What you need to know about the Oral Contraceptive Pill
Taken every day, the birth control pill will regulate your hormones and prevent pregnancy with over a 99% success rate. There are two main categories of oral contraceptive. These are the mini pill and the better-known combination pill. Both pill compositions contain artificial imitations of synthetic hormones that are produced naturally by the ovaries. The difference is that the mini pill usually contains only synthetic progesterone. And the combination pill contains imitations of oestrogen and progesterone. There are many benefits to the pill but there are also potential side-effects that may be harmful to your body.
See our list of pros and cons of the popular oral contraceptive combination pill and figure out if it’s the best choice for your body and future.
How does the Oral Contraceptive Pill work?
The contraceptive combination pill inhibits the ovulation in the ovaries. And both the combination and mini-pill prevent the sperm cell from fertilizing the egg. This is done by thickening the mucus around the cervix. The synthetic hormones can also affect the lining of the uterus making it difficult for the egg to attach to the uterine walls.
How to get the pill?
Depending on your country and local laws, oral contraceptives can be acquired at sexual health clinics, gynaecologists or your local medical practitioner. The combination pill usually come in a pack of 28 pills that contain 21 active pills with hormones and 7 placebo pills.
For effectiveness, it is encouraged to take the pill at the same time every day.
Positive Side-Effects of The Oral Contraceptive Pill
Reducing Chances of Pregnancy
The first and primary benefit of using oral contraceptives is pregnancy prevention. If taken correctly, oral contraceptives are over 99% effective in preventing pregnancy. However the success rate drops significantly to between 93-97% if not taken as instructed.
Regulating Menstrual Cycles
Birth control methods like the oral contraceptive combination pill balance the hormonal fluctuations that occur throughout your cycle. This can help with a variety of different menstrual issues. These include irregular or heavy bleeding. It can even help with some polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) symptoms, including pain, acne and excess hair.
Every birth control method works differently. Most oral contraceptives make periods lighter and more predictable – helping you be prepared for your monthly visitor.
The contraceptive combination pill often helps with menstrual cramping because it contains both estrogen and progestin. This hormone combination blocks the production of prostaglandin, a hormone that controls inflammation and the contraction of your uterus. The pill can also relieve ovulation cramping, because simply, it prevents ovulation from occurring.
Did you know? Birth control pills are often prescribed by doctors to help with painful menstrual and ovulation cramping.
Manage Symptoms of PMS
Premenstrual Syndrome or PMS refers to physical and emotional symptoms that occur before your period. Many women experience a mix of physical or emotional side effects in the weeks or days leading up to their period. Like many other menstrual issues, PMS is usually due to hormonal fluctuations and the combination pill can help by providing a regular, dosed amounts of hormones.
Less Menstrual Migraines
Although the pill may cause some headaches in the beginning, it could save you from them in the long run. If you experience intense headaches or migraines during various stages of your cycle, this may be partly due to hormonal spikes. These hormonal drops in oestrogen and progesterone are a major trigger for migraines in some people. As mentioned before, hormonal birth control methods can minimise the spikes and drops in your hormonal cycle throughout the month, thus minimising the chances of menstrual migraines.
Reduced Risk of Cancer
Research suggests that women who use birth control pills are less likely to get ovarian and endometrial cancer than those who don’t.
Protection against developing these types of cancer can last up to 30 years after stopping the combination birth control pills, and this protection could increase with every year of use.
The most recent research suggests that the pill has minimal effect on the risk of developing breast cancer. However, studies show that there is an 18% reduction in developing colorectal cancer among women who use the pill.
The Negative Side-Effects of The Oral Contraceptive Pill
Headaches and Nausea
If you’re experiencing headaches, nausea or dizziness since you’ve started the pill, the good news is that these side-effects usually last no longer than the first 3 months.
Surecheck tip: Take your oral contraceptive with a meal or snack. This can reduce the queasy feeling during the time your body needs to adjust to new levels of oestrogen and progesterone. Another option to minimize nausea is to take the oral contraceptive before bedtime.
Skin Changes & Acne
Acne can appear or flare up when there is a fluctuation in hormone levels. It’s not uncommon for women to experience a breakout when they start taking the pill. However, the combined contraceptive pill is also prescribed as a way of treating and controlling acne as it regulates and controls your hormone release. If you’re still breaking out after 3 months then consider talking to your doctor. A doctor can help you find a contraceptive pill or acne treatment that works for you. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all when it comes to these things.
Oral contraceptives have also been linked to increasing women’s risk of a skin condition called melasma. This condition causes your face to break out in little brown-coloured splotches. However, research suggests that this is more likely to occur in women who have a family history of this skin issue. Talk to your doctor if you or someone in your family has a history of melasma.
The synthetic hormones in the oral contraceptive may cause breast tenderness. It can even increase the size of your breasts. This growth and tenderness is often temporary and is only something to worry about should it continue long-term or be bothersome.
Just like in puberty, the hormone oestrogen is primarily responsible for the development of breasts. And because the pill contains artificial oestrogen, it is quite common for the breasts to grow.
The first few weeks of birth control may cause a mild increase in your weight. Luckily, this is usually temporary side effect brought on by water retention caused by hormonal changes.
Not everyone suffers with this initial water-weight. Some studies examined between birth control and weight gain found that most people that use birth control do not see any changes to their weight or body composition.
Some studies have found that women with a history of mood conditions such as depression, anxiety and insomnia have seen an increase these symptoms’ severity once they go on birth control pills. However, others report that going on the pill boosted their mental well-being. There is also evidence suggesting that the contraceptive pill decreased their depression. It is clear that thee effects on mental health can vary greatly from person-to-person. If you have a history of mood conditions, speak to your mental health doctor, psychologist or general practitioner for advise on which birth control method will work best for you.
It’s important to remember is that every person is different and so is every birth control. Different oral contraceptive have different doses and combinations of hormones. You may need to try a few options before you find the one that works for you.