Contraceptive Pill – Use, Effectiveness and Side Effects

A contraceptive pill is a form of medication that is used by women to prevent pregnancy. The pill is very popular among women in the reproductive age since it is safe to use, affordable and highly effective. There are other benefits of using birth pills including regulating the menstrual cycle and suppressing some symptoms associated with menstruation e.g. cramps and stomach upsets.   

Types of contraceptive pills

  1. The combined pill

Generally, contraceptive pills contain hormones that affect some important reproductive functions in a woman’s body. The combined pill contains two hormones namely estrogen and progesterone. This helps to increase its effectiveness by preventing pregnancy in a number of ways including:

  • Preventing ovulation- there is no egg released by the ovaries
  • Thickening cervical mucus- makes it hard for sperms to swim across the cervix
  • Thinning uterine lining- prevents implantation in case of fertilization

The combined pill can be further classified as monophasic or multiphasic. The amount of estrogen and progestin in monophasic is the same in all pills, but this will vary in multiphasic. There are added benefits associated with combined pills including preventing cramps, headaches, cysts, iron deficiency and bone thinning.   

  1. The minipill

This is a contraceptive pill that only contains the progestin, and the hormone is available in lower doses compared to the combined pill. Although the pill is considered less effective compared to its counterpart, it is recommended for certain groups of women including smokers, those with estrogen intolerance and those with a medical background of blood clots. The pill also suits women above 35 years of age.


Using Contraceptive pills

Combined pills are available as 21 days or 28 days pill. With the first option, women are required take the pills continuously for 21 days and then stop for 7 days. Those interested in 28 days pill are provided with 21 active pills and 7 inactive pills. Progestin pills are available as 28-day packs, and all the pills are active. These should be taken every day over a span of 28 days.

Although the contraceptive pills will work efficiently for most women, there may be cases of side effects due to the body’s reaction to the introduced hormones. These include:

  • Nausea
  • Breast tenderness
  • Decreased sex drive
  • Bleeding during menstrual cycle

Most of these side effects usually occur in women using the pills for the first time and they are likely to disappear shortly after. If this doesn’t happen, you should consult your health provider for medical advice. You may even be required to switch to other types of contraceptive pills. There are also people who may be at risks of heart attack, thrombosis and pulmonary embolism.


Choosing the right birth control pill

It is not advisable to go for any available contraceptive pill, and you should even consult a medical practitioner before doing so. You will then be advised on the best pill based on factors like your age, cardiovascular health, menstrual symptoms, existing health conditions, medical history and any medications you are taking.  

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