Sexual Health

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The Birth Control Pill

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What is the pill?

The pill is an oral contraceptive that contains artificial hormones (estrogen and progestin).

How does the pill work?

The pill prevents pregnancy by:

 

  • stopping the ovaries from releasing an egg
  • causing mucus in the cervix to thicken making it hard for sperm to enter the uterus
  • causing the lining of the uterus to get thinner making it hard for the fertilized egg to attach

How effective is the pill?

The pill is 99.9 per cent effective when used correctly (92-97 per cent with typical use). It does not protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

 

What are the advantages of using the pill?

  • Lighter, shorter, more regular periods
  • Does not interfere with intercourse
  • Reduces pre-menstrual symptoms
  • Less cramping with your periods
  • Decrease in acne
  • Lower risk of cysts of the ovaries or breasts and of cancer of the ovaries or the lining of the uterus
  • Lower risk of endometriosis, tubal pregnancy and anemia

 

What are the possible side effects or risks?

Minor side effects from the pill are most common in the first three months of use. It is best to take the pill for three months before you think about a change.  Some of the possible side effects:

 

  • Spotting or bleeding between periods
  • Missing a period
  • Periodic headaches
  • Breast tenderness, fluid retention,
  • Nausea (try taking pill with food or at bedtime)
  • Increased risk of blood clots
  • Mood changes

CAUTION

Seek medical attention right away if you notice any of the following:

  • Severe pain in your legs or abdomen
  • Severe chest pain, cough or shortness of                      breath
  • Blurring or loss of vision, speech problems
  • Sever mood changes

Contact your health care provider if any side effects continue after the first 3 months

How do I use the pill?

You have 3 options – your doctor or nurse practitioner will suggest which one is best for you.

 

Remember to take the pill at the same time each day

  Option 1: Quick Start

Take your first birth control pill the day of your clinic appointment

Use condoms for birth control for the first seven days.

  Option 2: First Day Start

Take your first birth control pill the day you begin your period.

 Option 3: Sunday Start

Take your first birth control pill on the first Sunday after your period begins

You may still be bleeding when you start the pill

If your period starts on a Sunday, take your first pill that day.

Are there times when the pill may not be effective?

Yes. Many prescription, non-prescription and herbal medicines may interfere with the pill. Always check with the Sexual Health Clinic, your health care provider, or a pharmacist before taking medication.

 

Regular condom use reduces the risk of STIs and increases the effectiveness of contraception.

Use condoms definitely:

  • While waiting to start the pill
  • For seven days after starting the pill
  • If you vomit within 1 hour of taking the pill, or have diarrhea for 2 or more days


If you have unprotected sex during a time when       the pill may not be effective, contact the Sexual Health Clinic, your healthcare provider or a pharmacist about the need for emergency contraception (ECP).                         

Will I gain weight on the pill?

Studies show no relationship between taking the pill and weight gain. Some start the pill in their teens when their bodies are growing into adulthood.

 

Estrogen hormone in the pill may make some women feel bloated initially, but this usual gets better.

Eating a healthy diet and staying active will help to maintain a healthy weight.

Things to Remember

  • It is important to have a yearly physical, while you are on the pill. 

Women who use hormonal contraceptives are strongly advised not to smoke. Cigarette smoking can increase the risk of heart and blood vessel problems. This risk increases with age.

Help - I missed my pill(s)

I missed one

pill by less than

24 hours

Take it as soon as you remember and

continue your pill pack

 

I missed one pill more than 24 hours or missed  more than one pill

 

 

  During week one of

  the pill pack

During week

two or three of

pill pack

­­­                  

I missed one or more pills

I missed less than three pills

I missed three or more pills

 

 

 

Take 1 active pill as soon as possible and keep taking 1 pill daily until the end of the pack.

Abstain from intercourse or use condoms for the next 7 days.

If you have had unprotected intercourse within the last 5 days consider using emergency contraception.

Take 1 active pill as soon as possible & keep taking 1 pill daily until you finish all the active pills.

Discard the placebo or reminder pills & start a new pack without a break.

You may have some spotting or bleeding but may miss your period this cycle.

Take 1 active pill as soon as possible & keep taking 1 pill daily until you finish all the active pills.

Discard the placebo or reminder pills and start a new pack.

Abstain from intercourse or use condoms for the next 7 days.

If you have had unprotected intercourse within the last 5 days consider emergency contraception.

Permission to print algorithm has been provided courtesy of the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada. Dec 2011

Other Resources

Stay on Schedule (SOS):   www.sexualityandu.ca

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Page Last Modified: Thursday, 05 March 2015.