Oral Contraceptives

a.k.a.: The Pill

What is the pill? 
How does it work?

The pill is a hormonal method of birth control that prevents the woman from releasing any eggs from her ovaries (ovulation) and also thickens the mucous around her cervix. The pill must be taken every day, at the same time each day to ensure its effectiveness. There are many different brands made by different pharmaceutical companies. The different brands contain different artificial hormones, but all work in the same way, to prevent ovulation.

What is the effectiveness rate of the pill?

When the pill is taken properly (everyday at the same time) the pill is over 99% effective. However, some women are not that careful. For typical use the effectiveness rate is 97%.

What are the advantages of taking the birth control pill?

The pill is very effective when one remembers to take on time. 
It is a very safe method. The risk of death from taking birth control pills is very low, and would be even lower if women over 35 who smoke didn't take the pill. 

It is reversible. A woman will regain her fertility as soon as she stops taking the pill. However, it is recommended to use a barrier method for 3 to 6 months prior to attempting to conceive 

It tends to decrease menstrual cramping, eliminate ovulatory pain, decrease the amount of flow and the duration of periods, decrease ovarian cysts, protect women against PID, prevent ovarian and endometrial cancer, benign breast disease and ectopic pregnancy. The pill also has been known to reduce acne and is effective in treating endometriosis.

What are the disadvantages of taking the birth control pill?

It must be taken daily at the same time everyday. 

COST. When bought in a pharmacy the cost ranges from $24 to $30 per pack. In a clinic, the price range is lower, from $10 to $22 per pack. One pack lasts for 4 weeks. 

Some women may complain of nausea and vomiting, water retention, and breast tenderness for the first 3 months. 

Some women notice an increase in headaches. 

Depression, mood changes, and decreased libido have been noted in a few pill users. 

Chlamydia infections are more common in women who use the pill because the surface of the cervix is closer to the vagina in these women. 

There is an increased risk of having a blood clot in the leg, lung, heart or brain. These risks are more often associated with smokers, sedentary women, overweight women, women over 50, women who have high blood pressure, diabetes (or a family member with diabetes), or have a high cholesterol level.

Who should not use the pill?

People who have or ever had a blood clot, stroke, heart attack, known or suspected breast cancer, estrogen dependent cancer, suspected pregnancy at the present time, liver disease or cancer, or decreased liver functioning at the present time. These people should use the pill with extreme caution: women over 35 who smoke more than 15 cigarettes per day, people with migraines that start after taking the pill, high blood pressure, diabetes, major surgery that requires immobilization within the next 4 weeks, undiagnosed vaginal bleeding, sickle cell disease, lactation (breast feeding), gall bladder disease, women over 50, completion of pregnancy within last 14 days and cardiac or renal disease.