The type of birth control you use is a personal decision. There are many options to choose from. If you are sexually active woman you may consider birth control pills. It is better to prevent unwanted pregnancy by using birth control method than regretting in the future.
The pill also known as oral contraceptives are medications you take by mouth to prevent pregnancy. They are upto 99% effective if used correctly.
Types of birth control pills.
There are two main types of birth control pills. They include;
1. Combination pills.
2. Mini pill.
This type of pills contain both estrogen and progestin. They are a wide variety of combination pills depending on whether you want to have periods or not.
It consists only of progestin. The mini pill does not offer as many choices as combination pills. The progestin dose in mini pills is lower than the progestin dose in combination pills.
How combination pills work.
The pill prevents the ovaries from releasing an egg each month (ovulation). It also;
Thickens the mucus in the neck of the womb so that it is harder for sperms to penetrate the womb and reach an egg.
Thins the lining of the womb so that there is less chance of a fertilised egg implanting into the womb and being able to grow.
There are many brands of combination pills made up of 3 main types;
1. Monophasic 21 day pills.
Most common type. Each pill contains the same amount of hormones in it. One pill is taken each day for 21 days and then no pills are taken for the next 7 days.
2. Phasic 21 day pills.
Contain 2- 3 sections of different coloured pills in a pack which contain different amount of hormones. One pill is taken each day for 21 days then no pills is taken in the next 7 days. They need to be taken in the right order. Example is logynon.
3. Everyday (ED) pills.
There are 21 active pills and 7 inactive dummy pills in a pack. The two types of pills look different. One pill is taken each day for 28 days without a break between packets of pills.
Starting the combined pill.
You can start taking the pill at any point of your menstrual cycle. There is a special guidance if you just had a baby, abortion or miscarriage.
1. Starting on the 1 st day of your period.
If you start taking the combined pill on the 1st day of your period you will be protected from pregnancy immediately.
2. Starting on the 5th day of your cycle or before.
If you start taking the combination pill on the 5 th day of your period or before you will be protected from pregnancy immediately.
3. Starting after the 5th day of your periods.
You will not be protected from pregnancy immediately and you will need an additional contraception until you take the pills for 7 days.
What do you do when you miss the pill?
Take the pill as soon as you remember even if it means taking two pills in the same day. You do not need to use back up birth control.
N/B. Missed pills are considered the main reason why the rate of unintended pregnancy in the first year of using oral contraceptive pills is about 7 out of 100.
Who cannot use combination birth control pills?
Blood clots or history of one.
History of stroke or heart attack.
Known or suspected breast cancer or cervical cancer.
Unexplained vaginal bleeding.
High blood pressure.
Smoke and are over 35 years of age.
Side effects of combination contraceptive pills.
Spotting between periods
Spotting refers to vaginal bleeding between menstrual cycles. It may look like light bleeding or brown discharge.
It occurs because the body is adjusting to changing levels of hormones and uterus is adjusting to having a thinner lining.
In theory birth control pills could lead to increase in fluid retention or water weight. They could also lead to increases in fat or muscle mass. However, researchers have not yet confirmed this.
Headaches and migraines.
Advantages of oral contraceptives.
1. Doesn’t interrupt sex.
2. Makes periods lighter and less painful.
3. Sometimes reduces acne depending on the brand.
4. Women can manipulate the cycle to avoid periods during certain events.
5. Prevent pelvic inflammatory diseases.