Oral Contraceptive Pill

WHAT IS IT?

Oral contraceptive pills may also be referred to as OCPs or the Pill. They are prescription tablets that are taken once a day. There are two main types: 1) combination pill, which contains two female hormones similar to the body’s own estrogen and progesterone; 2) progestin-only pill, which does not contain estrogen.

There are many different brands to choose from. The different brands have different amounts of estrogen and progestin in them. You may have to try a few brands before you find one that works best for your body.

HOW DOES IT WORK?

OCPs prevent pregnancy mostly by stopping ovulation (release of a mature egg). They also thicken the cervical mucus, which makes it more difficult for the sperm to swim to the egg, and change the lining of the uterus, so that if an egg does get fertilized by sperm, it will be more difficult for it to implant.

HOW EFFECTIVE IS IT?

If used perfectly, the Pill is 99.7% effective in preventing pregnancy. Based on average use (e.g. not taking it at the same time every day, missing pills), it is 92% effective. The Pill does NOT offer any protection against STIs.

WHAT ARE THE ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES OF TAKING THE PILL?

 

ADVANTAGES:

  • one of the most effective reversible birth control methods when used consistently and correctly
  • it doesn’t take a lot of effort or skill to use them properly
  • may regulate menstrual cycle and reduce cramps
  • does not interfere with intercourse
  • may decrease acne
  • reduces the risk of endometrial and ovarian cancer
  • may reduce perimenopausal symptoms

DISADVANTAGES:

  • must be taken every day around the same time
  • contains hormones
  • may cause irregular bleeding or spotting
  • effectiveness may be reduced by other medications
  • should not be used by women over the age of 35 who smoke
  • may increase the risk of blood clots, particularly in women who have certain blood disorders or a family history of blood clots
  • does not protect against STIs
  • may increase the number of headaches
  • may cause mood changes and/or changes in weight
  • may not be suitable for breastfeeding women