Birth control pills or combined oral contraceptives (COCs) are the most popular method of contraception used by girls and women in many countries. In some cases, birth control pills are used not only for contraception but also for acne, irregular menstrual cycles, ovarian cysts, etc. treatment.
Birth control pills are a combination of synthetic forms of progesterone and synthetic estrogen and are intended to prevent pregnancy. Synthetic hormones, as a part of COCs, inhibit natural cyclical hormone production in the body. Unintended pregnancy is prevented by a combination of several factors. Birth control pills suppress ovulation by maintaining constant estrogen level in the body. Without estrogen level peak, ovary does not receive signal to start ovulation process, which eliminates the possibility of fertilization and pregnancy. Synthetic hormones inhibit gonadotropins production by the pituitary gland, which is important in ovulation process. Under synthetic hormones influence, cervical mucus thickens, which hinders sperm passage into the uterus. In addition, under hormones influence, which is contained in birth control pills, uterus lining becomes unsuitable for fertilized egg adoption.
Birth control pills came to the market in 1960 and became the most popular and one of the most effective methods of reversible contraception.
In recent years, birth control pills have undergone significant changes, namely, synthetic hormones dose was decreased, new combinations of synthetic hormones appeared. These changes significantly reduced side effects incidence and extended oral contraceptives range. To date, practically all healthy women who do not smoke may use these pills, irrespective of their age. In contrast to original oral contraceptives, low-dose contraceptives have far fewer side effects and even offer a positive impact on health in long-term perspective.
Birth control pills effectiveness is high, up to 97 – 98% (if used correctly!!!). Despite its safety for most women, birth control pills do have some risk factors for health. For example, if you’re over 35 and you smoke, have thromboembolic events or hepatic diseases in anamnesis, receiving oral contraceptive is contraindicated to you. In addition, birth control pills do not protect you from sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), including HIV (human immunodeficiency virus), the virus that causes AIDS. Birth control pills do not protect you against HPV (human papillomavirus), which can cause cervical cancer.
The most secure method of contraception is considered a double contraception, which includes the combination of birth control pills and male condoms.
Most pills contain two types of synthetic female hormones – estrogen and progestin (which are usually produced by ovaries). These pills are called «combined oral contraceptives». In today’s market, there is a large number of this type of pills variations.
Another type of pills contains only one hormone (progestin), and is called «progestin contraceptive» or «mini-pills». Pills of this type suppress ovulation, thicken cervical mucus and prevent implantation if fertilization has still occurred.
How to Start Taking Birth Control Pills?
Watch the video to know how to start taking birth control pills:
There are several options when you start taking birth control pills:
- You can start taking them from the first day of your menstrual cycle (day 1 of menstrual hemorrhages), in this case, you will not have to use additional methods of contraception during the first month of reception.
- You can start taking them from the fifth day of menstrual cycle, in this case, you will not have to use additional methods of contraception during the first month of reception.
- You can start taking them from the first Sunday after your menstrual cycle beginning, in this case, you’ll need additional contraception for seven days.
- Not recommended! You can start taking pills on the day they were prescribed, but in this case, you will need to make sure you are not pregnant, and in this case, it is necessary to use additional contraception during the first month of pills reception. If you have a negative pregnancy test, and it took 10 to 11 days after unprotected sex, you can be almost certain that you are not pregnant and can start receiving pills.
General recommendation from Canadian Pharmacy Mall – during first 7 days of taking birth control pills, women should use additional methods of contraception, such as, for example, condoms, to prevent unplanned pregnancy. After 7 days birth control pills provide contraceptive effect by themselves.
You need to know that birth control pills provide contraceptive effect only at regular admission. They do not accumulate in the body, so they need to be taken every day. You should not skip pills or stop taking them even if you do not have sex often.
Also remember that certain medications, such as some antibiotics, can reduce oral contraceptives effectiveness. If you missed a pill for any reason or are taking medications that could reduce contraceptive properties of pills, use an additional method of contraception for the rest of your cycle.
Pills are very effective if taken according to instruction – namely, every day at the same time. An additional method of contraception is necessary if you had vomiting or diarrhea. Using condoms is always important if there is a risk of STDs.
