Best Birth Control Pill: Which One’s Right For Me?
To prevent a pregnancy, birth control pills are one of the most effective and safest options. You can take oral tablets instead of an invasive procedure for pregnancy prevention.
All you have to do is take the pills as directed by your doctor without missing a dosage, and have a freedom over your reproductive system.
There are several types of oral contraceptive pills in the market, so it may confuse you as to which are best suited for you.
This is why we have come up with a guide on how to understand the best birth control pill as per your health and need.
In this article we will cover the following points:
- Types of birth control pills
- Composition of hormones in these pills
- How birth control medicines work
- Precautions for taking these pills
- Pros & Cons of birth control pills
So, without wasting any more time, let’s get into it.
Types Of Birth Control Pills
There are two primary types of birth control tablets – combination birth control pills (consist of estrogen and progestin), and mini pill (consists of progestin).
All the pills in the pack of a mini pill course contain a single mixture and formulation of hormones unlike the combination pills wherein, there are both active and inactive pills.
As mentioned below, the distribution in number of active and inactive tablets depends on how frequently you wish to get your menstrual cycles.
- Conventional Medicines: In such a medication pack, there are 21 active pills and 7 inactive pills. Otherwise, it contains 24 active pills and 4 inactive pills. If you take this type of contraceptive, then you will get your periods every month, while the inactive pills are on.
- Extended Cycle or Continuous Dose: In such a medication pack, there are 84 active pills and 7 inactive pills. Menstrual cycle occurs 4 times in a year in this case, at the time when you are on the inactive tablets. Medications consisting of only active pills are also available. These eliminate the possibility of bleeding.
The combination contraceptive tablets also differ in the dose of hormones:
- Monophasic: Here, each active pill has the same amount of progestin and estrogen.
- Multiphasic: Here, the amounts of hormones are different in the active pills.
If you are sensitive to hormones, then you can choose a low-dose combination birth control tablets.
These have less than 50 micro grams of ethinyl estradiol (a type of estrogen).
But taking these medicines may lead to a greater frequency of breakthrough bleeding (spotting or bleeding between menstrual cycles), as against the tablets with a higher dose of hormones.
How Does Birth Control Pill Work?
Combination birth control medications work against the process of ovulation, so that your ovaries do not release an egg to be fertilized.
The medicines thicken the cervical mucus, which helps keep away a sperm from fertilizing egg and entering the uterus. The medications further thin the lining of the uterus, known as the endometrium.
This does not allow fertilized egg (if any) to attach itself to the endometrium, thus, eliminating the chance of pregnancy.
On the other hand, the mini pill works by thinning the uterine lining and thickening the cervical mucus, preventing sperm from mating with the egg.
The pill sometimes may suppress the ovulation process, but it does not contain estrogen. The tablet has a lower dose of progestin as compared to the amount of dose in a combination contraceptive tablet.
Now that we know about the variety, the next important thing is which one’s best for you? Well, the best way to find that out is weighing the pros & cons of both these types.
Benefits & Disadvantages of Combination Pills
Below-mentioned are the pros & cons of taking combination hormone birth control tablets.
Pros of Combination Pills
- No risks linked with pregnancy, such as a higher rate of ectopic pregnancy, greater risk of blood clots, increased breast tenderness, nausea, etc.
- These risks may occur even when you are on contraceptive pills, but the effects are less severe than one you may experience when pregnant.
- Less of dysmenorrhea (severe menstrual cramps)
- Lessening of acne
- Reduced in production of androgen from polycystic ovary syndrome
- Reduced risk to endometrial and ovarian cancers
- Positive effect perhaps on bone mineral density
- Relief from PMS (premenstrual syndrome)
- Reduced menorrhagia (heavy bleeding) and anemia related to it
- Lighter, shorter, and more predictable menstrual cycles, or fewer or no menstruation
Cons of Combination Pills
- Increased risk of stroke and heart attack
- No protection against HIV or sexually transmitted infections
- Rare side effects such as breast tenderness, bloating, irregular bleeding, depression, nausea, headache, and weight gain
- Increased risk of blood clots related to particular progestin types in the tablets (but the overall progestin effect on blood clot risk in not much)
Benefits & Disadvantages of Mini Pills
Below-mentioned are the pros & cons of taking mini pills for pregnancy prevention.
Pros of Mini Pills
- This tablets suits if you have certain health issues such as blood clot, migraine, heart disease or a risk to it, high blood pressure, etc
- You can use it even when breastfeeding, as the hormone amount will not affect the milk supply
- You can get pregnant soon after quitting the tablets
- Elimination of risks related to pregnancy such as that mentioned in the first pointer under the section ‘pros’ of combination birth control pills
Cons of Mini Pills
- A little less effective in protecting against pregnancy as compared to combination pills
- No protection against STDs and HIV
- Slightly increased incidence of ectopic pregnancy, where the fertilized egg attaches inside the fallopian tube
- The pill has to be taken every day at the same time. If you delay intake of a pill more than 3 hours than the time of consumption, then use a backup birth control such as a condom, for at least two days
- Rare side effects such as ovarian cysts, irregular menstrual bleeding, headache, decreased libido, acne, depression, weight gain, hirsutism, and breast tenderness
Birth Control Pills: Precautions
Before you take any kind of oral contraceptive pill, you must know which one is the most appropriate for your health.
You must inform your healthcare provider about any medicine that you take as well as your medical history, so that the doctor can advice you on the right contraceptive medicines to take.
The doctor may advice you against taking combination birth control pills, if you:
- Older than 35 years of age and smoking
- Have a history of breast cancer
- Have a current or history of pulmonary embolism or deep vein thrombosis
- Have a history of heart disease or stroke
- Have high blood pressure
- Have diabetes related problems such as neuropathy, retinopathy, or nephropathy
- Show the possibility of being immobilized for a long period due to a surgical procedure
- Face unexplained bleeding from uterus
- Take St. John’s Wort, anti-tuberculosis, or anticonvulsant medicines
- Have a liver disease
The doctor may advice you against taking mini pill, if you:
- Take anti-tuberculosis agents or anticonvulsants
- Have unexplained uterine bleeding
- Have breast cancer
As understood from the above pointers, you do have choices in oral contraceptive pills.
From combination pills and mini pills, you have to choose the one ideal for your health. Take a suggestion from your doctor to know which of these medications will suit the best in protecting you against pregnancy.
It is wise if you let the doctor know of your medical history and the medicines you currently take or have taken recently.
This will help the health practitioner to guide you through the right birth control tablet or method to use.
If you wish to get pregnant at some point of time, then follow the advice of your healthcare provider as to when to stop taking the oral contraceptive medicines.
January 20, 2020 Sam Bell