Oral Contraceptives: How Effective Are Birth Control Pills?
Oral contraceptives are a type of hormonal contraception method. They come in a 21-day or 28-day pill pack. However, it is possible to extend the use for longer protection against unwanted pregnancy. For the pills to work effectively, you need to follow certain tips. In this post, we will let you know about the same.
Types of Birth Control Pills and Their Functions
The medicine works by stopping ovulation. When there is no ovulation, the ovaries do not release an egg. So, the sperm is unable to fertilize the egg. Also, it thickens the cervical mucus. This makes it harder for the sperm to reach the uterus. So, even if you ovulate by any chance, pregnancy will not happen.
Types of birth control pills:
- COCs or combination pills are the most common form of oral contraceptives
- They contain both progestin and estrogen
- Then there are progestin-only pills or mini pills/POPs
- They contain only the hormone progestin
How to ensure the tablet works the best for you:
- The pills may not work properly if you miss the dose or do not refill the prescription on time
- Also, it may not work, if you do not take the pills at specified timing
- If you want the birth control pills to work effectively then you need to follow a few tips
- Keep a reminder somewhere to take the pills on time
- You may set an alarm on your phone or download a pill reminder app for notifications
- Keep your tablets reachable. For instance, at tableside, in your bag, etc
- If you know someone who takes oral contraceptive every day, you can remind each other
- For extra protection, you can utilize a barrier method such as a condom during intercourse
How Effective Are Birth Control Pills?
The birth control pills are 99% effective when you use those perfectly. However, people tend to forget to take the tablets on time. Or, they may miss taking the medications altogether. In this case, the effectiveness of the medicine reduces to 91%. This means in 100 users, 9 may conceive every year.
So, the better you follow the pill intake schedule, the better the tablets will work. Start taking the pill pack on time. Remember to consume the medicine every day. However, the success rate is 99%. This means there is always a slight risk that you may conceive even if you consume the pills correctly.
You may also check out other hormonal methods to prevent pregnancy. This includes such as an implant, intrauterine device (IUD), skin patch, etc. However, if you want to go ahead with the pills, take them correctly. This will assist you in staying away from unwanted pregnancy.
How Soon Do Oral Contraceptives Work?
The time it takes for oral contraceptives to work depends on when you take those. It also depends on the kind of birth control pills you are using. You may begin the routine any day of the month. You may need to follow backup contraception such as a condom for up to a week if you use a certain type of pill.
COCs or Combination Pills
- You may start with these tablets in 5 days after the first day of your menstrual cycle
- In this case, you will not conceive and stay protected from the beginning
- For instance, if you get the monthly bleeding on a Sunday morning
- Then you can start with the tablet anytime till Friday morning
- Here, from the same day, you will not risk getting pregnant
- You may also start with COCs any other time of the month
- You have to take the tablet for 7 days before expecting pregnancy prevention
- In this case, as a backup method, you may use a condom during intercourse for a week
POPs, Progestin-only Pills, or Mini Pills
- You may start with minipills any time of the month
- Here, you can expect protection from pregnancy after 2 days or 48 hours
- You may utilize condoms as a backup method for the initial 48 hours
- Then certain types of POPs will safeguard you from pregnancy from Day 1
- But if you take this kind of mini pill at the time of your periods, then use a condom
- Do this for the first two days of taking the oral contraceptive
- It is advisable to consult a doctor if you do not understand which birth control to use
- He/she will analyse your health to guide you with a suitable hormonal contraceptive pill
Many women may take progestin-only pills if estrogen-based medicines do not suit them. So, you must consult a physician to understand if COC or POP is the right choice for you. Whichever kind of contraceptive pill the doctor suggests, follow the indications properly.
What May Impact the Effectiveness of Oral Contraceptives?
The most common reason for the pill not working as expected is not consuming it every day. However, the tablets may not remain effective even if you vomit out the pill soon after intake. Or, if you are sick such as having diarrhoea for 2 days or 48 hours. This may increase the chances of a pregnancy.
Here are a few other factors that may not make the oral contraceptives work as required:
- Certain HIV medicines
- St. John’s Wort herbs
- Antibiotic Rifampin, antifungal Griseofulvin
- Some anti-seizure medications to treat bipolar disorder and psychiatric issues
- If you have to follow any of these medicines, as a backup, use condoms
- If necessary, you may speak to your doctor for a switch to another contraception method
The tablet is great to prohibit a pregnancy. But it will not protect you from STIs and STDs. If you wish to stay away from sexually transmitted infections and diseases, use condoms. If you utilize birth control pills and condoms together, then it will offer you a better safeguard.
How to Use Birth Control Pills for Other Health Benefits?
Oral contraceptives may affect a few changes in your body. These effects may bring several health benefits for you. For instance, the hormones in the medicine can assist in avoiding heavy or irregular periods. Also, these may reduce the pain associated with the menstrual cycle.
You can expect relief from PMS such as cramps. Also, the pills may make your bleeding lighter. It is also responsible to regularize your periods. Sometimes, you can even use the medications to safely delay your menstrual cycle. This will have no bad effects on your body.
There are types of birth control pills that help you manage weight, prevent acne, bone thinning, iron deficiency related to periods of bleeding. These may also prevent the possibility of certain cancers of the ovaries and breasts. Also, the pills may stop ovarian cysts.
For some women, changes in periods can make them worry that they will conceive. However, chances of conceiving are low when you take the medicines on time every day. If you feel that you are pregnant, you can go in for a pregnancy test at home or clinic.
When You Should Not Take Oral Contraceptives?
Every medication does not suit people. So, a particular birth control pill may not suit you. The reason for the pill not working can be any. For instance, people who drink alcohol heavily or smoke may not receive the best benefit from hormonal contraception methods.
Also, certain kinds of contraceptive pills may not work well for those over 35 years of age, and a smoker. In this case, you must not take COCs or other types of birth control methods that contain estrogen hormones. But you can take progestin-only pills if you smoke.
Here are other factors for which you must avoid combination pills:
- Uncontrollable hypertension or high blood pressure
- Blood clots, vein inflammation, or an inherited blood-clotting disorder
- Stroke, heart attack, angina, or other severe cardiac issues
- Breast cancer, liver disease, bad diabetes
- Migraine headaches with the vision of zigzag lines or flashing
- Adrenal insufficiency, kidney disease
- Cancer of ovary, breast, cervix, endometrium, or uterus
Do not take progestin-only pills in the following instances:
- Breast cancer
- Certain type of lupus
Side Effects of Birth Control Pills
In some cases, women may experience a few common side effects. But these may not affect everyone. The side effects are non-hampering. Also, these disappear in 2 to 3 months as your body adjusts to the hormones. If any of the experiences bother you, then you must inform your doctor about it.
Some of the side effects include:
- Breast soreness or tenderness
- Breakthrough bleeding or spotting
- Changes in menstrual bleeding (late, early, or stopping altogether)
- Mood swings
Birth control pills are highly effective in safeguarding you from pregnancy. Apart from stopping you from conceiving, the medications have several other benefits. There are two types of oral contraceptives that females use. These are progestin-only pills and combination pills.
Depending on your health condition, you may utilize any of these. For maximum effectiveness, you should take the COCs or POPs as per the doctor’s indications. Take the medicines on time and you can expect complete protection from pregnancy at any point in time.
May 3, 2021 Sam Bell