What are birth control pills?
Birth control pills are a type of oral contraceptive used primarily to prevent pregnancy. Aside from this, some birth control pills can also be used to delay your period, reduce period pain and as an emergency contraception. There are several types of birth control pill and it can take a while to find out which one works best for you.
Where do you get contraceptive pills?
You can get contraceptive pills online, from family planning clinics or from a doctor. According to the CDC, the contraceptive pill can be prescribed without needing any blood tests or physical examination other than a blood pressure check. The doctor will also ask if you experience migraines or if you have a family history of blood clots or certain cancers. This is so they can make sure that you get the safest contraceptive pill for you.
Other uses of birth control
Combined hormonal contraceptives are predominantly used for preventing unwanted pregnancies, but they also provide other benefits. Birth control methods like the combined pill, patch and vaginal ring are also used to regulate the menstrual cycle, make your periods lighter and less painful and ease premenstrual tension. Due to the control they give you over your cycle, you can also delay your period. This also makes them a good option for women who suffer from endometriosis. In this case, you would take the pill consistently for several months without the 7 day break.
If you suffer from acne, combined hormonal birth control methods can also help to decrease the appearance of spots and prevent new ones from forming.
Myths vs Facts
Myth: The pill makes you gain weight.
Not really true. Some women think they gain weight, while others only see monthly fluctuations. When women experience the estrogen-related side effects, they are more likely to have cyclic weight gain that goes away each month during and shortly after their periods.
Depending on the type of progesterone used, the effect on weight will be different. For instance, desogestrel and norgestimate minimize weight gain, whereas, levonorgestrel and norethindrone can increase appetite and weight gain.
The main reason OCPs are associated with weight gain is that teenagers and young women often go on them when their weight is increasing from the growth process itself. Weight usually stabilizes around the age of 25, but for the 10 years prior, there is linear weight gain regardless of the use of contraceptive hormones.
Myth: You need to take a break from the pill after a certain amount of time.
This is not true. The overall hormone production from the ovaries is suppressed by the hormones in OCPs. Women think that taking hormones raises their overall hormone level, but the ovaries produce a lot more. So, by suppressing ovulation, the overall effect is lower hormone exposure during each menstrual cycle and throughout your lifetime. Some women will stop having menses because the lining of the uterus is thin from oral contraceptives. This is perfectly safe and will change back to normal bleeding once they stop using The Pill. Taking a break will only increase your risk of getting pregnant.
Myth: All birth control pills are the same.
There are many different types of birth control pill. The active ingredients, type of progestin and the dosage of each hormone can all vary. In addition, some brands of the pill include placebo pills in the pack, to help you keep track of which pills to take on each day.
Progestin-only pills (the Mini Pill) or lower dose combined pills are often given to women who experience estrogen related side effects i.e. breast soreness, nausea, increased vaginal discharge or irritability.