What are Oral Contraceptives/Birth Control Pills?
Oral contraceptives also called birth control pills, are tablets taken by mouth to control pregnancy. They contain a specific dose of the female sex hormones oestrogen and progestin, which are clinically proven to be effective in controlling pregnancy by bringing about physiological changes in your body.
What are the Indications for Oral Contraceptives/Birth Control Pills?
Oral contraceptives should be taken upon consultation with a Health Care Professional. They are taken mainly to control or prevent pregnancy. However, if you have already conceived, then they would not be of use. In that case, you would need to visit a specialist to discuss other possibilities if you want to terminate the pregnancy.
What are the Different Types of Oral Contraceptives/Birth Control Pills?
Oral contraceptives can be classified into two types:
- Combination pills: These contain two female sex hormones: oestrogen and progesterone. They stimulate your ovaries and inhibit the release of eggs. In addition, they bring about changes in your cervix and uterus that reduce your chances of conceiving. They can be further classified as:
- Monophasic pills: These deliver the same amount or dose of hormones throughout the month.
- Multiphasic pills: These mimic the natural hormonal changes that happen during the menstrual cycle and release varying levels of hormones throughout the month.
- Progesterone-only pills: They contain only one female sex hormone - progesterone. Progesterone-only pills induce changes in the female reproductive tract that prevent the sperm from reaching the egg, reducing the chances of fertilisation. Some progesterone-only pills can stop ovulation.
How do the Oral Contraceptives/Birth Control Pills Prevent Pregnancy?
Oral contraceptives prevent conception by releasing the hormones oestrogen and progestin through your skin into your bloodstream. These hormones promote the following physiological changes in your body to prevent pregnancy:
- Preventing ovulation; inhibiting the release of the egg from the ovaries
- Thickening the cervical mucus to impede swimming sperm
- Other changes in the female reproductive tract that make it harder for a fertilized egg to get implanted in the uterine wall
Before starting treatment you will need a medical review which will ask about your general health/periods/past medical problems (esp migraine/blood clots/epilepsy )/smoking status/medications and family history.
You will have your weight and height measured and a blood pressure check.
No other checks are needed unless you have specific symptoms/concerns.
Other forms of contraception
- Coils/IUD and IUS- not available from medicaGP
- Implants-not available from MedicaGP
- Depo-provera (injectable) -available, please call to discuss
- Barrier methods, ie Condoms-recommended in addition to other forms as provides protection from Sexually transmitted infections where appropriate.
How to Start Oral Contraceptives/Birth Control Pills?
The usual course of birth control pills lasts for a period of 21 or 28 days. This may be extended based on your doctor’s instructions. These pills are taken daily to ensure that you do not get pregnant. Women over 35 who smoke, women whose BMI is greater than or equal to 35 kg/m2 and women over 50 (regardless of smoking status) are advised NOT to take the combined contraceptive pill but can take the progesterone only pills. These are considerably safer for these groups of women and can, if necessary, be combined with HRT in women with menopausal symptoms. Visit your specialist to understand more about oral contraceptives, as improper use of these drugs can lead to adverse effects.
What are the Side Effects of Oral Contraceptives/Birth Control Pills?
Some of the side effects of oral contraceptives include:
- Breast tenderness
- Menstrual cramps
- Mood swings
- Blood clots
What are the Benefits and Advantages of Oral Contraceptives/Birth Control Pills?
Proper use of oral contraceptives should give you the desired results with minimal chance of failure.
Other advantages and benefits of oral contraceptives include:
- Easy to use
- Their effects can be reversed once you stop taking them
Oral contraceptives provide you your daily dose of oestrogen and progesterone. These hormones may have the following health benefits:
- More regular periods
- Lighter periods which helps to prevent anaemia
- Fewer uterine muscle cramps
- May help clear your skin and reduce acne
- Reduced risk of developing ovarian cysts or cancers in your reproductive tract