What Actually Is the Birth Control Pill?

What Actually Is the Birth Control Pill?


There are many options for birth control, but a very common one is the birth control pill. Many women take this for various reasons. Some of those being that the pill is safe, effective, and convenient, and it also provides benefits other than preventing pregnancy. The pill is taken each day, and can cost anywhere up to $50 a month.

What is it and what does it do?

The pill itself is made up of synthetic hormones; the most common and effective pill being made up of a combination of two hormones: estrogen and progestin. These man-made hormones are very similar to the ones found naturally in the body, where estrogen and progesterone are naturally made by the ovaries in women’s bodies. Both hormones in combination prevent pregnancy and reduce effects of menstruation.

How does it work?

The pills work best when taken every day, at the same time each day. The hormones work in the body with two main functions. One is to keep the eggs from leaving the ovaries. This happens by suppressing the pituitary gland, which then stops the development of the egg, preventing ovulation. The other is to make cervical mucus thicker. Both of these functions aim at preventing sperm from getting to the eggs, and thus preventing pregnancy.

Are there any risks or side effects?

As with any medication, there are risks to taking the birth control pill. One type of pill contains only progestin because some women cannot take estrogen, and progestin is found to be linked to a higher risk of blood clots and a higher level of potassium in the blood. Although it is rare, severe stomach pain, chest pain, headache, eye problems, or leg pain can indicate a blood clot and should be treated immediately. The pills can also cause bleeding between menstrual periods, rather than eliminating them entirely. This will happen more than likely if you do not take the pill every day. Other side effects can include nausea and vomiting. The pill is also not a birth control method that protects against sexually transmitted infections (STIs). It is recommended to use the pill in addition to another type of birth control that can protect against STIs. Check in with your doctor if you have any unusual symptoms.

What are the benefits?

The pill is mainly taken as a form of birth control because it is relatively simple, safe, and convenient. It protects against pregnancy, and can reduce menstrual cramps and periods altogether. Many teens take it for the medical benefits alone, such as regular and lighter periods, clearer skin, and less menstrual cramps. It also can offer some protection against pelvic inflammatory disease, acne, bone thinning, breast growths that are not cancer, ectopic pregnancy, and symptoms of premenstrual syndrome.

Are there any cases where someone cannot take the pill?

Almost all women can take birth control pills, however, there are some exceptions. It is usually recommended to find another method of birth control if:

  • There is history of blood clots in the family
  • You have a certain type of heart disease
  • You have high blood pressure that is not regulated with medicine
  • There is a situation (such as a surgery) that does not allow for moving/walking

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