Birth Control Pills: What You Need to Know
Motherhood is a gift, but when you are trying to avoid pregnancy, an oral contraceptive like “the pill” can be a gift too. Birth control pills use synthetic hormones to help prevent unwanted pregnancies by interfering with ovulation and making it challenging for the sperm and egg to meet. Depending on the type of pill, ovulation is either blocked completely or hindered in some significant way. Like all types of birth control options, the pill has both its advantages and disadvantages.
Types of Pills and How They Work
All birth control pills use hormones to achieve their desired effect: preventing pregnancy. But not all pills use the same hormones. One common type of pill is the combination pill, which uses a combination of artificial estrogen and progesterone to stop the ovaries from releasing an egg at ovulation. Another common pill is the progesterone-only pill, which uses synthetic progesterone to create a sort of obstacle course for the sperm and egg. The increased progesterone thickens the cervical mucus, making it harder for the sperm to reach the egg. It also thins the lining of the uterus so that implantation is more difficult even if sperm and egg should meet.
Advantages of the Pill
One of the primary advantages of the pill is its effectiveness at preventing unwanted pregnancies. When taken as directed, the pill is more than 99 percent effective at preventing pregnancy. The pill also can regulate your menstrual cycle and sometimes leads to shorter and lighter periods with less pain and fewer mood swings or headaches. The hormones in the pill also can help clear up acne and reduce the risk of uterine and ovarian cancers.
Disadvantages of the Pill
Despite its benefits, the pill has its downfalls. The main disadvantage of the pill is that it does not protect against sexually transmitted diseases or infections. Another disadvantage is that you need to remember to take the pill on a regular basis and as directed, because failure to do so will reduce its effectiveness. Since a prescription is required to obtain the pill, it can be inconvenient to visit your doctor on a regular basis to obtain renewals of your prescription. Cost might be an additional issue. Like any medication, the pill has some side effects, such as nausea, headaches, breast tenderness, and an increased risk of blood clots. The pill is not right for everyone. If you are a smoker over the age of 35, are overweight or have certain medical conditions, your doctor may recommend alternate contraceptive methods.
One of the most common misconceptions about the pill is that it can make it harder to get pregnant once you stop taking it. While ovulation is blocked when you take the pill, normal ovulation will resume within two weeks of stopping the pill, and your regular menstrual cycle should also resume within four to six weeks. Some women falsely believe that they cannot get pregnant while they are breastfeeding, which can lead to unplanned pregnancy. Birth control is still necessary while you are breastfeeding, but the progesterone-only pill is best since estrogen can reduce milk production. If you think the pill is effective from the moment you take it, you might end up with an unplanned pregnancy. The pill only works when taken as directed, so follow directions carefully to ensure maximum effectiveness.
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