Most birth control pills are available in the 21-day or 28-day package. In the first case, after taking 21 pills, you make a 7-day break, in the second – you will be taking pills every day (7 pills in a 28-day package does not contain hormones). Some women prefer 28-day package because it helps them to form a habit of taking a pill every day.
Smoking, Alcohol and Antibiotics Effect on Hormonal Contraceptives
How does smoking, alcohol, and antibiotics effect the contraceptive action of pills, is their effectiveness reduces? Every woman, before choosing for herself contraception type, must be aware of the fact that, despite almost 100% reliability promised by the manufacturer, sometimes unwanted pregnancies still occur. And this is connected not only with violations of contraceptive reception regimen. But with the fact that, in addition to it, organism receives some vegetable or chemical substances that reduce hormonal agents effectiveness.
Let’s begin with alcohol. Is it allowed to drink alcohol with birth control pills or they are totally incompatible? If you look at the instruction to any hormonal contraceptive, there is nothing said about alcohol. However, this does not mean that large amounts of alcohol and birth control pills are compatible. Everything should be in moderation. Including alcohol consumption, and not only for women taking contraceptives. It’s detrimental for health in general.
And alcohol can actually decrease birth control pills effectiveness if it provokes vomiting or diarrhea within 2 – 4 hours after taking a regular pill. If this happens, you need to take another pill, as the first one, most likely, did not manage to fully absorb. In general, many women, knowing that they are to take part in some great event, such as New Year’s company party, postpone pill intake till morning, and then such situation will not occur.
Women, who wear «NuvaRing» vaginal ring or «Mirena» intrauterine device can have no worries about diarrhea and vomiting because hormones do not pass digestive system from them and get directly into the blood.
Is it allowed to smoke while taking birth control pills or not? Smoking is a habit which you should get rid of. And especially those who take combined oral contraceptives. And it’s not that smoking reduces hormone pills effectiveness, this is not so. However, such combination can sometimes be deadly for women.
Cigarettes alone increase venous thrombosis risk (blood clots forming in veins). And contraceptives increase this risk due to the fact that they contain estrogen hormone (in regular combined OC).
Birth control pills and smoking is a bad combination especially when a woman is over 35 years old when the risk of any cardiovascular disease, including heart attack and blood stroke, increases. These women should choose non-hormonal contraception, such as condoms or intrauterine device.
But for many, it is not suitable. Are not their pills for women who smoke? There are no such pills. However, when patient categorically insists that her doctor prescribes her hormonal contraceptives, then it will be one-component preparations. That is, mini-pills. They contain progestogen. Estrogen is not included in the composition. So for women over 35 – 40 years old this type of drugs is safer. But, of course, they have disadvantages. They consist in spotting that appears apart from menstruation, as well as inability to «shift» their menstruation (this can be done while taking combined preparations).
Middle-aged smoking woman receiving oral contraceptives usually especially carefully supervised. Every six months they should go to the doctor and it is desirable to take blood tests. Also, to independently control their blood pressure level.
As for thrombosis, usually, its first sign is swelling of one limb. If you notice that your one leg had become very swollen – you need to urgently visit a doctor and check veins condition.
Is it allowed to take contraceptives and antibiotics at the same time? Yes, it may sometimes be necessary. At this, it is not necessary to interrupt contraceptives reception, at least, if the package is not over yet. This can lead to unwanted pregnancies and uterine hemorrhages.
Antibiotics and oral contraceptives may well be taken together, but only on one condition – throughout antibacterial drugs therapy, as well as 7 – 10 days after it, barrier contraceptives should be used as additional protection.
If you do not insure yourself this way, stating that it is possible to get pregnant while taking birth control pills and antibiotics are absolutely right. Instructions to hormonal contraceptives usually list drugs group that can reduce their effectiveness. But it is desirable to use additional protection when taking any antibacterial agents.
By the way, not only birth control pills and antibiotics may give unwanted pregnancy, but also many other drugs taken at neurological diseases. And also herbs, such as St. John’s wort.
Is it necessary to have an abortion, in case of pregnancy caused by antibiotics and oral contraceptives combination? Modern doctors in most cases say no. If drugs have strongly hurt the embryo, pregnancy will simply cease to develop or spontaneous miscarriage will occur. If all is well, then a woman gets normal gynecological supervision.