ORAL CONTRACEPTIVE PILLS
Oral contraceptive pills are often referred to as "birth control pills" or "the Pill." The Pill is a prescription drug containing the female sex hormones estrogen and progesterone. It is taken once a day for as long as you wish to prevent pregnancy.
How effective is it?
When used exactly as directed, the Pill is 97-99% effective.
How does the Pill work?
The Pill works by preventing ovulation (the release of an egg from a woman's ovaries). Without release of an egg, fertilization and pregnancy cannot occur.
What are the advantages of the Pill?
The oral contraceptive pill gives you excellent protection from pregnancy with no interruption in your sexual activity. You will also have lighter, shorter, less painful periods with less premenstrual tension (PMS). The Pill also provides you with protection from anemia, pelvic infections, and ovarian and uterine cancer.
What are the disadvantages and risks of the Pill?
Using the Pill may increase your risk of complications such as heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure, and migraine headaches. The risk of complications increases if you are a smoker and over 35. At any time, your risk of any of these complications is 1/6th the risk of complications with pregnancy. The Pill does not offer protection against sexually transmitted diseases.
What are the side effects?
Possible side effects include nausea, breast tenderness, weight gain/fluid retention, spotting/bleeding between periods, mood changes, and changes in your sex drive. Side effects, if experienced at all, are most frequent during the first few months and usually disappear as your body gets accustomed to the pills.
Nausea can sometimes be avoided by taking your pills with a meal or before bed. Spotting/bleeding is less likely to occur if you take your pill at close to the same time every day, and mood changes can be prevented by supplementing your diet with 100 mg of vitamin B6 a day. If the side effects do not disappear or are too bothersome, they are often eliminated by changing to another kind of pill.
Who shouldn't take the Pill?
Women who have heart disease, circulatory disease, a clotting disorder, liver disease, or cancer probably should not take the Pill.
If you have or have had a health problem such as migraine headaches, high blood pressure, diabetes, severe depression, sickle cell anemia or trait, are planning surgery in the next four weeks, or are a smoker, inform your practitioner. Further evaluation may be necessary to decide if it is safe for you to take the Pill.
How do I use the Pill?
Begin the first package as directed on the package insert or as directed by your physician. Take the first pill whether or not you are still bleeding. From then on, take one pill at about the same time every day. This is important since each pill lasts approximately 24 hours.
The 28-Day Cycle
What if I forget to take it?
- If you forget one pill: take it as soon as you remember and take your next pill on schedule even if that means you will be taking two pills in one day. You may wish to use a back-up method of birth control, such as foam and condoms, for the next week to be sure you don't get pregnant.
- If you forget two pills in a row: take two pills as soon as you remember and two pills the next day at your usual time. Continue to take the rest of your pills on schedule and use a back-up method of birth control, such as foam and condoms, for the rest of your cycle, since ovulation may have occurred.
- If you forget three pills in a row: it is likely you are not protected. Begin using a back-up method of birth control immediately. Finish the active pills in that package (skipping the sugar pills at the end of the package) and then immediately start a new package of pills the following day. Continue to use a back-up method of birth control for at least a week.
- If you are finding it very difficult to remember to take your birth control pills, you may wish to consider choosing a different method of contraception.
What if I miss my period?
Occasionally women skip a period while taking the Pill. If you have been taking your pills exactly as directed and have not missed any, it is unlikely that you are pregnant and you should continue taking your pills. You may wish to get a pregnancy test two weeks after your period was due to reassure yourself. If you miss two periods in a row or have pregnancy symptoms, continue taking your pills and get a pregnancy test as soon as possible.
How much does the Pill cost?
You need a prescription in order to be on the Pill. You can get a prescription at Aurora Medical Services, and then the pills cost anywhere from $15-$50 at drugstores and clinics.
Warning signs: (ACHES)
Call the clinic immediately if you experience:
- (A) severe abdominal pain.
- (C) severe chest pain.
- (H) severe headaches.
- (E) severe extremity (leg/arm) pain.
- (S) changes in sight.
Questions are always welcome. Feel free to call the clinic about any questions or concerns you may have regarding your birth control method. We are available Monday - Friday, 9:00 am - 5:00 pm.