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13 things you should know about the birth control pills

Four in five sexually active women have used the contraceptive pill. Here’s what the doctors would like them to know.

How does contraception work?

birth control pills
contraceptive pill

There are basically two types of pills, both made from synthetic formulas of the hormones of progesterone and testosterone – almost 100% effective if used correctly. The first type contains progesterone, the female sex hormone, and the other a combination of estrogen and progesterone, says Dr. Jill Rabin, a women’s health specialist at Northwell Health in New Hyde Park, New York. . These hormones prevent pregnancy in different ways. “Progesterone thickens the cervical mucus, which then becomes an obstacle for sperm, and slows down the movement of the fallopian tubes so that the egg and sperm have difficulty joining,” she explains. It also makes the uterine wall hostile to implantation. “

The egg cannot cling to too thin a lining of the uterus – it needs a quiet, cozy place to implant. Estrogen inhibits contraception by suppressing the hormone responsible for ovulation. “If you interrupt this cycle, the egg will not come out,” says Dr. Rabin. None of these birth control pills methods protect you against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs or STIs).

Are there any women who cannot take combined birth control pills?

birth control pills
contraceptive pill

“A lot of people can’t take estrogen,” observes Dr. Rabin. This list includes, for example, women who have had bleeding problems, breast cancer, heart disease or who smoke. Progesterone is safer for some women.

How long does it take for the pill to work?

birth control pills
contraceptive pill

“Some pills work after only 72 hours, while others take five days to operate,” says Dr. Rabin. To be on the safe side, I tell my patients to use a condom for the first week. “

When should you take the pill?

birth control pills
contraceptive pill

It differs for each type, notes Dr. Rabin. “The progesterone pills should be taken at the same time every day or your cervical mucus will start to thin and you could get pregnant,” she warns. You can, however, take the combined contraceptives at any time of the day, but taking them at the same time will strengthen the habit. ” Many women find it easier to leave their box of birth control pills next to the toothbrush so they can get into the habit of swallowing them while brushing their teeth. Ask your doctor or pharmacist for advice on when to take the contraceptive pill.

What happens if I forget to take birth control pills?

birth control pills
contraceptive pill

“Take it as soon as you remember it or take two the next day, and if you forget it two days in a row, it might be time to think about a permanent, long-acting method of contraception. that doesn’t require you to rely on your memory, ”notes Dr. Rabin. Until then, use condoms until you have started another method of birth control pills.

How effective is the pill?

birth control pills
contraceptive pill

“There are two answers to the question of how well the pill works,” says Donnica Moore, president of Sapphire Women’s Health in Chester, New Jersey. In clinical trials or when women follow the dosage to the letter, efficacy is close to 100%. But when you take into account the vagaries of life, this efficiency is more like 91%. This means that 9 out of 100 women who take the pill get pregnant each year because it is difficult to remember to take it every day. “

What can affect the effectiveness of the pill?

birth control pills
contraceptive pill

Certain antibiotics, antifungal drugs and other drugs containing purported natural ingredients can affect how well a contraceptive works, warns Dr. Moore. “Whenever you are prescribed a medicine or start taking a new supplement, ask your doctor or pharmacist if there are any possible interactions between the medicine and the contraceptive you are taking and, if so, which, ”she adds. If you have gastroenteritis and vomit or have diarrhea, the effect of your contraceptive may be affected. An alternative method of contraception could be appropriate in this case, concludes Dr. Moore.

Does the pill have any side effects?

contraceptive pill

“The main side effects are bloating and chest pain,” says Mary Jane Minkin, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Yale University. Talk to your doctor about prescribing pills that contain less estrogen. The main side effects of progesterones (there are many types) are mood swings and irritability. If this happens, ask your gynecologist to prescribe a contraceptive that will ease your mood swings. “

What should I do if I take the pill and want to get pregnant?

contraceptive pill

Although you can simply stop taking the pill, there are other considerations you should discuss with your doctor. For example, you don’t know if your blood sugar is very high and, according to Dr. Rabin, this is a problem you need to deal with before you get pregnant. “You should also take prenatal vitamins while you are still on birth control pills to give yourself a good boost. Take supplements first, stop the pill, see your doctor, then get pregnant. ”

After stopping the pill, how long should I wait before I get pregnant?

“No need to wait,” said Michael Cackovic, a gynecologic and obstetrician at Ohio State University in Columbus. In fact, we sometimes give the pill to women with irregular periods in order to regularize their cycles. ” This is the only way to know when you are ovulating and to have regular cycles, he says. “Your fertility then peaks.”

Can I breast-feed while taking the pill?

contraceptive pill

“There is a risk for women who take the pill immediately after giving birth that their milk supply will decrease, but if you have breastfed your baby for six weeks then your milk supply will be well established and start taking the pill. pill will not affect it, ”says Dr. Cackovic.

What happens if I get pregnant while taking the pill?

contraceptive pill

It happens, says Dr. Cackovic. “If you get pregnant while taking the pill, stop taking it and have your obstetrician look at the baby after 18 weeks to make sure he is okay,” he recommends. If you continue to take the pill during your pregnancy, you will have irregular bleeding every month. ” If you think you are pregnant while taking the pill, take a pregnancy test and make an appointment with your doctor.

With all these pills out there, how do I know which one is right for me?

contraceptive pill

“I ask my patients what they were taking before and if it worked I tell them to continue,” says Dr. Cackovic. Your doctor should take your medical history into account to see if there is any contraindication to combination oral contraceptives. There are other considerations, adds Dr. Rabin. Some contraceptives also treat acne. And there’s a quarterly pill that makes you take hormones every day for three months, then a placebo for a month. Some women take active pills for a year without ever having a period. “There really isn’t any medical reason why most women get their period every month,” concludes Dr. Rabin.

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