birth control pills2 293x300Birth control pills are a type of medication that women can take to prevent pregnancy. Birth control pills are relatively safe, effective, and convenient, but they must be taken daily to work. You must have a doctor’s prescription to obtain birth control pills.

Birth control pills, commonly referred to as just “the Pill,” contain the hormones estrogen and progestin (a synthetic form of progesterone), which prevent a woman’s body from releasing an egg. The pill also changes the thickness of a woman’s cervical fluid, so that it blocks sperm and prevents it from fertilizing an egg.

Types Of Birth Control Pills

Many different types of birth control pills are available for women today, including extended dose oral contraceptives and progesterone-only “mini pills.”

Traditional birth control pills

Traditional birth control pills are based on a 28-day cycle. In addition to preventing pregnancy, birth control pills can help reduce menstrual cramping and heavy bleeding. Studies also show that women who take oral contraceptives have less risk of developing osteoporosis, pelvic inflammatory disease, benign breast growths, and certain types of cancer.

Extended dose oral contraceptives

Extended dose birth control allows a woman to have fewer periods than with conventional pills. With extended dose pills, you may have just four periods a year, or even none. Women on extended dose pills may experience some light bleeding, or spotting, between periods.

Progesterone-only mini pills

Many women who have not had good results with regular birth control pills have done well with the “mini pill,” because it contains no estrogen. Many women who quit taking birth control pills do so because of the side effects of estrogen, not the progesterone. The mini pill is about 97 percent effective, may be used by breast-feeding mothers, and is a safer option for smokers over 35.

Birth Control Effectiveness

Used correctly, birth control pills are up to 99.9 percent effective, but they must be taken every day to work properly. Oral contraception may be slightly less effective if you are very overweight. The progesterone-only pill must be taken at the same time every day to keep the correct levels of hormones in a woman’s body. Mini pills are slightly less effective than conventional birth control pills.

Birth Control Side Effects

Some women may experience nausea, vomiting, and breast tenderness while on the pill. Women on the mini pill are more likely to experience bleeding between periods.

Some women should not take the pill, including women who have blood clots, certain cancers, and a history of heart attack or stroke, as well as those who could be pregnant.

The pill does not protect against HIV infection or other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).