Birth Control Pills & Effectiveness

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A woman's ability to be proactive in family planning is very important. Being able to enjoy sex with her husband or partner while having a choice as to when she has a child is essential to quality of life, and the well being of both herself and future children. Birth control pills are used extensively by young women in North America, and it's always best to be as knowledgeable as possible about these medications if you're currently are using them or are planning to. One of the more common questions young women have regarding them is how much they can rely on the effectiveness of birth control pills.

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That’s a good place to start here, and we’ll also look at a whole host of other aspects of taking these medications that you may want to take into consideration. Remember that birth control should also always be paired with safe sex practices if you are not in an exclusive, monogamous relationship and that you should meet with your physician immediately if you have any concerns about your gynaecological health related to your sex life.

Types of Birth Control Pills

There are two types of birth control pills – progestin-only pills, and combination pills.

Progestin-only pills are called mini pills, and they don’t contain estrogen. Estrogen is one of the primary female hormones, but some women can’t tolerate elevated levels of it for other health reasons. For this reason, progestin-only pills are a good choice for women who can’t take estrogen. One important note here is that there will be no inactive pills with progestin-only pills, so you may still have a menstrual period when taking this type of birth control pills.

Some common progestin-only pills are Camila, Heather, Errin, Jencycla, Nor-QD, and Ortho Micronor.

Combination birth control pills contain synthetic hormone variants of both estrogen AND progestin, which is why they’re called combination pills. Some pills will be active (containing hormones) while other will be inactive (no hormones). Combination contraceptive birth control pills can be one of 3 subtypes; monophasic pills, multiphasic pills, and extended-cycle pills.

Monophasic pills are taken in one-month cycles and each active pill provides the same dose of hormone. The inactive pills included are then taken during the last week of the cycle, which allows you to have your period and be able to expect it more accurately.

Multiphasic pills are used in one-month cycles and provide different levels of hormones during the woman’s cycles. Then, in the same way as it is with monophasic contraceptives, you take the inactive pills during the last week of your cycle to promote your menstrual period.

Extended-cycle pills are used in 13-week cycles, and the woman will take active pills for 12 weeks and then again during the last week she’ll take inactive pills to have her period. The 13-week cycle for this type of birth control pills appeals to many women because it means they only have 3 or 4 menstrual periods a year.

Some common combination birth control pills are Alesse, Loestrin, Yasmin, and Beyaz, among many others.

Which is Best for You?

There are factors that will help your physician determine which birth control pill will be best for you. They include:

  • Your menstrual symptoms
  • Whether you are currently breastfeeding
  • Your level of cardiovascular health
  • Medications taken
  • Chronic health conditions currently experienced

Birth Control Pills Effectiveness

Naturally, a woman’s primary interest in taking these medications will be to be able to entirely trust that she won’t become pregnant as a result of unprotected sex. Indeed, birth control pills effectiveness is priority number one. Progestin-only and combination pills work differently to prevent pregnancy. Combination ones work in a pair of ways. They start by preventing the woman’s body from ovulating, meaning it doesn’t produce the egg once a month as it would normally.

The effectiveness of combination pills is also ensured with the way they affect a thickening of the cervical mucus. The thickening of the cervical mucus means sperm have a nearly impossible time getting through it, and so even if an egg is produced there’s almost no chance that a sperm will be able to reach and fertilize it.

Not to be outdone, progestin-only pills are also an effective birth control method. They also take a dual-approach to preventing pregnancy, and they promote a thickening of cervical mucus too. The second part for this type of contraceptive pill involves the way they also promote a thinning of the endometrium. That’s the lining of the uterus where an egg implants itself after fertilization. This ensures that even if a sperm was able to get through the thicker cervical mucus and fertilize and egg, it’s unlikely that the egg would be able to plant itself and grow in the uterus.

More Than 90% Effectiveness

That’s what most women will want to hear, and it’s true that birth control pills provide an over 90% chance of preventing pregnancy when taken properly. To put that into more understandable terms, if 100 women were taking birth control pills then 9 or fewer of them would get pregnant. One of the most important things for women to remember when it comes to the effectiveness of progestin-only birth control pills is that they must be taken within the same 3-hour time period every day.

For combination birth control pills there’s a little more leeway. You should still try to take them at the same time everyday, but as long as you take them within the same 12-hour window then you can still expect to have 90%+ reliability against pregnancy.

Of course, another appealing aspect of taking birth control pills is that once the woman stops taking the medication, she’s back to her standard reproductive capacities. This is reassuring for women who are sure that eventually they would in fact like to become pregnant.

Another benefit of combination birth control pills? They provide protection against other undesirable health conditions, including:

  • Endometrial and ovarian cancer
  • Acne
  • Thinning bones
  • Ectopic pregnancy
  • Non-cancerous breast growths
  • Anemia
  • Severe menstrual cramps
  • Heavy periods

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IMPORTANT NOTE: The above information is intended to increase awareness of health information and does not suggest treatment or diagnosis. This information is not a substitute for individual medical attention and should not be construed to indicate that use of the drug is safe, appropriate, or effective for you. See your health care professional for medical advice and treatment.

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