What is the pill?
- A prescription method of birth control.
- A month-long series of pills containing synthetic hormones, progesterone with or without estrogen (without is the mini pill) that are taken every day to:
- Prevent ovulation (the release of an egg from the ovaries)
- Thicken the cervical mucus to make it harder for the sperm and egg to meet
- Thin uterine lining to hinder egg implantation in the uterus if egg fertilization occurs
- A pill must be taken every day. Generally, the pills taken during the first three weeks of the month contain hormones, while the pills taken during the fourth week contain no hormones, allowing you to have a menstrual period.
- For most effective use, it is best to take each pill at the same time of day, such as each morning when you wake up or before bed if you have a consistent bed time.
Does it protect against pregnancy?
Yes, as long as the pill is taken every day consistently. Pregnancy can occur if the pill is not taken correctly. For example:
- If pills are begun too late in the course of the menstrual cycle
- If two or more pills are missed in a row
- If pills are not taken in the correct order
- For the really low-dose pills, even if you are half-day late taking the pills
- Typical use: 5 percent
- Perfect use: 0.1 percent
- Makes periods more regular
- Decreases the amount of menstrual flow
- Decreases the severity of cramps
- Decreases acne
- Helps prevent serious health risks such as:
- Pelvic inflammatory disease (a major cause of infertility in women)
- Ovarian and endometrial cancer
- Osteoporosis (thinning of the bones)
- You must remember to take it every day without fail or it will not be effective.
- Does not protect against STIs.
- Has some health risks such as:
- Weight gain or loss
- Spotting between periods.
- Breast tenderness and/or growth
- Nausea or vomiting
- Decreased or increased sexual drive
- The pill must be obtained from a medical clinician, and an examination is required.
- The costs of the examination and pill vary, but are usually lower at a clinic such as Planned Parenthood (link at end of page). The cost is covered by Medicaid.
- The pill should not be used by smokers who smoke more than 15 cigarettes a day.
- Use of the pill in addition to condoms is a more effective way to protect yourself against pregnancy as well as STIs.
- If you are breast feeding or suffer adverse side effects from estrogen, such as severe headaches and high blood pressure, a pill without estrogen is available and is known as the mini pill.
Although you should take the pill at roughly the same time of day, it is not considered missing the pill unless you forget to take the pill for the whole day.
- If you miss any hormone pills, you need a backup method of birth control (such as condom) for the rest of the month.
- If you miss one hormone pill: take it with current day's pill (2 total) as soon as you remember.
- If you miss 2 hormone pills: take 2 pills as soon as you remember, and 2 the next day, then back to normal.
- If you miss three pills, that's it! You will get your period. Throw away the package and start over with a new package.
- If you miss a sugar pill, don't worry about it. Stay on track with your pack.
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Additional Outside Sources
Below are sources PAMF accessed when researching this topic. PAMF does not sponsor or endorse any of these sites, nor does PAMF guarantee the accuracy of the information contained on them.
Planned Parenthood. Birth Control [Online].
womenshealth.gov Birth Control Fact Sheets [Online].