If you’re heterosexual and sexually active, birth control is essential if you hope to prevent pregnancy. In the United States alone, around 65% of people aged 15-49 with a uterus use a form of contraception. And “the pill,” also known as birth control pills or oral contraception, is one of the most popular options.
At Melissa Grier, MD Women’s Healthcare in Pasadena, California, Dr. Grier and her team offer a range of birth control options, including birth control implants, intrauterine devices, and the pill.
While birth control pills can be highly effective, they aren’t ideal for everyone. Take a few minutes to learn about the possible pros and cons so you can make an informed decision.
How birth control pills work
Birth control pills contain hormones that safely stop your body from ovulating. The most common type, combination pills, contain the hormones estrogen and progestin. Mini pills contain only progestin. And when you don’t ovulate, sperm can’t join an egg to create a pregnancy.
Benefits of birth control pills
Birth control pills can bring a range of benefits when you’re hoping to prevent pregnancy. When they’re used properly on a consistent basis, they’re 99% effective. While following your pill regimen, you can freely engage in intercourse without worrying about an undesired pregnancy.
Depending on the pill you take and how your body responds, other potential benefits include:
- Fewer endometriosis symptoms
- Fewer fibrocystic breast changes
- Fewer or no periods
- Less menstrual pain and bleeding
- Lower risk for ovarian cysts
- Reduced risk for ectopic pregnancy
- Reduced risk for endometrial and ovarian cancer
- Reduced risk for period-related anemia
- Reduced acne flare-ups
Potential downsides of birth control pills
If you have difficulty remembering tasks or sticking to a schedule and end up skipping your birth control medication on occasion, it won’t be as effective. No one is “perfect,” which is one reason that the average success rate of oral contraception is about 91%.
Other potential downsides include the fact that the pill doesn’t protect against sexually transmitted infections, so you may want to pair them with a barrier method, such as condoms. In addition, the pill may not work as well if you take certain medications and supplements, including anticonvulsants, antibiotics, HIV medications, and St. John's Wort.
Birth control pills can also cause a range of side effects, such as:
- Breast tenderness
- Cornea thickening, and related eye problems
- Increased water weight or bloating
- Mood changes or depression
- Reduced libido
- Spotting between periods
- Vaginal discharge
Oral contraception affects people differently, so be sure to discuss any side effects with Dr. Grier. In some cases, switching to a different type of pill takes care of any side effects that linger on. In other cases, a different form of contraception turns out to be the best bet.
To learn more about your birth control options or get the care you need, call our office or schedule an appointment with Dr. Grier through our online booking feature.