Basics of Birth Control
If you’re considering using birth control, you have many options from natural family planning and over-the-counter birth control products to prescription contraceptives or sterilization.
To help determine which birth control method would be best for you, consider your lifestyle, personal preferences and health status. How do you feel about planning for sex? Inserting birth control devices into your body? Taking a pill at the same time every day or tracking your fertile days? Permanently ending the ability to conceive or father a child?
It’s also important to make an honest assessment of yourself, your partner and your relationship. You may have different birth control needs if you have sex often or you’re not in a monogamous relationship. Ideally, you and your partner will discuss the options and reach a mutually beneficial decision.
How Does Hormonal Contraception Work?
A woman becomes pregnant when an egg released from her ovary (the organ that holds her eggs) is fertilized by a man’s sperm. The fertilized egg attaches to the inside of a woman’s womb (uterus), where it receives nourishment and develops into a baby. Hormones in the woman’s body control the release of the egg from the ovary called ovulation and prepare the body to accept the fertilized egg.
Hormonal contraceptives (the pill, the patch, and the vaginal ring) all contain a small amount of man-made estrogen and progestin hormones. These hormones work to inhibit the body’s natural cyclical hormones to prevent pregnancy. Pregnancy is prevented by a combination of factors. The hormonal contraceptive usually stops the body from ovulating. Hormonal contraceptives also change the cervical mucus to make it difficult for the sperm to go through the cervix and find an egg. Hormonal contraceptives can also prevent pregnancy by changing the lining of the womb so it’s unlikely the fertilized egg will be implanted.
Another option for hormonal contraceptives is the extended-cycle pill, such as Seasonale, which was the first one to be approved. Seasonale contains the same hormones as other birth control pills, but the hormones are taken in a longer cycle. That reduces the number of menstrual periods from 13 periods a year to only four a year. That means a woman who takes this pill will menstruate only once each season.
Seasonale contains the same combination of two hormones that are commonly used in other hormonal contraceptives. But the pill is taken continuously for 12 weeks followed by one week of inactive pills, which results in a menstrual cycle. Other extended-cycle pills, such as Seasonique and LoSeasonique use a different configuration of hormones. Both of these pills use estrogen in the final week, with LoSeasonique providing a lower dose option.
Birth control pills
Birth control pills are a common type of contraception. If you’re considering taking birth control pills, you may have more choices than you’d think.
You’ll start by choosing either combination birth control pills or minipills. If you choose combination birth control pills, you’ll have another choice conventional packs or continuous dosing. With conventional birth control pills, you’ll have a period every month. With continuous dosing birth control pills, you may have a period only four times a year or eliminate your period entirely.
Of course, each type of birth control pill has its own risks and benefits. Understand the basics, then work with your health care provider to determine the best birth control pill for you.
How Soon Do Birth Control Pills Work?
When taken as directed, birth control pills are usually effective the first month you begin taking them. To be safe, some doctors recommend the use of another form of birth control, such as condoms and foam, during the first month. After the first month, you can just rely on the pill for birth control.
What If I Forget to Take a Birth Control Pill?
If you forget to take a birth control pill, take it as soon as you remember. If you don’t remember until the next day, go ahead and take two pills that day. If you forget to take your pills for two days, take two pills the day you remember and two pills the next day. You will then be back on schedule. If you miss more than two pills, call your doctor. You may be told to take one pill daily until Sunday then start a new pill pack or to discard the rest of the pill pack and start over with a new pack that same day.