Facts About Hormonal Birth Control Pills

If you’ve decided to use birth control pills for contraception or other medical reasons, your next decision is what type.

We spoke with Mary Jane Minkin, MD, clinical professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive sciences at Yale University School of Medicine and member of HealthyWomen’s Women’s Health Advisory Council, about the options women have when it comes to Birth control pills and how to choose the right one. one for your priorities and needs.

How do estrogen-free and combined hormonal birth control pills work?

There are two basic types of hormonal birth control pills, which are also called oral contraceptives. They all include progestinand some also include estrogen.

Hormonal birth control pills that contain estrogen and progestin are called combination pills. Progestin is a laboratory-made version of the natural hormone progesterone. Pills without estrogen, which only contain progestin, are sometimes called progestin-only pills, POPs, or minipills.

Progestin is what prevents you from getting pregnant. suppress ovulation and does cervical mucus – the mucus at the entrance to the uterus – thick or pasty, which makes it Difficult for sperm to swim.. So, progestin has a dual-acting role in preventing pregnancy. The addition of estrogen to the pill acts primarily to regulate menstrual bleeding.

Read: Why hormonal contraceptives are so important for women’s health care >>

How will my period be affected by combined birth control pills? What about estrogen-free birth control pills?

Some types of combined birth control pills are actually prescribed for the purpose of period control: they can regulate periods and reduce menstrual pain. If you are a person who has terrible periods, with cramps, excessive flow, or both, you may do better with a combination pill. The impact of non-estrogen pills on your period may be more variable. Some women do not get their period at all and others bleed occasionally.

Are there certain medical conditions or reasons why I can’t take certain types of birth control?

Yes. There are several medical conditions and reasons why you may not be able to take certain types of birth control. For example, breastfeeding women are discouraged from taking a pill containing estrogen because it can suppress breast milk production. Once you finish breastfeeding, you can go back to taking a combination pill. Additionally, women who suffer from migraine attacks may do better with a pill without estrogen. Women whose healthcare providers are concerned about blood clots should also avoid pills that contain estrogen.

What side effects are most common with each type of pill?

Side effects are most common when you first start taking the pill, as your body adjusts to the hormones. They generally resolve after one or two months. They may include breast pain, spotting, changes in your period, headache attacks, or nausea. If your side effects are serious, talk to your doctor. You may need to change the type of pill you are taking.

Of course, some side effects, such as changes in the menstrual cycle, may be desirable. Some women use the pill to regulate, reduce the intensity or even skip their periods.

What happens if I forget a pill?

If you miss a pill, take two the next day. However, many providers will suggest that women taking non-estrogen pills use back-up birth control for at least a week after missing the dose. Skipping a pill with a combination pill is not as significant.

How soon will I be protected from getting pregnant once I start taking each type of pill?

For all types, if you start taking the pill on the first or second day of your period, you should be protected as soon as you start taking it. If you start midway through your cycle, it may take longer to be effective. Ask your healthcare provider when you can start relying on your pill for birth control.

Will taking hormonal birth pills now affect my chances of getting pregnant in the future?

Using any type of pill should not affect your ability to get pregnant later. And you don’t have to worry about long-term use: neither type of pill will affect your fertility prospects.

I always suggest to women who are using the pill and planning a pregnancy in the future to use this time to get in the best shape possible. Good nutrition and exercise habits are of great help for a good pregnancy. And I recommend you get more folic acid once you are trying to conceive. Since you’re already in the habit of taking a daily pill, why not switch to a vitamin containing folic acid?

This educational resource was created with the support of Exeltis.

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