If you are sexually active, it’s essential you use contraceptives if you hope not to get pregnant. In the U.S., about 35% of women aged 15-49 use birth control methods to prevent pregnancy. One of the most popular birth control options is birth control pills, also called the pill. While the pill is highly effective, this method is not ideal for every woman. Continue reading this article to learn more about the pros and cons of birth control pills so you can make an informed decision.
What are birth control pills?
Birth control pills are oral contraceptives for preventing pregnancy. The pill contains a small number of hormones (generally estrogen and progesterone, depending on the type of pill) similar to the ones your body uses during your menstrual cycle. These hormones work by safely stopping ovulation – the release of the egg from the ovary. No egg to be fertilized by sperm means no pregnancy.
Hormonal birth control pills typically come in a pack of 28 or 24 pills. You take one pill each day, ideally at the same time every day. The level of effectiveness will be higher if you stick to your pill schedule and always take it on time.
Types of hormonal birth control pills
- Combination pills: this is the most common type of pill. Combination birth control pills contain synthetic forms of two hormones: estrogen and progesterone (or progestin, as it’s called in its synthetic form). Both hormones work together to prevent the eggs from developing, by thickening your cervical mucus and thinning your uterus lining. With combination pills, you take hormones for three consecutive weeks and a placebo during the fourth week – this is when you will get your period.
- Progestin-only pills: as its name suggests, these contraceptives contain progestin hormone only. They work similarly to combination birth control pills but are less consistent in ovulation prevention. Cervical mucus ticketing and uterus lining thinning, which stops sperm from reaching the eggs, is what helps prevent pregnancy. You must also take progestin-only pills each day. But unlike combination pills, there is no placebo or rest week. That often leads to shorter or no periods at all.
How effective is the pill?
When taken correctly, following each type of pill’s rules, birth control pills are highly effective. Both progestin-only and combination birth control pills have a 99% level of efficacy if you take them without fail. However, most women miss a pill here and there or take it outside the time window. That often causes the pill’s effectiveness to drop to 91-97%.
For progestin-only pills to be fully effective, you must take the pill within a 3-hour time period each day. If you miss this time window or forget to take the pill that day, you must take it as soon as possible. Then continue using the pills as you regularly do. However, for the new seven following days, you must use another birth control method, such as condoms, because the pill’s efficacy was compromised.
You have a little more flexibility when it comes to combination birth control pills. You should still try to take the pill at the same time every day, but as long as you take it within a 12-hour window, you will still be protected from pregnancy.
Birth control pills can lose effectiveness if you have vomiting or diarrhea, but also if you are taking certain medications such as antibiotics, HIV medications, or antiseizure drugs. In such cases, women should ask their healthcare providers about the risks of getting pregnant. You must resort to another birth control method as a backup to prevent pregnancy.
How do I get birth control pills?
Due to the increasing demand for birth control methods, the pill is generally easy to get. However, depending on your state, you may need a birth control prescription.
To get access to the pill, you can schedule an in-person appointment at a women’s healthcare clinic. After you provide some information, such as your medical history, your doctor will recommend the best pill option for your specific needs. After you get the prescription, you can then fill it at your local pharmacy and purchase the pills.
If you want to skip the in-person visit, online birth control providers are increasing in popularity. You can book an online consultation; some are via video, and others require you to fill out a medical questionnaire. Always make sure you choose an online service with licensed doctors who can prescribe you the medication you need. Once you order birth control pills online, they are shipped directly to your home.
How much do birth control pills cost?
There is a wide range of birth control pills types and brands; therefore, there is also a wide range of prices. Typically, the pill costs between $0 to $50, But in some cases, if you need a specific pill due to a medical condition, the price can go as high as $200. The price is per pack, so we will have to spend that much each month.
Birth control pills can be totally free for women with health insurance. Almost all insurance plans cover these types of contraceptives.
Pros and Cons of Birth Control Pills
Like most medications or other birth control methods, the pill comes with a set of advantages and side effects. When choosing contraceptives, it’s vital you pay close attention to all the pros and cons of the method you decide to go with. At an abortion clinic in Fort Lauderdale, professional doctors and nurses can show you all your options and help you make the best decision.
Are you thinking of starting on the pill? Here are the pros and cons of birth control pills:
Pros of taking the pill
High pregnancy prevention effectivity
The first and most crucial benefit of this birth control option is its pregnancy prevention efficacy. The pill is one of the safest and most efficient methods to have intercourse without getting pregnant. If you are highly rigorous with your pill schedule, the level of efficacy is 99%.
Menstrual cycle regulation
Some women have regular menstrual cycles naturally, while others can experience irregular periods. That means the gap between your periods keeps changing (they may come too early or too late). Some oral contraceptives, such as combination pills, help to balance hormonal fluctuation that takes place through your cycle. Besides regulating your period, it also helps with other menstrual issues, such as heavy bleeding.
Combination pills contain estrogen and progestin; this combination blocks the production of prostaglandin, the hormone in charge of controlling inflammation and uterus contractions. Since this pill prevents ovulation, it can also relieve ovulation cramping.
They don’t cause weight gain
Weight gain is a common concern among women looking for a form of birth control. But you have nothing to worry about; most studies discard the theory that hormonal pills for birth control cause weight gain. Still, some people report gaining weight after going on the pill. But that is often the result of temporary water retention, not actual fat gain.
Lower risk of ovarian cancer
Women who have used oral contraceptives have between 30% to 50% lower risk of ovarian cancer compared to women who never took birth control pills.
Cons of birth control pills
You have to take them every day
Unlike other contraceptive methods, you must take the pill every day to guarantee its effectiveness. That can be an issue if you have a busy schedule or easily forget to take the pill.
Like most medications, oral contraceptives have some side effects. You might experience nausea, vomiting, headaches, or dizziness when you start taking the pill. The good news is these symptoms almost always disappear after the first three months. Breast tenderness is another potential side effect of the pill; it can also increase the size of your breasts. That also goes away a few months into the pill; you only have to worry if this adverse effect continues long-term or if it causes you pain. Other common side effects include acne and skin changes.
Hormones play a crucial role in your emotions and mood. Sudden changes in your hormone levels, which happen when you take birth control pills, can affect your mood. Studies found that people with a history of emotional disorders, such as depression or anxiety, experienced an increase in their symptoms after going on the pill.
Every contraceptive method, including birth control pills, comes with a set of pros and cons. Before making up your mind on which method to use, check them out to make an informed decision. At our women’s health center, we help women know all their options and which one suits them best. Do you want to learn more about all the birth control options available to you? Contact us; our dedicated team is always ready to assist you.