The birth control pill.
Existed since the 1900s and is one of the most common forms of birth control.
It seems to me, everyone and their mother have been on the pill at least once in their lifetime.
Today, I will be answering all the questions I never knew I had about the pill and all the things doctors never told me about it.
Before we begin, I want to make sure that everyone is fully aware that I am not a doctor.
I am just someone who has a uterus and has done her research.
If you are thinking about going on the pill, make sure you talk to your doctor first!
Alright, let’s jump right in.
What Is the Birth Control Pill?
I know that it is a pill that prevents pregnancy, but I never fully understood what it was.
After a very quick Google search, I learned that it is a hormonal method of birth control that comes in an oral contraceptive that must be taken every day.
In laymen’s terms, a pill that fucks with your hormones so you don’t get pregnant.
The hormones that the pill contains are estrogen and progestin.
These hormones come in a variety of doses, depending on the brand.
Your doctor will typically start you on a low dose; then, based on how you respond, the doctor will adjust the dosage accordingly.
Two Different Types of Birth Control Pills
While there are a variety of brands, there are only two main types of pills.
The first is called the Combination Pill.
This pill contains human-made versions of the hormones estrogen and progestin.
Most Combination Pills have anywhere between 20-35 micrograms of estrogen with some progesterone.
Some pills have estrogen as low as 10 micrograms, which is considered a low dose of the hormone.
Most of the pills in a pack are active, which means that they contain hormones, usually with one week of inactive pills, meaning that they do not have any hormones.
Within the umbrella of the Combination Pill, there are three different types of Combo pills.
- Monophasic pills (one phase)
- These pills are on a one-month cycle. Each active pill in the pack gives you the same doses of hormones throughout the month. On the last week of your cycle, you take the inactive pills which give you your period.
- Multiphasic pills (multiple phases)
- These pills are on a one-month cycle and provide different levels of hormones throughout the month. On the last week of the cycle, you take the inactive pills to have your period. These pills mimic the regular hormonal changes that occur during your menstrual cycle.
- Extended-Cycle pills
- Instead of a one-month cycle, these pills use are 13-week cycle. You take active pills for 12 weeks, and on the 13th week, you take inactive pills to have your period. This means that you will only have your period 3-4 times a year.
Progestin-only Pills (Mini Pills)
These types of birth control pills only contain the hormone progestin.
This pill does not contain any estrogen.
It is an excellent option for those who cannot take estrogen for medical reasons and older individuals.
Effectiveness of the Birth Control Pill
This is the part everybody wants to know.
How effective are birth control pills?
The good news is that ideally, both the combination pill and the minipill have a 99.9% effectiveness rate.
That comes out to 9 out of 100 individuals on either pill who will get pregnant.
So the odds are pretty good.
Unfortunately, that statistic does not take into account human error.
Human error refers to humans not being perfect.
So, in this case, that would mean forgetting to take a pill or not taking it at the same time every day.
This lowers the effectiveness rate to 91%.
So not horrible.
Both pills work best if you take them at the same time every day.
But while the combination pill gives you a 12-hour window (just in case you miss your designated time), the minipill must be taken within the same 3 hours every day, or else it may not be as effective.
To ensure maximum effectiveness, take the pill at the same time every day.
How Does the Birth Control Pill Work?
Before we learn how the pregnancy is prevented, let’s go over how it happens.
When an egg is released from the ovary and fertilized by sperm, the fertilized egg implants itself to the uterus.
The hormones estrogen and progestin (used in the pills) help this process occur by causing ovulation (releasing the egg from the ovary so the sperm can fertilize it) and preparing the body to accept the fertilized egg so it can attach itself to the uterus.
Understand how pregnancy happens?
Good, now let’s find out how the pills prevent it.
Related Article: The Fundamentals of Owning a Vagina
Two Ways of Preventing Pregnancy
The pills work in two different ways to prevent pregnancy.
The first way is by preventing the body from ovulating.
If the body does not ovulate, then the ovaries won’t release an egg each month.
If there is no egg, then the sperm have nothing to fertilize.
The second way is by causing the cervical mucus to thicken.
So your cervix (a donut-shaped hole that leads to the uterus) has mucus on it, and the mucus helps the sperm travel through the uterus so it can fertilize the egg.
But if the mucus is too thick, then the sperm will be unable to reach the uterus.
So they won’t be able to fertilize the egg.
In progestin-only pills, the same process happens, but it also thins the endometrium lining while simultaneously thickening the cervical mucus.
The endometrium is the lining of the uterus where an egg implants itself once it is fertilized.
With a thinner endometrium lining, the egg will have a more challenging time implanting itself to the uterus, thus preventing pregnancy.
The Effects & Risks of Birth Control On Your Body
As you read this section, keep in mind that these side effects vary from person to person.
What you will experience while being on the pill will depend on how your body reacts to the hormones.
Common Side Effects of the Pill
Now, this will be a shortlist of the most common side effects that people who take the pill experience.
According to Medical News Today, these side effects usually subside within 2-3 months of taking the pill, but then again, it depends on the person.
