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The Pill (Oral Contraceptives)

Background

Oral contraceptives are ingestible pills containing a fixed ratio of estrogen and progesterone. Oral contraceptives are the most popular form of reversible birth control for females. They work by regulating the menstrual cycle and preventing ovulation.

How to use

  • NOTE: Schedules vary from pill to pill. Follow the instructions accompanying the pill or provided by your physician. Usually take one pill each day for 21 days, starting on the Sunday after the onset of your most recent period.
  • Stop taking pills or take sugar pills for 7 days and allow menstruation to occur.
  • If you forget to take a pill once, take two the next day.
  • If you miss 2 pills or more, stop taking the pills for 7 days and then start a new cycle of pills .  Be sure to also use condoms or another method of birth control until you have been on the active pills for 7 continuous days.

Advantages

  • Controls the menstrual cycle.
  • Reduces likelihood of ovarian or endometrial cancer.
  • Relieves menstrual cramps.
  • Reduces acne.
  • If you begin taking the Pill the first day of your period, you have immediate protection from pregnancy.

Disadvantages

  • Does not protect against STIs.
  • Possible nausea, bloating, slight weight gain.
  • Mood changes.
  • Headaches.
  • Potential for blood clotting, hypertension, high cholesterol/lipid levels - this risk is increased in women who smoke.
  • Minor increases in likelihood of cervical or breast cancer.
  • Antibiotics may reduce the effectiveness.

Efficacy

  • Over 99% effective when used correctly.

Availability

  • Need prescription from a Health Care Provider (Primary Care physician, OB/GYN, W&L Student Health Center).
  • Available at a reduced rate of $12 at the W&L Student Health Center.
  • Usually costs between $15 - $60 per month depending on the type and brand.