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Birth Control Pill

For example, if you are over 35 and smoke or have certain medical conditions such as a history of blood clots or breast or endometrial cancer, your health care professional may advise against taking oral contraceptives. Unlike forms of birth control sold over the counter, you need a health care professional's prescription to purchase birth control pills, and many health insurers cover their cost. The one exception is the emergency birth control pill, Plan B One-Step, which is sold over the counter. At the beginning of each menstrual cycle, levels of the hormone estrogen begin to rise. Estrogen helps thicken the bloody lining of the uterus endometrium to prepare for a fertilized egg.

Once estrogen levels peak, about 14 days into the menstrual cycle, one of the ovaries releases one or more eggs—this release is called ovulation. After ovulation, levels of another reproductive hormone—progesterone—rise to help prepare the uterus to receive a fertilized egg by thickening its lining.

The egg travels through the fallopian tubes toward the uterus, and if the egg is fertilized and successfully implants itself in the uterine lining, conception pregnancy takes place. If conception does not occur, both estrogen and progesterone levels drop, signaling the now thickened uterine bloody lining to slough off or shed, and menstruation begins.

Birth control pills are a synthetic form of the hormones progesterone and estrogen. They prevent ovulation by maintaining more consistent hormone levels. Without a peak in estrogen, the ovary doesn't get the signal to release an egg. Remember that no egg means no possibility for fertilization and pregnancy.


The pill also thickens cervical mucus so the sperm cannot reach the egg. It makes the lining of the uterus unreceptive to the implantation of a fertilized egg. There are a few different ways you can start to take birth control pills. Discuss the pros and cons of the following methods with your doctor:. No matter when you start taking birth control pills, you will need to start each new pack on the same day of the week that you began your first pack. For example, if you start taking your birth control pills on a Monday, you will always begin taking them on a Monday.

Keep in mind that birth control pills only work if you take them every day. They do not accumulate or collect in your body, which is why you must take a pill every day! You shouldn't skip pills on purpose or by accident or stop taking them, even if you're not having sex often. Also be aware that certain medications, such as certain antibiotics taken for a long time, can make your birth control pills less effective.

If you regularly have diarrhea or vomiting, that can interfere with absorption of the pill. If you miss a pill or have gastrointestinal problems or are taking medication that could interfere with your birth control pills, use a backup method for the rest of your cycle. Just remember, don't stop your birth control pills.

Combination pills contain both estrogen and progestin. Each pill in the pack contains a combination of these two hormones. Progesterone Only Pills contain no estrogen. Called the progestin-only pill, or "mini-pill," it's ideal for breastfeeding women because estrogen reduces milk production. It's also ideal for women who cannot take estrogen. Both types are equally effective, and you should work with your doctor to determine the one that's right for you.

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There are also and emergency contraceptive pills, which are not intended to be used regularly as a contraceptive. They are designed to prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex when standard contraceptives fail or no method was used.

Learn more: Types of Birth Control Pills. Health Benefits of Birth Control Pills Birth control pills provide certain health benefits in addition to preventing pregnancy. Before you start taking oral contraceptives, discuss the health benefits with a health care professional. Some of the main health benefits of birth control pills include an improved menstrual cycle less bleeding and cramps , decreased risk of certain types of cancers, protection from ovarian cysts and an improved complexion.


Learn more: Benefits of Birth Control Pills. For example, if you are over 35 and smoke or have certain medical conditions such as a history of blood clots or breast or endometrial cancer, your health care professional may advise against taking BCPs. Unlike other forms of birth control sold over-the-counter, you need a health care professional's prescription to purchase BCPs, and many health insurers cover their cost. Learn more: Risks of Birth Control Pills.

Combination Pills.

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When you hear the term "birth control pill," it most often refers to oral contraceptives containing estrogen and progestin. Combination birth control pills may be monophasic, where each of the active pills contains the same amount of estrogen and progestin and all the pills will be the same color, or multiphasic where the active pills contain varied amounts of hormones designed to be taken at specific times throughout the pill-taking schedule. The multiphasic pills will be different colors to indicate the hormonal dose changes.

There are a few different ways you can take combination pills—for 21 days, 28 days, 91 days or continuously. In order to skip their periods in other words, to create continuous birth control pills on their own , some women take their day pills continuously or refrain from taking the sugar pills in the day pack so they are only ever taking pills that contain hormones.

This may work best for women using monophasic pills. If you're considering this option, discuss it first with your health care provider. Additionally, be aware that insurance may not cover pills used in this way. Ask yourself the following questions to determine if combined birth control pills are a good option for you:. This type of pill contains no estrogen. You apply the patch on the same day of the week even if you still are bleeding.

The Long, Strange History of Birth Control

To use the patch as a continuous-dose form of birth control, apply a new patch every week on the same day without skipping a week. Most side effects are minor and often go away after a few months of use. Possible side effects include the following:. Aura: A sensation or feeling, such as flashing lights, a particular smell, dizziness, or seeing spots, experienced just before the onset of certain disorders like migraine attacks or epileptic seizures. Breakthrough Bleeding: Vaginal bleeding at a time other than the menstrual period.

Cervix: The lower, narrow end of the uterus at the top of the vagina. Hormones: Substances made in the body by cells or organs that control the function of cells or organs. An example is estrogen, which controls the function of female reproductive organs. Ovaries: Two glands, located on either side of the uterus, that contain the eggs released at ovulation and produce hormones. Progestin: A synthetic form of progesterone that is similar to the hormone produced naturally by the body. Uterus: A muscular organ located in the female pelvis that contains and nourishes the developing fetus during pregnancy.

The information does not dictate an exclusive course of treatment or procedure to be followed and should not be construed as excluding other acceptable methods of practice. Variations, taking into account the needs of the individual patient, resources, and limitations unique to the institution or type of practice, may be appropriate. Women's Health Care Physicians.

If you have further questions, contact your obstetrician—gynecologist.

Birth Control Pill | Cleveland Clinic

Copyright Birth control pills are just one of many contraceptive options. Other options range from long-term methods such as the intrauterine device IUD to short-term choices such as the contraceptive sponge. To find out about these many options and their effectiveness, cost, and pros and cons, read about which birth control method is right for you.

Can you get pregnant while taking birth control?