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Birth Control Message Board

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Here is some information from Planned Parenthood:


"The Pill" is the common name for oral contraception. There are two basic types— combination pills and progestin-only pills. Both are made of hormones like those made by a woman's ovaries. Combination pills contain both estrogen and progestin. Both kinds of pills require a medical evaluation and prescription.

Both pills can prevent pregnancy. But they work differently. Combination pills usually work by preventing a woman's ovaries from releasing eggs (ovulation). Progestin-only pills also can prevent ovulation. But they usually work by thickening the cervical mucus. This keeps sperm from joining with an egg. Combination pills also thicken cervical mucus.Both types of pill can also prevent fertilized eggs from implanting in the uterus.

Taking the Pill daily maintains the level of hormone that is needed to prevent pregnancy.


The Pill is one of the most effective reversible methods of birth control. Of 100 women who use the Pill, only five will become pregnant during the first year of typical use.* Combination pills are somewhat more effective than progestin-only pills. Fewer than one out of 1,000 women who use combination pills will become pregnant with perfect use.** Five out of 1,000 who use progestin-only pills will become pregnant with perfect use.

* "Typical use" refers to failure rates for use that is not consistent or always correct.
** "Perfect use" refers to failure rates for use that is consistent and always correct.

Certain herbs and medicines, including the antibiotic rifampin and certain drugs used to control seizures, may make the Pill less effective. Vomiting and diarrhea may also keep the Pill from working. Ask your clinician for advice. Until you are sure, use an additional method of birth control.

It is very important to remember that the Pill does not protect against sexually transmitted infections. Use a latex or female condom along with the Pill for protection against infection.


You must see a clinician to tell whether you can take the Pill and what dosage is right for you. The clinician will discuss your medical history with you, check your blood pressure, and give you any other medical exam that may be needed.

If the Pill is right for you, you likely will be given the lowest amount of hormone needed to protect you against pregnancy. Your clinician will adjust the prescription if you continue to experience side effects after a few months. Be sure to have checkups at least once a year. Your prescription may need to be changed as your health needs change. See your clinician right away if any problem develops.

Remember to tell any other clinician you may see that you take the Pill.


The cost of an examination by a private doctor may range from $50 to $125. Pills vary in price depending on the type and brand. A prescription can cost about $20 - $35 a month. Pills and the exams usually cost less in a family planning clinic. The pills are covered by Medicaid.


Taking the Pill is simple, safe, and convenient.

Many women who take the Pill have more regular, lighter, and shorter periods.

The Pill does not interfere with having sex. Many women say the Pill has improved their sex lives. They say they are free to be more spontaneous and do not have to worry about becoming pregnant.

The Pill offers many health benefits, including some protection against

infection of the fallopian tubes (pelvic inflammatory disease), which often leads to infertility
ectopic pregnancy
noncancerous breast growths
ovarian cysts
cancer of the ovaries
cancer of the lining of the uterus
troublesome menstrual cramps
iron deficiency anemia that results from heavy menses
premenstrual symptoms, as well as related headaches and depression(CT, p.411)
excess body hair (CT, p.411)
In fact, protection against developing cancer of the ovary or the lining of the uterus (endometrium) can last up to 15 years after stopping the Pill. Protection against endometrial cancer increases with each year of use­ women who use the Pill for eight years reduce their risk of getting endometrial cancer by up to 80 percent.

The Pill may offer some protection against osteoporosis and rheumatoid arthritis.


As with all drugs, there may be some undesirable side effects for some women taking the Pill. However, the Pill is much safer than pregnancy and childbirth for healthy women– except among smokers age 35 and older.

Some side effects that usually clear up after two or three months of use include

bleeding between periods
weight gain or loss
breast tenderness
nausea — rarely, vomiting
changes in mood
Nausea and vomiting often can be reduced or eliminated by taking the Pill with the evening meal or at bedtime. (Do not stop taking the Pill if you feel sick to your stomach.) Irregular spotting and bleeding happen more frequently with progestin-only pills than with combination pills.

Other possible side effects include

change in sexual desire
Serious problems do not occur very often. Pill users have a slightly greater chance of certain major disorders than nonusers. The most serious is the possibility of blood clots in the legs, lungs, heart, or brain. Women on the Pill who undergo major surgery seem to have a greater chance of having blood clots. Blood clots in the legs occur with increased frequency for women and men who
have one or both legs immobilized
are confined to their beds
It is important to stop taking the Pill about four weeks before a scheduled major operation. Do not start again while recuperating or while a leg or arm is in a cast.

Rarely, women who take the Pill develop high blood pressure. Very rarely,liver tumors, gallstones, and jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes) occur in women who take the Pill. More detailed information about the use and risks of the Pill is provided in an insert included with each pill pack.

You should not take the Pill if you
smoke more than 20 cigarettes a day and are 35 or older (Trussel, p.421)
have high blood pressure
have a history of blood clots or vein inflammation
have unexplained bleeding in your vagina
have had an abnormal growth or cancer of the breast or uterus
have very high cholesterol levels
have a severe liver disease or have had growths of the liver
have certain conditions associated with diabetes mellitus
think you might be pregnant

Some women can take the Pill under close medical supervision if they are very overweight or have
a high risk for heart disease
slightly high cholesterol or slightly increased blood pressure migraine headaches
a seizure disorder that requires taking anticonvulsant medication
had diabetes­ including diabetes associated with pregnancy
had gallbladder disease(CT, p.421)
a skin cancer called malignant melanoma
a certain cancer of the nervous system called meningioma
For most women with these conditions, the risks of pregnancy are more dangerous than those of the Pill.

Women with a history of depression may not be able to continue to take the Pill if it worsens the problem.

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