Birth Control Pills
Oral contraceptives, or OCPs, are medicines that are taken to prevent pregnancy. They are the most widely used methods of reversible birth control. OCPs work by preventing the ovaries from releasing eggs.
What is the information for this topic?
Most OCPs use a combination of the hormones estrogen and progesterone. The woman takes an OCP for 21 to 25 days. She then takes inactive pills until day 28. Inactive pills do not contain hormones. Some products include iron in the inactive pills. Most women begin their periods 2 or 3 days after they begin the inactive pills.
Some women may be told by their healthcare providers to take OCPs continuously without any inactive pills. This may be helpful for women who have moderate to severe premenstrual syndrome. It can also be helpful in treating migraine headaches.
Uses of oral contraceptives
The most common uses of oral contraceptives are:
OCPs do not prevent sexually transmitted diseases, or STDs. Safer sex practices, such as using condoms along with the pill, can help prevent STDs.
While a woman is on OCPs, the brain no longer signals the ovaries to produce an egg each month. OCPs have a failure rate of 2% to 3% and even less when taken exactly as prescribed. The most common reasons for failure are:
Oral contraceptives should not be used by women who have had:
Smoking, uncontrolled high blood pressure or diabetes, and obesity may make the pill unsafe for a woman over 35. Prior to beginning the pill, a woman will have a physical exam. This includes a pelvic exam and Pap smear. The healthcare provider may order blood tests to check blood glucose and cholesterol levels.
Side effects of taking oral contraceptives are:
When a woman is started on an OCP, she is usually asked to try them for 2 to 3 months. This allows her body to adjust to the changes in hormone levels. If a woman continues to have side effects, it may be possible to change to a different OCP. It is important for a woman to discuss any side effects she may be having with her healthcare provider. Often changing to a different pill causes the side effects to subside.
Serious complications include:
If a woman develops any of the following side effects, she should stop her OCPs and call her healthcare provider immediately:
Article type: xmedgeneral