If these side effects persist, make you uncomfortable or impact your way of life, it is essential to talk to your healthcare provider about switching to a different brand or a different form of birth control.
Without further ado, the most common side effects are:
- Spotting between periods
- Decreased sex drive
- Swollen or sore breasts
- Mild Headaches or migraines
- Weight Gain
- Mood Swings
- Vaginal Dryness
- Change in Vaginal Discharge
- Changes in Eyesight
Known as the acronym “ACHES,” these side effects are less common but more serious.
If you have them, please contact your doctor because it may be a symptom of a bigger issue such as liver disease, stroke, blood clots, high blood pressure, or heart disease.
The ACHES side effects are:
- Ab pain (belly pain)
- Chest pain
- Headaches (severe)
- Eye problems (blurred vision)
- Swelling or aching in the legs and thighs
The pill is safe for most people with uteruses to use, but there have been some complications including but not limited to:
- High Blood Pressure
- Blood clots
- Heart Attack
To read more about the risks and side effects associated with the birth control pill, click here!
The Pros and Cons of the Pill
When in doubt, make a pros and cons list.
Doing this helps you see what the advantages and disadvantages of something are.
In this case, it’s the birth control pill.
This list is to help you get a well-rounded picture of the pill in all of its glory.
- Protects you 24/7
- 99% effective
- Regulates menstrual cycle
- Help with acne
- Help with anemia
- Lighten and shorten periods
- Make menstrual cramps and PMS easier.
- Can decrease the risk of endometrial and ovarian cancer
- It does not protect from STDs
- You will need to use condoms.
- Certain medications and antibiotics can make it less effective.
- Have to take it every day at a specific time
- Need to be ready with a new pack
- Can increase risk of breast cancer or cervical cancer
- Change sex drive
- Vaginal irritation
- Mood swings
Things to Think About
Before you go on the pill, there are some things that you need to consider because whether people admit it or not, taking the pill can impact your lifestyle.
- How do you want to feel?
- Keep in mind that the pill is a hormonal contraceptive that alters your cycle. Doing this can impact your mood and how you view and go about your every day.
- Can you be consistent
- The pill requires that you take it every day at the same time; if you mess up and miss a day or two, that can impact your chances of preventing pregnancy.
- Might need to take keep another form of birth control with you.
- Remember, the pill does not protect you from STDs, and if you miss a day, it will not be as effective at preventing pregnancy.
- Can you remember to take it with you everywhere you go?
- You know how you have to take it every day at the same time? Well, sometimes that requires taking the pills with you, so you don’t miss it.
- Can you stay on top of the refills?
- Like any other medication, you need to have the refills at the ready. If you don’t, it can throw off your whole cycle.
- Does it mix well with the other medications, drugs, or vitamins you are taking?
- Remember, certain medications can interfere with your birth control, causing it to cancel out.
- Are you able to see your doctor regularly?
- The Birth Control pill requires routine monitoring, which means regular doctor’s visits in case something does not feel right or you need to change doses. Can you afford to see your doctor regularly?
Questions to Ask Your Doctor
It is super important to have open communication with your healthcare provider.
If you find that you cannot have open and honest communication with your provider, you need a new doctor.
How are you going to get the help you need when you are too afraid to tell your doctor that your boyfriend came in you on Wednesday and you forgot to take the pill the day before?
Once you have established that line of communication with your doctor, everything will be much smoother.
Some questions you should ask your doctor before going on the pill are:
- Is there anything in my medical history that would indicate that taking the birth control pill is not for me?
- What dosage would I start on?
- Which type of pill, the combo or the minipill, is better for me?
- What should I do if I forget to take the pill?
- Am I taking any medication that could interfere with the pill?
- Am I at higher risk for developing blood clots or high blood pressure from the pill?
- What other birth control options should I consider?
Feel free to skip this section if you don’t want to read my thoughts on the pill (no hard feelings).
I usually try to stay as impartial as possible when I educate people on a topic, but I like to think of my readers as friends.
And as friends, I’d like to give you my opinion.
In no way am I telling you what to do with your body.
It’s your choice.
I know that I like to ask my friends’ opinions on these things, so I will give you mine (even though no one asked).
In my personal opinion, I would not take the pill and do not ever plan on taking it because I know the hormones aren’t suitable for my body.
Considering my medical and familial history, this is not a viable option, and personally, I don’t want my hormones messed with.
And after hearing how depressed people get and how it impacts their sex life, I prefer another method of birth control.
I tell you this so you can have at least one person’s opinion.
Now feel free to ask around and ask your friend how their experiences have been.
Like the pro and con list, it helps give you a better picture of what life on the pill is like.
Related Article: A Beginner’s Guide to Birth Control
Is the Birth Control Pill for You?
In the end, the decision is yours.
It is about you and your body.
Please do not decide to go on it because you want to please someone.
It will not be worth it, I guarantee you.
So make the right decision for yourself and don’t let people’s outside opinions tell you what you should or should not do.
Leave a comment down below on what your opinion is on the birth control pill or what experiences you’ve had with it!