For one thing, the Pill doesn’t protect against STDs.
Since its FDA approval in the 60s, “the Pill” has become one of the most popular and effective forms of reversible birth control ever invented. A 2013 National Health Statistics Report says that of the women who’ve opted to use some form of birth control, 82 percent of them had also used the Pill at some point.
Birth control pills contain different combinations of the hormones estrogen and progestin to prevent pregnancy. There many different kinds, so it’s important to talk with your doctor to find the right one for you. Here’s what Kecia Gaither, MD, director of perinatal services at Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center, tells her patients about taking birth control pills:
1. There are two main kinds: progestin-only pills or combination pills that have both estrogen and progestin.
“The hormones in the Pill keep your ovaries from releasing eggs and thicken your cervical mucus to block sperm from getting into the uterus,” says Dr. Gaither.
Sometimes called "minipills," progestin-only pills are ideal for women who are breastfeeding or who can’t take estrogen, such as breast cancer patients. They’re slightly less effective than combination pills.
When it comes to combination pills, you have a lot of options. “One of the main differences among them is when you get your period and how long it will last,” says Dr. Gaither. With some pills, you take them every day for three weeks, then wait a week before starting a new pack, and that’s when you get your period. With others, you can take the Pill every day for three months, and you only get your period four times a year. Some pills you can take for a year straight without getting a period.
2. The Pill does not protect you against STIs.
The Pill is great at preventing pregnancy, but it won’t protect you from sexually transmitted infections (STIs). What does? Using a condom.
Condoms dramatically lower your risk of getting—or spreading—an STI. What’s more, condoms also protect against pregnancy, so using a condoms and birth control pills together gives you double pregnancy protection.
3. The Pill is 91 percent effective at preventing pregnancy.
When used perfectly, the Pill is 99 percent effective. But, hey, no one is perfect. “With typical use, the pregnancy protection is a little lower,” says Dr. Gaither.
Remember: The better you are a taking your pill every day and starting your pill packs on time, the better the Pill will work at preventing pregnancy.
4. Missing pills is the main mistake you need to avoid.
“This is one of the main reasons people get pregnant while they’re on the Pill,” says Dr. Gaither. One of the best ways to remember to take your birth control pill is to take it at set times during your normal routine. For example, if you take your medicine every day after breakfast or before brushing your teeth at night, you may be less likely to forget. (Here are more helpful tips to help you remember to take your pills.)
It’s also important to know what you do when you miss a pill. “If you miss just one day, take it as soon as you remember, and take the next one at your regular time,” says Dr. Gaither. “But if you miss two or more in a row, you should use a back-up birth control method, like condoms, or use emergency contraception if you recently had sex.” Here are important facts about emergency contraception everyone should know.
5. For the progestin-only minipill, timing matters!
Taking your pill outside of the same 3-hour window each day can raise your risk of pregnancy. You don’t need to be quite so precise on timing with combination pills.
6. There are many reasons to take the Pill aside from preventing pregnancy.
The birth control pill has many other medical uses that are incredibly beneficial to those who take it. “[The Pill] may also stop heavy bleeding during your period, reduce painful cramps, ease PMS symptoms, improve acne, and reduce the risk of certain kinds of cancer, like ovarian and endometrial,” says Dr. Gaither.
7. The Pill has side effects you need to be aware of.
Common side effects that you may experience while on the Pill include:
And breakthrough bleeding.
Like other birth control options that contain estrogen, the Pill may not be safe if you have certain health issues such as blood clots, high blood pressure, breast cancer, or serious migraines. “The Pill may slightly increase your risk of breast and cervical cancer, but research shows this risk goes down over time once you stop taking the Pill.
Here are more routine birth control options to consider:
Dr. Gaither, an ob-gyn and maternal fetal medicine specialist, is director of perinatal services at Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center, a member of NYC Health + Hospitals System in Bronx, New York.
00:00:00,000 --> 00:00:02,946
00:00:02,946 --> 00:00:07,607
Birth control pills contain different
combinations of the hormones, estrogen and
00:00:07,607 --> 00:00:10,130
progestin, to prevent pregnancy.
00:00:10,130 --> 00:00:13,510
The pill doesn't protect against
sexually transmitted diseases.
