How to Use Birth Control Pills - Woman Holding Pills - Featured Image

December 11, 2019 by Lianna Johnston with 0 comments

How to Use Birth Control Pills


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Birth control comes in many shapes and sizes, the most popular, however, is the pill.

What is Birth Control?

Birth control is very important for many women who do not want to get pregnant or are in need of balancing their hormones. Birth control pills contain two hormones that are essential in preventing pregnancy and balancing hormones, estrogen, and progestin. Estrogen keeps the ovaries from releasing the eggs. Progestin is what causes cervical mucus to thicken while thinning the lining of the uterus. It makes it harder for sperm to fertilize an egg. Some birth control pills are set up with both hormones, while others may only have one hormone for so many days while the rest are pills without.

What kind of birth control pills you should choose will depend on you and your OBGYN. Some women require higher levels of estrogen while other women may have a hard time remembering to take their pills so having a week without them can be detrimental.

Be sure to have a conversation with your gynecologist in order to determine which birth control best suits you. Remember that birth control pills do not protect you from STIs or STDs so be sure to use other protective measures when being sexually active.

Note: Condoms are a great option for preventing pregnancy too! See our list of the best ones here.

Who can take Birth control Pills?

As long as you are not pregnant, you can usually take the pill at any age. However, if you have medical issues such as high blood pressure, diabetic complications, and you are a smoker over the age of 35, you may need to discuss it more in-depth with your OBGYN. Birth control can sometimes cause adverse effects and may cause further complications. If you are nearing menopause, you may want to ask for the mini-pill which does not have estrogen in it, just progestin.

Be sure to always be honest with your doctor and discuss any concerns or expectations you may have about birth control. There are many options today, and although many women have often preferred the “pill”, you may want to go with another option, such as an implant or vaginal ring. Be sure to do your research and ask plenty of questions in order to ensure that the birth control you choose is the right one for you and your body.

Main things to know about Birth control

Some birth control pills include a lot of the same side effects. Some of those side effects may be:

  • Headache or body ache
  • Bloating
  • Spotting or irregular bleeding
  • Mood swings
  • Breast swelling or tenderness
  • Nausea and loss of appetite.

Your body will go through a bit of a change when you are on birth control. Because you are being given more of a specific hormone, you may experience differences in mood and possible weight gain. Be sure to learn about the different side effects each pill may have and discuss with your doctor any side effects you may experience.

You may also experience spotting or having heavier periods. Be sure to mention this to your doctor to make sure that your pills are the right ones for you. Some birth control can cause you to not have a period at all, so don’t freak out if your period doesn’t come right away.

How do I get started?

You will first schedule a gynecologist appointment. There, you will probably be given an examination and a series of blood tests to ensure that you do not have any sexually transmitted infections. You may also be given a pregnancy test to make sure that any procedures that are done, are done so safely. A pregnancy test will also be given to you once you let your gynecologist know that you are interested in being put on birth control pills. Once you get your birth control pills you will have three options to start.

  • Start on the first day of your period : This is when you choose to take your first pill on the day you start your period. This is a great way to start if you don’t want to have to be concerned about pregnancy protection. The birth control will kick in right away, so there is less of a need for backup contraceptive.
  • Start right away: If it has already been confirmed that you are not pregnant, then you can take the first pill in your pack as soon as you get them. The hormones that are in birth control pills will need time to increase and can take a week or more, so using a backup contraception is important.
  • Start on Sunday: More Birth Control pill packs are set up this way. It makes it easier to remember which days you took your birth control and if you forgot to take any doses. You can start by taking your first “Sunday” pill on the first Sunday after your period begins. Again, it takes time for those hormones to build up so using a second form of contraceptives like condoms is advised for at least a week.

Types of Pill Packs

There are many different types of birth control pill packs available today. The two most common are the 21-days pack and the 28-days pack. The 21-day pack is a series of 21 hormone active birth control pills that you take the same time every day. When those pills are gone you will go the next 7 days without pills, in which you will start your period.

The 28-day packs include 21-26 pills that include active hormones while the rest of the pills are usually inactive, cause you to have a period for 4-7 days. With the 28-day packs, you always continue to take the pills without breaks. Once you finish the last pill in your 28-day pack you must take the first pill from your new pack.

Be sure to always take your birth control on time every day and if you prefer less frequent periods or none at all, there is a possibility with choosing a 91-day pack or 365-day pack. The 91-day packs allow for you to take hormone active pills for 84 days and 7 without. Whereas the 365-day packs have hormone active pills that are taken all year round. Be sure to discuss all your options with your doctor in order to determine which pack is right for you.

How to take your Birth Control Pills

Knowing how to take your birth control pills is simple but very important to remember because this will them the most effective. Be sure to take your pill every day at the same time. If you took your first pill in the morning, be sure to take the following pills at the same time. If you take the mini-pill which is a progestin-only pill, it is especially important because these have a smaller margin for error than combined hormone pills with both estrogen and progestin.

Try setting an alarm on your phone or perhaps add a birth control tracking app like Spot On, which is a birth control and period tracker powered by Planned Parenthood. There are many great apps and ways to help remind you that it’s not your day to get pregnant. Just make sure that when you finish a birth control pack, to always take the first pill in a new packet the next day or as directed.

Miss a dose?

If there is a chance you missed a dose within the last 48 hours, be sure that you take your missed dose immediately. If you have an immediate worry that you may become pregnant, there is also the Plan-B emergency contraceptive pill that you can take. It has higher doses of the hormones that are in birth control.

There is also the Morning After Pill that works the same way. No matter what though, be sure to take the most recent pills that you missed and throw out the rest. But be sure to take the rest of your pills as directed. If you missed a week, be sure to continue to take your birth control pills, but skip over the week of hormone-free pills and continue with the pills that are active.

If you fear that you may be pregnant, call your OBGYN and seek advice as to whether or not you should discontinue your birth control pills until further testing. Be sure that you use backup contraception if you have not taken your birth control pills for at least 7 days.

Want to quit taking it?

You can quit taking birth control whenever you like. If you no longer feel the need for birth control or are deciding to try a different means of contraception, quit taking the pill as soon as you would like, given your doctor says that is ok.

This is most likely an easy task because to many women who take birth control, it is not medically necessary nor has adverse effects when stopped immediately. If you want to try to start a family after birth control, that is very possible. However, it will take at least 2 weeks for you to start ovulating again. After that, your body will be ready to do its monthly thing.

How effective are birth control pills?

Birth control pills are 99.7% percent effective, but that is if they are taken at the exact time every day and no doses are skipped. Otherwise that number jumps to just 90.7 percent effective. It is always smart to have a backup plan and to never use birth control pills in any other way than directed. Be sure to use spermicides or condoms if you have any worries.

Also, there are certain medications that can change the effectiveness of your birth control pills. Some of those medicines may include certain antibiotics, some anti-seizure meds, and the supplement St. John’s Wort. Be sure to ask your doctor about these medications and be sure that if you ever mix those medications with your birth control pills, that you take extra precautions.

It’s your body, your choice

Remember, it is your body, so it is your choice on whether or not you want to take birth control of any kind. It is always your choice when it comes to your health, and to some, birth control can help balance hormones that have caused other medical problems as well as kept women from having children they weren’t ready for.

Whether you just want to prevent pregnancy or even enhance your body’s fertility, what you do with birth control is going to be up to you and your gynecologist. Always take your medicine as prescribed and discuss any questions and concerns with your doctor immediately. Oh, and condoms aren’t a bad way to stay safe too!

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