By Julia Ordaz
For many women, taking birth control and contraceptive pills is a daily occurrence. These pills use hormones to prevent pregnancies, regulate menstruation cycles, or reduce other health risks. According to the CDC, over 1/10 of women aged 15-49 use these 99% effective at preventing pregnancy-pills, but how exactly do they work?
There are two types of oral contraceptive pills. The first are “combined” pills, which use a mix of estrogen and progesterone hormones, and the second are progestin or progesterone only. The hormones stop ovulation, which is when a mature egg is released from the ovary, leaving the sperm nothing to fertilize. Additionally, they thicken the mucus around the cervix, creating a barrier so that sperm may not reach any released eggs.
The pills will take about 7 days to work after the initial dose, and need to be taken at around the same time each day to be effective. Everyone responds differently to medication, but the general side effects of hormonal contraceptives can include: mood and appetite changes, migraines, blood clotting, high blood pressure, and more. Birth control pills can also reduce bone thinning, anemia, endometrial and ovarian cancers, cysts in breasts and ovaries, and serious infections in the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and the uterus. Unfortunately, contraceptive pills cannot protect against STDs.
Consulting a doctor is the best way to decide which pill is right for you, but changes may be made depending on a review of your body’s response to the pill after a few months. Pill packs typically include enough pills for one month, and these packs can range from $0-$50 but some health and family planning facilities will sell them for less.
Whether you need to regulate your menstrual cycle, prevent pregnancies, or regulate hormones, contraceptive pills can be a reliable option, but one that requires consistency.