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Birth Control Pills

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The most widely used, safe and effective form of birth control products are birth control pills or oral contraceptives. Known as the “Pill”, ongoing research of this form of birth control has evolved over the last forty years to become what they are today. Nowadays the Pill, regardless of the brand, is 99% effective in preventing pregnancies, with few side effects. As well as being easy to use, other advantages of being on these pills are decreased length and flow of menstrual periods, decreased risk of ovarian cancer and the added bonus of regulating menstrual cycles. Birth control pills have also been used successfully as non contraceptives to treat hormonal imbalances.


How Do Birth Control Pills Work?

Birth control pills are made up of artificial hormones which mimic those that the body naturally produces. Hormones are chemical substances that control the function of the body’s organs, in this case the ovaries and uterus. The majority of birth control pills (with some exceptions) are a combination of estrogen and progesterone taken orally to heighten the normal levels of these hormones. Depending on which pill you take they will work in three different ways or in combinations of the three:


  • They prevent the release of the egg during ovulation (menstrual cycle) because if there is no egg, there will be nothing for the sperm to fertilize.

  • They will thicken the sticky mucus found around the cervix making it harder for the sperm to reach any eggs that have been released.

  • They also affect the lining of the uterus by creating an environment where it is difficult for any eggs that have been fertilized to attach to the inside wall of the uterus and start growing.


Can taking Birth Control Pills harm your health?

Birth control pills are contraceptives only and do not provide any protection from Sexually Transmitted Diseases. The good old condom, although very fallible as a way of preventing pregnancy is still the best protective barrier available against disease. The use of birth control pills in women over 35 years of age or whom smoke is discouraged due to the increased risk of cardiovascular diseases. They are also not recommended for those with diabetes, a history of breast cancer or prior to six weeks after giving birth.


Are there any side effects from taking Birth Control Pills?

Most related side effects are minor such as headaches, possible nausea, and heightened breast tenderness, bloating and elevated blood pressure. These minor symptoms tend to lessen as the body gets used to the new medication. Another commonly heard complaint of women using oral contraceptives is an increase in yeast and other vaginal irritations. These can easily be offset simply by including a glass of cranberry juice in your diet daily. Although very rare, the more serious possible reactions to these meds include blood clotting, stroke, heart failure or liver disease.


Will Birth Control Pills cause weight gain?

A general misconception about diet pills is that they cause weight gain. Although some women claim to have gained weight while on the Pill, medical studies have shown weight gain to be minimal if occurring at all. It is more likely that the correlation between birth control pills and weight gain is that the weight gain experienced, particularly by younger women, is likely due to natural changes in their bodies and metabolism, and not as a result of taking oral contraceptives.


How do you take Birth Control Pills?

Almost all oral contraceptives are taken daily in 28 day cycles just as menstrual periods occur. Some pills come in 21 day packages and some in 28 day packages. The only difference is that with the 28 pill plan you take a daily pill for 28 days, but for the last 7 days of each cycle the pills have no active ingredients. With the 21 day plan you take pills for 21 days, and then have 7 days pill free before you begin the next cycle. It has been proven that is a lot easier to take a pill daily than tying to remember to stop and start up again every month, hence the 28 day plans are more popular. The number one important rule of using birth control pills is that the medication must not only be taken every day but as equally important is taking them at the same time everyday. Missing any pills or even taking your pill a few hours later than normal reduces the effectiveness of the medication.


What should I do if I miss taking Birth Control one day?

Most oral contraceptives will recommend that if you miss taking a pill one day, you should take two pills the next day. Of course, if you miss a day you will need to use other forms of contraception, such as condoms, to reduce the risk of pregnancy. For more information about missing doses, refer to individual product information that is provided with your pills.


What are the most effective types of Birth Control Pills available?

The following is a brief summary of the most trusted and reliable, leading edge birth control pills available. All of the drugs listed here are FDA approved, require a prescription to obtain and have proven a 99% success rate in stopping pregnancy before it begins.

  • Yasmin: 28 day packages, cost for 3 month supply is $75.00 (approx) Formulated from a synthetic progesterone hormone called drospirenone, Yasmin raises the body’s levels of progesterone and lowers the levels of estrogen resulting in the reduction of water retention. By doing so Yasmin improves PMS symptoms, improves skin conditions and eases breast tenderness, bloating and headaches by removing water from the body’s system, as well as keeping you 99% safe from becoming pregnant.

  • Ortho Tricyclen: 28 day packages cost of 3 month supply ranged in price from $75.00-$215.00 depending on source. Formulated from estrogen and progesterone compounds that suppress ovulation, ortho tricyclen works by having the estrogen component falsely convince the body that it is already pregnant and tricking the ovaries into not releasing an egg. Another plus is having control over your menstrual cycles. Ortho tricyclen has also been approved by the FDA in the highly successful medical treatment of facial acne.

  • Alesse: available in 21- or 28-day packages, the cost of a 3 month supply ranged between $60.00-$190.00, depending on the source. Alesse, that is the same as Lybrel, contains a combination of female hormones that prevent ovulation. Alesse also causes changes in your cervical mucus and uterine lining, making it harder for sperm to reach the uterus and harder for a fertilized egg to attach to the uterus.

  • Ortho Micronor Discreet: a 28 day pill plan consisting of progesterone only. Commonly referred to as the “mini pill” and with low side effects are well suited to women with health problems such as blood clots or women who are breastfeeding.

  • Femcon Fe: the only birth control pill available that can be chewed. Spearmint flavored.

  • Depo Provera: another progesterone only formula, taken by injection every 3 months.

  • Lybrel: the first and only pill formula taken 365 days a year. This new form of oral contraceptive labeled ‘extended cycle birth control’ (available for about $60.00 per month) completely stops menstruation but breakthrough bleeding or spotting is common.

  • Seasonale or Seasonique: other ‘extended cycle’ alternatives where you only get your period 4 times a year. Breakthrough bleeding between periods decreases over the first year on the medication.

  • Plan B: an emergency contraceptive taken after sexual intercourse rather than before. It is also known as the ‘morning after pill’ and is designed for use in the event of failure of other birth control mechanisms. For example breaking or losing a condom internally. Plan B gives the body a hi-test rapid shot of hormones to disrupt the natural hormone patterns the body uses to conceive. The sperm and egg then have a very hard time connecting during transportation, fertilization or implantation. Plan B can be used for up to 5 days following unprotected sex, but the sooner it is taken the more effective the treatment will be. Only minors under the age of 17 require a prescription for Plan B. Plan B is not for regular or frequent use like other oral contraceptives and should be used in an emergency only.


Remember that none of the oral birth control methods offer any protection what so ever from sexual diseases. Protect yourselves by using condoms along with birth control pills. Protect yourselves in all the ways that matter.