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Medications > Birth Control Pills

Birth Control Pills

Birth control pills use female hormones to prevent pregnancy. These hormones work by preventing the release of an egg from the ovaries each month. They are also used to regulate cycles, decrease the amount of pain or bleeding during a cycle, or to help control acne.

Recommended Reading 

Check out The NO-PANIC Guide to the Birth Control Pill – Part I for an easy to read cartoon about how hormones control the menstrual cycle and how oral contraceptives work. The NO-PANIC Guide to the Birth Control Pill – Part II goes into risks and benefits of hormone therapy.

How is the pill taken?

It is important to take the pill at the same time each day. We suggest taking it in the evening, since morning doses are more often forgotten or weekend doses are taken late if you sleep in.

How effective are they?

When taken regularly every day, birth control pills are 98 percent effective in preventing pregnancy. When pills are missed, there is no guarantee of good birth control. Protection against pregnancy is effective after completing one month cycle (package) of pills. There are some medications and herbal supplements (such as St. John's Wort) that can decrease the effectiveness of birth control pills. Please ask your pharmacist before taking any medications and supplements. The only 100 percent effective method of birth control is abstinence (not having sexual intercourse).

Are they safe?

If you are a healthy girl with no medical problems, you can take birth control pills safely. If you do have a health problem, talk to your provider to see if birth control pills are right for you and about rare side effects and risks. Smoking increases the risk of blood clots on the pill, and is not recommended. Please tell your provider if you smoke.

Are there side effects?

Most girls who use birth control pills have no side effects. Some girls have nausea, headaches or changes in their weight, skin or mood.  There are good side effects to birth control pills, too. Menstrual periods usually become regular, shorter and lighter. Girls using birth control pills usually have less menstrual cramping and/or may experience an improved complexion.

Will using birth control pills now affect my ability to have children later?

No. Your ability to have children will be the same as it was before you started using birth control pills. It doesn't matter how long you take the pills.

How do I get started on birth control pills?

To make sure birth control pills are right for you, meet with your provider. If you use birth control pills, you will need to see your provider several times each year to make sure the pill is working for you. You will take your first pill after your period starts, most commonly the Sunday after your period. It can be started the same day your period starts, or even after it finishes, as long as it is within that week. If your period was a couple weeks ago, you must wait until the next cycle to begin the pill. You want the lining of your uterus to be "clean" when starting the pill.

Sexually transmitted diseases

Birth control pills do not protect you from sexually transmitted infections (STIs). If you decide that you are going to have sex, it is important that you use a condom every time to prevent the spread of disease. Please do not make this decision lightly because not only are there risks of pregnancy and infection, but sex can be used to emotionally control others. Do not ever make the decision to have sex if you are under the influence of alcohol or a drug that impairs your ability to make good decisions.

Insurance companies now require us to screen for gonorrhea and chlamydia with a urine sample at least once a year if you are on birth control, regardless of why you're on it. Even if you're not sexually active and use the hormones for a medical reason, they want us to screen for these infections. It is a simple, painless urine test.
 

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