Birth control pills, also known as oral contraceptives, are medications that contain synthetic hormones—either a combination of estrogen and progestin or progestin alone. These hormones work to prevent pregnancy through various mechanisms. Here’s an overview of what happens when you take birth control pills:
Suppression of Ovulation: One of the primary actions of birth control pills is to suppress ovulation, which is the release of an egg from the ovary. Without ovulation, there is no egg available for fertilization by sperm.
Changes in Cervical Mucus: Birth control pills can thicken the cervical mucus, making it more difficult for sperm to reach the egg. This reduces the likelihood of fertilization.
Changes in Uterine Lining: The hormones in birth control pills also lead to changes in the lining of the uterus (endometrium), making it less receptive to a fertilized egg. This can prevent the fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus.
Inhibition of Sperm Function: Some studies suggest that birth control pills may affect the function of sperm, making it more difficult for them to reach and penetrate the egg.
It’s important to note that birth control pills do not protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs). If STI protection is also a concern, the use of condoms or other barrier methods is recommended.
When taking birth control pills, it’s crucial to follow the prescribed regimen. Missing pills or taking them at inconsistent times can decrease their effectiveness. Additionally, certain medications or conditions may interact with birth control pills, so it’s important to inform your healthcare provider about any other medications you are taking and your medical history.
Birth control pills are considered safe?
In general, birth control pills are considered safe for most women when used as directed and under the supervision of a healthcare provider. However, like any medication, they come with potential risks and side effects. It’s important for individuals considering or using birth control pills to discuss their medical history and any concerns with their healthcare provider to determine if this form of contraception is appropriate for them.
Here are some factors to consider regarding the safety of birth control pills:
Effectiveness: When taken correctly, birth control pills are highly effective at preventing pregnancy. However, consistency in taking the pills is crucial for optimal effectiveness.
Side Effects: Some women may experience side effects when taking birth control pills, such as nausea, breast tenderness, changes in mood, and headaches. These side effects are typically mild and often improve after the first few months of use.
Health Considerations: Certain medical conditions may affect the safety of using birth control pills. Women with a history of blood clots, certain types of cancer, liver disease, or certain cardiovascular conditions may be advised against using hormonal contraceptives. It’s important to disclose your complete medical history to your healthcare provider.
Increased Risk of Blood Clots: Some studies have suggested a slightly increased risk of blood clots (venous thromboembolism) associated with the use of combined hormonal contraceptives (those containing both estrogen and progestin). The risk is higher in women who smoke and in those with other risk factors for blood clots.
Other Considerations: Women over the age of 35 who smoke are generally advised against using combination hormonal contraceptives due to an increased risk of cardiovascular events. Women who are breastfeeding, have a history of migraines with aura, or have uncontrolled high blood pressure may be advised against certain types of hormonal contraceptives.
Impacts of birth control pills on pregnancy
If a woman is taking birth control pills and becomes pregnant, there are generally no known harmful effects on the developing fetus. However, it’s important to emphasize that birth control pills are designed to prevent pregnancy, and if a woman desires to conceive, she should stop taking the pills.
Here are some key points to consider –
Continuation of Pregnancy: If a woman unintentionally becomes pregnant while taking birth control pills and wishes to continue the pregnancy, it’s advisable to stop taking the pills. There is no evidence that the hormones in birth control pills cause harm to the developing fetus, but it’s still recommended to discontinue them.
Discontinuation of Birth Control Pills: Women who discover they are pregnant while on birth control pills should inform their healthcare provider promptly. The healthcare provider can provide guidance on the appropriate steps to take and may recommend prenatal care to ensure the health of both the woman and the developing fetus.
Risk of Birth Defects: Studies have not shown an increased risk of birth defects in babies born to women who inadvertently continued taking birth control pills in early pregnancy. However, it’s essential to consult with a healthcare professional for personalized advice based on individual circumstances.
Fertility After Discontinuation: Fertility usually returns quickly after discontinuing birth control pills. Women can conceive once they stop taking the pills, but the timing of fertility return can vary among individuals.
It’s crucial for individuals to communicate openly with their healthcare providers about their reproductive plans, including the decision to start or stop using contraceptives. Healthcare providers can offer guidance on the most appropriate methods based on individual health considerations and fertility goals.
It’s important to note that while birth control pills are generally safe and effective for preventing pregnancy when used correctly, no contraceptive method is 100% foolproof. In the event of an unplanned pregnancy or if there are concerns about birth control methods, seeking advice from a healthcare professional is recommended.