What are birth control pills?
One of the most common and effective methods of contraception, birth control pills are oral contraceptives you take regularly (usually every day) to prevent pregnancy. According to the FDA, birth control pills, when properly used, have a success rate of 91%. It is important to note that oral contraceptives do not protect you from STIs; only the barrier method is effective when it comes to preventing both unwanted pregnancies and STIs.
Unlike emergency contraceptives, birth control pills are not readily available over the counter. You need a valid prescription from a doctor or a health clinic in order to purchase the pills, which come in a pack for your entire cycle. One pill is assigned for each day, and you must take them during the same time frame everyday for maximum effectiveness.
How do birth control pills work?
Simply put, birth control pills work by altering the hormonal levels in your body. Each pill contains a small amount of hormones, and these are the same hormones (oestrogen and progesterone) that your body uses during your menstrual cycle.
The hormones in your pill prevent pregnancy by stopping ovulation, which is the process where an egg is released from your ovary every month. Alternately, some birth control pills temporarily modify the uterine lining, reducing the chances of a fertilised egg implanting.
Types of birth control pills
Based on their composition and functioning, birth control pills are of the following types:
- Progestin-only pills
Progestin-only pills, also known as minipills, contain only progesterone. All pills in a pack of progestin-only pills are active, which means that you might sometimes skip your periods if you are on this pill. In case your body cannot tolerate oestrogen, these pills are the best bet for you! People who are above 35 years of age and/or smoke regularly should opt for progestin-only pills as oestrogen might increase their risk of developing blood clots.
- Combination pills
Combination pills contain both progesterone and oestrogen. A pack of combination pills include a mixture of active and inactive pills; this means, some of the pills do not contain any hormones. Combination pills can be of several kinds, such as:
- Monophasic: Monophasic pills come in a pack of 28 pills, all of which have the same hormonal dosage and composition.
- Multiphasic: Like monophasic pills, these also come in a pack of 28. However, unlike the monophasic ones, multiphasic pills contain different levels of hormone based on your menstrual cycle.
- Extended-cycle: These are dispensed for 13 cycles at once. You must take active pills everyday for 12 weeks, and can choose to skip the inactive pills for the final week.
How to choose the right pill for yourself
There are several factors you must consider while choosing a birth control pill for yourself. While a doctor will help you take the final call, it is recommended that you carefully weigh the following factors before arriving at a decision:
- What are your menstrual symptoms?
If you experience heavy, prolonged bleeding during your periods, opt for progestin-only pills.
- Do you have a chronic health condition?
You might want to avoid birth control pills altogether in certain situations. For instance, chronic health conditions such as migraine, PCOS, endometriosis, or any forms of cancer can directly impact how birth control pills affect your body. In such cases, it is important to discuss your complete medical history with your doctor before making a decision.
- Are you currently breastfeeding?
If you are breastfeeding, you might want to avoid any pills containing oestrogen. Consult your doctor about changing your form of birth control (in case you were on combination pills earlier) in such a scenario.
- How is your cardiovascular health?
If you have a history of deep-vein thrombosis, stroke, or internal blood clots, progestin-only pills might be more suited for you.
- Are you on any other medications?
Certain antibiotics, herbal medications, antidepressants, and antiviral drugs, among others, can interfere with the efficacy of birth control pills. Alongside a gynaecologist, also make sure to consult the doctor who’s prescribed you any of these medications before you start taking birth control pills.
Finally, remember that how you regulate your body is completely up to you! If you feel that oral contraceptives are not for you and you’d want to check out other modes of contraception instead, check this out.
Regardless of your preferred contraceptive, make sure you talk to a trusted doctor before starting long-term birth control. Wondering where to find the right gynaecologist? We’ve got you covered! Click on the button below and fill out the form, and you’ll be matched with a member of our medical team who will answer all your queries and assist you in choosing the appropriate course of action.