Contraception- The Pill
Lately we have been going over the basics of women’s health. Contraception, other wise known as birth control, is another aspect of that and so I wanted to begin a segment on the different types of contraception, how they are used and what is the most effective so that you can go into your doctor appointment fully informed. We are aware that contraception can be controversial but we want to approach the topic from a place of knowledge so that you can make informed decisions and decide what is best for you.
To begin contraception prevents you from getting pregnant through sexual intercourse, or vaginal sex as it is more commonly referred. This does not mean that contraceptions work 100% of the time. Their individual effectiveness varies depending on a number of factors but they are all quite high when used properly.
There are a few different forms to consider when looking at contraception. Today we are going to focus on what may be considered the most commonly prescribed contraception; the pill.
The term ‘pill’ is one that many women recognise and accept as being an easy way to describe any number of different brands of medication that accomplish the same ultimate goal, pregnancy prevention. In spite of having many different types and using multiple hormone differentiations, the pill is what most people think of when they think of female contraception. The term “the pill’ and even the phrase ‘birth control’ are relatively modern. We can go into the history of the pill, as it is quite interesting on a day when i have more time to discuss it (I know! There are so many things to talk about at a later date, but I promise we will get to it all eventually). The pill is meant to mimic a monthly cycle and therefore many pill packs have anywhere between 21 to 30 days worth of pills to take. Your brand of oral contraception may also include placebo pills, which will still be taken on the days when your menstrual cycle is in effect.
The pill depends upon you taking it around the same time every day in order to be as effective as it should be. For this reason if you know you are the type of person who might forget to take the pill everyday you may choose to ask your doctor about other options. Another option is to set an alarm, or two or three, to remind yourself to take your pill.
The reason it is so important to take the pill regularly is due to the way it works. No matter the pill you take it releases man made hormones to convince the body that you are already pregnant and that there is no need to release an egg for ovulation. Without releasing an egg it becomes much more unlikely that you will become pregnant. It is still possible that you can become pregnant under such circumstances, which is called an ectopic pregnancy, and if this is the case then your doctor will instruct you on the next steps to take. We will be taking about ectopic pregnancies in another blog.
You will want to start your pack from left to right, unless otherwise specified. Many doctors and most pill packs recommend that you start on the first Sunday after your period. If you’d rather, you can start the day after your final day of bleeding no matter what day of the week that happens to be. Some doctors suggest taking your first pill on the first day of your period. With this last method the birth control should be effective immediately whereas with the others you will want to take additional precautions (if you are having sexual intercourse, of course) such as condoms, spermicide, etc for the first 7 days of your first pill pack. Once again, you will want to choose a time that works best for you and take your pill as close to the same time every day. after you have finished your first pill pack you will start your next one. If you have placebo pills begin to take your next pill pack after you have finished the placebo pills. if you do not have placebo pills your pill pack should include instructions to guide you through when to take your next pill (usually 7 days after your last pill).
In addition to preventing pregnancies there are other benefits to taking oral contraception. The pill can help with acne and regulating your period. It can also assist with bone density, cysts, ovarian cancer, and serious infections. If the pill your doctor prescribes to you contains iron supplements, the pill can also help with iron deficiencies. Certain brands also add ingredients that assist with hair retention. Most importantly if your hormones are unbalance the pill can assist you with regulating them.
If you are prescribed oral contraception or you are considering the pill, you should also keep in mind that with the positives come a few negatives. The side effects will be listed on the included instructions but depending on your body chemistry you will be more or less likely to be effected in these ways. Side effects can include blood clots, inter-menstrual spotting, nausea, breast tenderness, headaches, weight gain, mood changes, missed periods, and decreased libido. If after starting your pill pack you experience abdominal/stomach pain, chest pain or shortness of breath, severe headaches, blurred or impaired vision, or swelling or aching in the legs and thighs (also redness, swelling or pain in the calf or thighs) you should go to your doctor immediately and investigate the cause.
There is one more thing you should keep in mind. While the pill can prevent pregnancy it does not protect you from STDs. The pill cannot stop you from contracting a sexually transmitted disease if your partner has one and you have sexual contact with them, specifically the exchange of bodily fluids. For that you will need to take additional precautionary measures, and a condom in addition to the pill is recommended in such circumstances.
In order to get the appropriate prescription you will need to consult a doctor as the right balance will be utmost in finding you the birth control that suits you. This may also mean that oral contraception or a combination pill might not be right for you. If that is the case, never fear! There are plenty of other options out there for those of you who wish to find an alternative. We will be addressing each of those in the near future.
Until next time!