Birth Control Pills
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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.
There are two main types of Pill: the combined pill and progestin only pill. They are only available by prescription from a doctor.
Other Types Of Pills
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
Combination Birth Control Pills
|Related Articles on Contraceptives
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