Oral contraceptives. Who, which, when, and why?
Contraceptive pills are an easy way to protect against unwanted pregnancy. Taken once per day, they can be seamlessly added to your daily routine, giving you protection all month long without you having to even think about it.
There are more options than ever when it comes to birth control pills, so you may not be sure whether you should take them or which type you should take. If you’re curious about birth control pills but don’t know where to start, Pharmacy Planet is here to help.
Who Can Take Oral Contraceptives?
Birth control pills can be taken safely by most women, but women who smoke and are over the age of 35 shouldn’t take birth control pills. If you don’t smoke, you can take the pill beyond age 35, all the way up to menopause.
Other women who should avoid the pill are those who have:
- Had blood clots in the arms, legs, or lungs.
- A history of heart or liver disease.
- Uncontrolled diabetes.
- A history of breast or uterine cancer.
- Uncontrolled high blood pressure.
- Migraines with auras.
If you are unsure whether the pill is safe for you to take, speak with your GP or pharmacist. They can go over your medical history with you and give you advice.
Which Oral Contraceptives Should You Take?
There are several different types of oral contraceptives and it may take a little trial and error to find one that works best for you. There are two main types of contraceptive pills with variations within these types.
Combination birth control pills: These oral contraceptive pills contain both oestrogen and progestin to prevent pregnancy. You can get a full dose combined pill, but for women who experience more side effects there’s also the low-dose versions of the pill.
Combination birth control pills work by stopping your ovaries releasing an egg (oculation). They also thicken the cervical mucus and thin the uterine lining to make it less likely that sperm will go through your cervix or that a fertilised egg will attach to your womb.
In conventional packs of the combined pill, there are 21 active pills and 7 inactive pills, or 24 active pills and 4 inactive pills. You’ll get your period while you take the inactive pills.
Another way to take combined birth control is on a continuous or extended cycle. You’ll only take inactive pills 4 weeks out of the year, meaning you’ll usually only get your period 4 times a year. You can also take them with no inactive weeks to eliminate any bleeding.
The mini pill: The mini pills don't contain any oestrogen, only progestin. These pills are ideal for those who can’t take oestrogen or for those who are sensitive to oestrogen. The mini pill slows down the egg’s progress through your fallopian tubes, thickens the cervical mucus, and thins the uterine lining. Sometimes it can also delay ovulation.
Each pill in the pack has the same amount of progestin in them, but at a lower dose than it is in combined pills. All of the mini pills are active, but you will still get your period.
When Can You Take Oral Contraceptives?
You can usually start taking birth control pills whenever you want. However, depending on where you are in your cycle, you may need to take the pills for a certain period of time to be protected against pregnancy.
Combination Pill: If you’re taking combination birth control pills and start taking them within 5 days after your period starts, then you’ll be protected right away. You’ll need to take the pill for 7 days consecutively for protection if you start taking them at any other point in your cycle. Be sure to use other forms of birth control, like condoms, during this 7 day period.
The Minipill: Progestin-only pills can be started at any point in your cycle and will give you protection after only 2 consecutive days. If you have sex during the first 48 hours of starting the minipill, use additional birth control.
In addition to the timing of your cycle, protection against pregnancy also depends on what time of day you take the pill. For them to be fully effective, you’ll need to take them around the same time each day. Missing doses or taking them at random times will greatly reduce their efficacy.
Why Do You Need to Take Oral Contraceptives?
The main use for oral contraceptives is family planning. Women who are sexually active but do not want to become pregnant or do not want to becoe pregnant yet can take the pill to protect against unwanted pregnancies.
Other women may only take birth control pills to help with the symptoms of certain medical conditions. This is because the pill can regulate periods, reduce the severity of menstrual cramps, help clear up acne, and reduce the growth of unwanted body or facial hair (hirsutism).
The pill can also:
- Manage the symptoms of PMS (premenstrual syndrome) and PMDD (premenstrual dysmorphic disorder).
- Reduce the risk of anaemia caused by heavier or prolonged periods.
- Treat polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), endometriosis, and uterine fibroids.
- Reduce the occurrence of migraines.
- Lessen the frequency of hot flashes and other symptoms of the menopause.
- More research is needed, but it’s also believed that women who take the pill may have a lowered risk of ovarian cancer, colon cancer, and uterine cancer.
Of course, women don’t have to use birth control pills for one reason or another. They may take the pill for a variety of reasons, both medical and personal.
Where Can I Get Birth Control Pills?
Birth control pills can be obtained in a variety of places, including your GP surgery, local pharmacy, and GUM clinics. If you’d rather not make a face-to-face appointment with a healthcare provider, Pharmacy Planet can send your birth control pills like Logynon right to your home. Without ever having to leave the house, our pharmacists can have oral contraceptive pills shipped safely, quickly, and discreetly to your door. Visit us today to buy Logynon online in the UK.