What are birth control pills?
Birth control pills, also called the Pill, are a type of birth control
that regulates your hormones. If you take one pill a day every day, you'll be very well protected against getting pregnant. back to top
How do birth control pills work?
Birth control pills contain hormones that prevent ovulation
. Normally, every month your ovaries
produce an egg. Birth control pills work by preventing the egg from being produced. If the egg isn't there, the sperm can't fertilize it, and you can't get pregnant.
There are different types of birth control pills, and each contains different kinds and amounts of hormones. Each type has slightly different side effects
. If you have side effects from one pill, talk to your health professional about it. He or she can switch you to another type of pill. back to top
Why would I want to use birth control pills?
They do a great job of keeping you from getting pregnant. Birth control pills are really reliable—they're 99.7% effective. But you've got to remember to take them faithfully every day for them to work. back to top
What are the other benefits of birth control pills?
Though their main purpose is to keep you from getting pregnant, birth control pills have other advantages. In fact, many girls take birth control pills just for these other benefits.
How do I get birth control pills?
- Regulating your periods. If your body doesn't ovulate regularly, you can have irregular periods, heavy bleeding during periods, and bleeding between periods. The hormones in birth control pills help to regulate your menstrual cycle so that your period comes every month.
- Less bleeding during your period. When you ovulate, your body is setting itself up to grow a baby. To do that, the inside of your uterus grows a lining. If you're not pregnant, your body automatically gets rid of the lining every month. That shedding of the lining causes your period. Birth control pills decrease the amount of lining that grows in the uterus. Because there's less lining to get rid of each month, you bleed less. Also, your period may last for only 2 or 3 days. Because they bleed less, girls and women who take birth control pills are less likely to have anemia. Anemia is a condition that people develop when they don't have enough iron in their bodies. Iron is contained in the blood and when you bleed less, you lose less iron and don't develop anemia.
- Treating acne. Some birth control pills are really good for this.
- Less pain and cramping from your period.
- Preventing ovarian cysts. Many painful ovarian cysts are caused by the normal process of ovulation. Birth control pills prevent ovulation, and so they prevent cysts.
- Treating endometriosis. Birth control pills can be taken to shrink endometriosis.
- Reducing the chance of getting ovarian cancer. back to top
If you want to use the Pill, make an appointment with your health professional or go to a clinic. If you both think they're the right form of birth control for you, you'll get a prescription that you can fill at a drugstore. back to top
How do I take birth control pills?
Birth control pills come in special packs that make it easier for you to take them the right way.
You should start your first pack on the first Sunday after your period starts. (But listen to your health professional if he or she tells you a different day of the week.) You should take your pill at about the same time each day. This makes the Pill more effective because it keeps your hormone levels steady. It also helps you remember to take it.
Some pills come in 21-day packs. You take one pill every day for 21 days, and then take 7 days off. Usually, you'll get your period during the week off. But most girls use 28-day packs. The pills for 7 of those days are sugar pills, which help you keep up the routine so that you won't forget to start a new pack on the correct day. Usually, you'll get your period during the week that you're taking the sugar pills. back to top
Do birth control pills start working right away?
No! You're not protected against pregnancy for the first month that you use birth control pills. Be sure to use an additional method of birth control (such as a condom) during the first month. back to top
What should I do if I forget to take a pill?
You should take it as soon as you remember! If you forget to take a pill one day, and you don't remember until the next day, you can take 2 pills the next day. If you forget to take a pill for two days in a row, you can take 2 pills the next day, and 2 pills the day after that. If you forget to take a pill for three days in row, you're not protected that month. Be sure to also use another method of birth control in that case as you finish the pills. back to top
Do I have to do anything special while I'm taking birth control pills?
Helpful Hints for Birth Control Pills
- Birth control pills may cause a slight upset stomach. It'll help if you take them with a light snack. Some girls find that it bothers them less to take the pill at bedtime.
- Whatever schedule you set up for taking the pills, stick to it.
- Take your pills with you on vacation or to a friend's house.
- When you start your sugar pills, you should have the next new pack already at your house, so you'll be ready to start the following week. You don't want to get to Sunday night when the drugstore is closed to remember you need to start a new pill pack.
You need to visit with your health professional 2 to 6 months after you start the Pill. He or she will check your blood pressure to make sure it isn't getting too high. Your health professional will also want find out if you're having any side effects
from the Pill. back to top
Who shouldn't use birth control pills?
Some girls shouldn't use birth control pills. If you have any of the following, you should never use birth control pills:
- blood clots
- liver disease
- breast cancer
- bleeding from your uterus that is not your period
- coronary artery disease
If you have any of the following conditions, you probably shouldn't use birth control pills:
- high blood pressure
- gall bladder disease
- migraine headaches
- sickle-cell anemia
If you smoke, you probably shouldn't use birth control pills. Smoking increases your chances of having serious complications from the Pill. If you want to use the Pill, you should be a nonsmoker. back to top
What are the risks of birth control pills?
Most methods of birth control carry some risks, even if you're healthy. Taking birth control pills may increase the chances that you'll get one of the following:
What are the side effects of birth control pills?
- heart attack
- high blood pressure
- liver tumors
- gall bladder disease
- breast cancer back to top
Birth control pills have many side effects. One of the most common side effects is breakthrough bleeding
. This is light bleeding or spotting
that happens between periods. Many girls have breakthrough bleeding in the first 3 months on the pill. Most of the time, it goes away on its own. Breakthrough bleeding that lasts for more than 3 months probably won't go away on its own. Changing to a different type of birth control pill often solves the problem. Other side effects include:
- high blood pressure
- weight gain or loss, but just a pound or two
- breast tenderness
- decreased or missed periods
- less vaginal discharge
- depression or mood changes
If you have any of these side effects, you should tell your health professional. Just switching to a different pill often solves the problem. back to top
Do birth control pills prevent sexually transmitted diseases?
No. Birth control pills don't prevent sexually transmitted diseases
. You must use condoms
to avoid getting a sexually transmitted disease. back to top
How do I know if birth control pills are right for me?
Birth control pills are an excellent form of birth control because they work so well and are very easy to use. You can decide if birth control pills are right for you by talking with your health professional. Together you can make sure that you have no health problems that would prevent you from using them. back to top