Oral contraception (‘The Pill’) is a tablet to prevent pregnancy. There are several different types of oral contraceptive pill, which use the synthetic hormones oestrogen and progestogen to prevent pregnancy in one (or more) of three ways.
- They prevent a woman from ovulating. Ovulation is the release of an egg from the ovaries.
- They change a woman’s cervical mucus making it difficult for sperm to reach an egg.
- They make a woman’s womb inhospitable to prevent a fertilized egg from “implanting”. Implantation is the attaching of the egg to the lining of the uterus.
How effective is the Contraceptive Pill?
An oestrogen and progestogen pill (the combined pill) is the most common type of contraceptive pill prescribed by doctors, and when taken properly it has a 99.9% effective rate in preventing pregnancy. A mini-pill (with only progestogen), when taken as prescribed has a 95% effective rate in preventing pregnancy.
Emergency contraception is taken within three days of unprotected sex and prevents pregnancy by not allowing a fertilised egg to implant in the womb.
Benefits Of Oral Contraception
The medical community is in agreement that the contraceptive pill is safe for the majority of women to use for birth control with few or no side effects. Some of the benefits of taking the pill are:
- Easy and convenient contraceptive method.
- Highly effective in preventing pregnancy.
- Lighter periods and also less cramping, bloating, and irritability that often associated with normal menstruation.
- Does not interfere with sexual intercourse.
- May provide some protection from pelvic inflammatory disease which, if left untreated, can lead to infertility.
Other benefits that some birth control pills offer are, clearing up hormonal acne, less severe cramping and lighter periods. These additional benefits will depend on the specific type of pill you take.
Side Effects Of Birth Control pills
The most common side effects of using contraceptive tablets are nausea, weight gain, sore, swollen breasts and spotting between periods. Most of these symptoms are mild and oftentimes go away with continued use of the pill.
There are more severe side effects associated with oral contraception like abdominal pain, severe headaches and/or blurry vision and swelling or aching in the legs. You should stop taking the pill immediately if you experience any of these symptoms and consult your doctor.
Who Should Not Use The Contraceptive Pill?
If you have any history of blood clots, have ever had breast cancer, are pregnant, or have any history of heart problems of any kind, you should not take contraceptive tablets. If you smoke, you may need to avoid oral contraception as well, since this increases the risk of developing blood clots.
Does The Contraceptive Pill prevent STDs?
Oral contraception does not protect against sexually transmitted diseases like gonorrhoea, HIV or herpes. Only using a condom is effective in preventing the transmission of these diseases during sexual intercourse.
Choosing The Best Contraceptive Pill
All oral contraception for birth control is by prescription only and should be taken under a doctor’s direction. It is important to disclose your full medical history to your physician when deciding which contraceptive pill is right for you.
Deciding on the correct birth control pill for you should be a joint decision between you and your doctor. There are many variables in both the contraceptive pills and your lifestyle that should be taken into account to choose the Pill that is most suited to you.
You should never start taking a contraceptive pill without the advice of your doctor. Different contraceptive pills are suitable for different situations and all carry some form of risk and thus should only be started after a thorough check-up from your doctor.