones (28 day pack) for 7 days. You should get your period when you stop taking the pills that contain hormones (called 'active' pills). Some women prefer the 28 packet because it helps them stay in the habit of taking the medication every day.

The mini-pill (progesterone only pill) is taken every day without a break. This means you may not get a period, or you may have breakthrough or irregular periods. It is especially important to take the mini pill at the same time every day or it may not be effective due to the low doses of hormone it contains.

When Can Pills Be Started?

It used to be thought that you needed to start taking the pill on the first day of your period, or the first Sunday after the start of your period. Nowadays we know that it is perfectly safe to start the Pill on any day in the month. Talk to your doctor about which day is best for you.

How Effective Is The Pill In Preventing Pregnancy?

It is highly effective as long as you take it exactly as you are supposed to. If you forget to take the Pill on a certain day (or suffer from diarrhea or vomiting), consult the instructions on your packet for advice. You will be advised to use back up contraception such as condoms as an additional security for a few days. While Pills are said to be 99 percent effective, it is probably closer to 97 percent because 'perfect' use (taking it at the same time every day) can be difficult.
Related Articles
Can you get pregnant while taking the Pill?
Contraceptive pills side effects: Know the risks.
Effects of estrogen: What this powerful hormone does to your body.
Male contraception: Is there a male pill?

Birth Control Pills: Brand Names

Combination Birth Control Pills
By far the most popular combination pills in the U.S. are Yaz and Yasmin, both produced by Bayer pharmaceuticals. The following is a complete list of approved brands according to womenshealth.gov:

Apri
Aranelle
Aviane
Azurette
Balziva
Beyaz
Brevicon
Camrese
Cesia
Cryselle
Cyclessa
Demulen
Desogen
Enpresse
Estrostep
Femcon
Gianvi
Jolessa
Junel
Kariva
Kelnor
Leena
Lessina
Levlen
Levlite
Levora
Lo/Ovral
Loestrin
Loryna
LoSeasonique
Low-Ogestrel
Lutera
Lybrel
Microgestin
Mircette
Modicon
MonoNessa
Natazia
Necon
Nordette
Norinyl
Ocella
Ogestrel
Ortho Tri-Cyclen
Ortho-Cept
Ortho-Cyclen
Ortho-Novum
Ovcon
Portia
Previfem
Quasense
Reclipsen
Seasonale
Seasonique
Solia
Sprintec
Sronyx
Syeda
Tilia
Tri-Legest
TriNessa
Tri-Norinyl
Triphasil
Tri-Previfem
Trivora
Velivet
Yasmin
Yaz
Zarah
Zenchent
Zesa
Zovia

Progesterone Only Pills
Micronor
Nor-QD
Ovrette

  Related Articles on Contraceptives

The Female Body and Latest Health Statistics
Birth control implants and birth control injections (Depo-Provera)

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WOMENS HEALTH ADVICE: ABOUT BIRTH CONTROL
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