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The Effectiveness of Birth Control Pills

Birth control pills are an effective method of birth control with a success rate of about 91%. Birth control pills come in a pack, usually a 28-day cycle, with one pill assigned to each day. You take a birth control pill daily, typically during the same time frame each day, depending on the pill. It keeps certain hormones elevated, making you less likely to get pregnant.

What Are Birth Control Pills?

The birth control pill is a type of contraception that contains hormones that prevent pregnancy. People call it the pill because it comes in pill form. Women take the pill orally once a day. The pill is most effective when you take it consistently at the same time each day.

Recommended birth control pill:

  • Drospirenone – this is an oral contraceptive that works by preventing the release of eggs from the ovaries (ovulation) and changing the cervical mucus and the lining of the uterus. Drospirenone oral contraceptive is a very effective method of birth control. 

Types of Birth Control Pills

There are two different types of birth control pills. Both types contain hormones that prevent pregnancy.

  • Combination pills contain estrogen and progestin.
  • Progestin-only pills are also called mini pills. They are better for some women, such as those who are breastfeeding or have a history of blood clots and strokes and shouldn’t take estrogen.

The pill comes in different dosing packets, from 21-day pill packs to 90-day pill packs, to even 365 days of active pills. Traditionally, depending on the brand and dose, you take at least three weeks of active pills followed by two to seven days of hormone-free pills. It is called cyclical dosing. Most women have a menstrual period during the inactive pills. Some brands do not provide any inactive pills at all in the pack. With the 21-day packs, a woman takes no pills for a week. During this time, you’ll have your period, similar to when taking inactive, hormone-free pills.

Some formulations offer continuous dosing, which means you do not have any inactive pills, and a woman takes an active pill daily. Alternatively, extended cycle dosing is when inactive pills or breaks in the active pill regimen only occur three to four times yearly. Skipping inactive pills prevents menstruation. Your healthcare provider can discuss the best option for you.

How Do Birth Control Pills Work?

Hormones in birth control pills prevent pregnancy by:

  • Stopping or reducing ovulation (releasing an egg from an ovary).
  • Thickening cervical mucus to keep sperm from entering the uterus.
  • Thinning the uterus lining so that a fertilized egg is less likely to attach.

How Effective Are The Pills?

The pill can potentially be 99% effective at preventing pregnancy if you take it without fail, meaning you don’t forget to take the pill for even a day or two. However, taking the pill ideally can be difficult, so nine out of 100 women who use the pill will have an unintended pregnancy every year. The pill is most reliable when you take it consistently at the same time each day. Being consistent helps keep hormone levels from fluctuating.

How Soon Will The Pill Work?

It can take up to seven days for the pill to become effective in preventing pregnancy. During this time, you should use another form of birth control. If the pill controls symptoms such as acne or abnormal bleeding, it can take three to four months to see the benefits.

Benefits of Taking Birth Control Pills

Some women take the pill for health purposes. The pill can:

  • Regulate or lighten menstruation
  • Prevent anaemia by making periods lighter or shorter
  • Lessen menstrual cramps
  • Manage premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and premenstrual dysmorphic disorder (PMDD)
  • Treat polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
  • Treat endometriosis or uterine fibroids
  • Lower the risk of ovarian cancer, uterine cancer and colon cancer
  • Improve acne
  • Stop unwanted hair growth
  • Reduce migraines
  • Control hot flashes during the transition into menopause

Side Effects of Taking Birth Control Pills

  • Breast tenderness or swelling
  • Headaches
  • Irritability or moodiness
  • Nausea
  • Spotting between periods

Some women experience medication side effects when they start taking the pill. These side effects often improve after a couple of months. Tell your healthcare provider if you experience side effects.

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