00:00:13,510 --> 00:00:15,900
There are so many different kinds, so
00:00:15,900 --> 00:00:19,080
it's important to talk with your
doctor to find the right one for you.
00:00:19,080 --> 00:00:25,015
Here's what else I tell my patients
about taking birth control pills.
00:00:25,015 --> 00:00:28,080
00:00:28,080 --> 00:00:31,501
There are two main kinds,
00:00:31,501 --> 00:00:36,160
combination pills that have
both estrogen and progestin.
00:00:36,160 --> 00:00:39,933
The hormones in the pill keep your
ovaries from releasing eggs and
00:00:39,933 --> 00:00:44,202
thicken your cervical mucus to block
sperm from getting into the uterus.
00:00:44,202 --> 00:00:45,655
00:00:45,655 --> 00:00:50,270
Sometimes called minipills, progestin-only
pills are ideal for women who
00:00:50,270 --> 00:00:55,060
are breastfeeding or who can't take
estrogen, like breast cancer patients.
00:00:55,060 --> 00:00:58,585
They're slightly less effective
than combination pills.
00:00:58,585 --> 00:01:02,690
When it comes to combination
pills you have a lot of options.
00:01:02,690 --> 00:01:06,620
One of the main differences among
them is when you get your period and
00:01:06,620 --> 00:01:08,570
how long it will last.
00:01:08,570 --> 00:01:11,860
With some pills,
you take them every day for three weeks
00:01:11,860 --> 00:01:15,970
then wait a week before starting a new
pack, and that's when you get your period.
00:01:15,970 --> 00:01:18,970
you can take the pill every day for
00:01:18,970 --> 00:01:23,650
three months, so you only get
your period four times a year.
00:01:23,650 --> 00:01:27,760
Some pills you can take for
a year straight without getting a period.
00:01:27,760 --> 00:01:32,210
The pill is 91% effective
at preventing pregnancy.
00:01:32,210 --> 00:01:35,160
When used correctly,
that number jumps to 99%,
00:01:35,160 --> 00:01:40,490
but with typical use, the pregnancy
protection is a little lower.
00:01:40,490 --> 00:01:45,860
There are many reasons to take the pill
aside from preventing pregnancy.
00:01:45,860 --> 00:01:48,660
It may also stop heavy
bleeding during your period,
00:01:48,660 --> 00:01:53,620
reduce painful cramps,
ease PMS symptoms, improve acne, and
00:01:53,620 --> 00:01:58,870
reduce the risk of certain kinds of
cancer, like ovarian and endometrial.
00:01:58,870 --> 00:02:02,070
But the pill has side effects
you need to be aware of.
00:02:02,070 --> 00:02:05,960
Common ones include headache,
nausea, breast tenderness, and
00:02:05,960 --> 00:02:07,310
00:02:07,310 --> 00:02:09,870
Like other birth control
that contains estrogen,
00:02:09,870 --> 00:02:14,630
the pill may not be safe if you have
certain health issues such as blood clots,
00:02:14,630 --> 00:02:18,510
high blood pressure, breast cancer,
or serious migraines.
00:02:18,510 --> 00:02:22,540
The pill may slightly increase your
risk of breast and cervical cancer, but
00:02:22,540 --> 00:02:28,440
research shows this risk goes down over
time once you stop taking the pill.
00:02:28,440 --> 00:02:30,950
So let's recap.
00:02:30,950 --> 00:02:34,470
The pill is 91% effective
at preventing pregnancy.
00:02:34,470 --> 00:02:35,530
You take it once a day.
00:02:36,680 --> 00:02:38,524
You need a prescription, and
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the pill doesn't protect you from
sexually transmitted diseases.
00:02:42,820 --> 00:02:48,062
Combined Hormonal Birth Control: Pill, Patch, and Ring. Washington, DC. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. (Accessed on October 17, 2021 at https://www.acog.org/Patients/FAQs/Combined-Hormonal-Birth-Control-Pill-Patch-and-Ring)
How Do I Use the Birth Control Pill. New York, NY: Planned Parenthood. (Accessed on October 17, 2021 at https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/birth-control/birth-control-pill/how-do-i-use-the-birth-control-pill)Contraceptive Methods Women Have Ever Used. National Health Statistics Report. Atlanta, GA: CDC. February 2013. (Accessed on October 17, 2021 at https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nhsr/nhsr062.pdf)