Birth Control Pills: Uses and Side Effects

birth control pills

Are you looking for Birth Control Pills but are afraid of their side effects and what changes you might face while taking them?

Don’t worry. We have got you covered.

This is an extensive guide on Birth Control Pills, uses, and side effects.

Birth Control Pills

Birth control pills are often termed Contraceptive pills or oral contraceptives. These medications prevent pregnancy.

They are an effective method of birth control and the type you use is a personal decision.

Birth control pills come in a pack and you can take 1 every day. However, apart from preventing pregnancy, they have other uses as well.

Let us first discuss the types of birth control pills.

There are two types of Birth Control Pills. These are:

  1. Combination pills are also known as combined oral contraceptives or COCs
  2. Progestin-only pills also known as POPs or mini pills

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Combination Birth Control Pills

Combination birth control pills have synthetic i.e. man-made forms of hormones estrogen and progestin. In each cycle they are active, therefore it means that they contain hormones.

The remaining pills are inactive which means that they are not active. There are a number of types of combined pills in the market and you can use them after consulting with your doctor.

Monophasic Pills: each pill is responsible for giving you the same dose of hormone and you can use them in one-month cycles.

You can take the inactive pills during the last week of the cycle and have your period.

Multiphasic Pills: these provide different levels of hormones during the cycle and you can use them in one-month cycles.

You can take them in the last week of the cycle and have your period.

Extended-cycle Pills: typically, you can use them in 13 weeks cycles. You can take active pills for 12 weeks while in the last week of the cycle, you take inactive pills and have your period.

As a result, when you stop taking a pill, you have your period only three to four times per year.

birth control pillProgestin-only pills

These pills have only progestin. These pills are commonly known as mini pills.

This is a good choice for women who face different health or other issues. All pills in the cycle are active in these pills.

You may or may not have your period while taking progestin-only pills as there are no inactive pills.

The pills come in different packs of dosing – from 21-day pill packs to even 365 days of inactive pills.

After consulting with your doctor, the dose of the pill depends on the prescription dose. You take at least three weeks of active pills with 2 to 7 days of hormone-free (inactive) pills. This is called cyclical dosing.

You will have your menstrual cycle during the inactive pills.

Some brands do not provide inactive pills. Within such packs, you will receive only 21 pills and will not take pills otherwise.

During this time, however, you will have your period just like when taking inactive pills.

Some formulations however offer continuous dosing. During this dosing, you take inactive pills or breaks during the active regime three or four times a year.

Skipping the inactive pills prevents menstruation.

How do Birth Control Pills Work?

An egg is fertilized in your ovary by a sperm which indicates pregnancy. After fertilization, the egg attaches itself to the inside of your womb i.e. uterus, where it develops into a baby.

During Ovulation, hormones in your body control the release of the eggs from the ovary and prepare your body to accept the fertilized eggs.

Contraceptive pills contain a small number of manmade hormones i.e. estrogen and progestin. These hormones prevent pregnancy in a few ways. Therefore, it stops your body from ovulating.

Contraceptives also change the cervical mucus to make it difficult for the sperm to go through the cervix and find an egg.

They also change the lining of the womb, lining of the uterus, therefore, the chances of fertilization decreases.

Both types of pills work in different ways.

Combination birth control Pills do not let your ovaries release an egg each month. Moreover, these pills cause thinking of cervical mucus which prevents the sperm from reaching the uterus.

Progestin-only Pills thickens your cervical mucus whereas thins your endometrium. As a result, it is harder for an egg to implant.

In addition, progestin-only pills may prevent ovulation also.

birth control pillsHow to Decide on The Type of Birth Control Pills

For every woman, the type of birth control pill is different. Consult your doctor or health care professional about the options and which pills will work best for you.

There are certain factors that affect your choice. These are:

  • Your menstrual symptoms
  • Whether you are breastfeeding
  • Cardiovascular health of the mother
  • Chronic health conditions
  • Medications you might be taking

How to Begin?

Consult your doctor as to when you can start pills. If you have your period on the day you were asked to start the pill, take it anyway.

After starting the pack, you will get your next period after 25 days.

As your doctor prescribes, it is best that you take the pill same time every day. You can either take them during the day, before breakfast, or at bedtime.

Extended pills work in the same way. After your period starts, you take them on the first Sunday. If your period starts on a Sunday, start it anyway.

You take the pill each day for 84 consecutive days. Depending on the type of pill, you can take 7 days of taking estrogen pill only.

Uses of Birth Control Pills

Birth control pills are a lifesaver for many women who want to prevent pregnancy. Non-hormonal methods have benefits as well however, hormonal pills offer a range of benefits beyond pregnancy prevention.

Let see what the uses are other than preventing unwanted pregnancy.

Menstrual cycles: These pills may balance the hormonal fluctuations that happen through your cycle. This helps with several menstrual issues like irregular or heavy bleeding, PCOS symptoms, etc.

However, these pills work differently; most of these can make your periods lighter and more consistent in their timing.

Less Pain: Hormonal pills prevent ovulation, when you do not have the periods you do not face painful contractions that cause cramps i.e Dysmenorrhea.

Hormonal pills may also provide some relief in pain during menstruation.

Hormonal Acne: Hormonal fluctuations often trigger acne in most women. That is why you face acne flare-ups during adolescence.

Hormonal birth control pills can help you tame these flare-ups by minimizing these fluctuations.

These are the most effective acne fighters as they contain both estrogen and progestin.

Uterine Cancer: These pills have long-term benefits.50 % of women are less likely to suffer from uterine cancer and the effects of this pill last for up to 20 years.

Moreover, it also reduces your risk of developing ovarian cancer.

Birth control pill usesOvarian Cysts: These are small, fluid sacs that form in your ovaries during ovulation. Sometimes they are painful however, they are not dangerous.

Women who suffer from PCOS have a large number of cysts in their ovaries. Hormonal birth control pills prevent the formation of cysts and also stop them from re-growing.

Side Effects

Birth control pills do not protect you against STDs, i.e. sexually transmitted diseases.

Moreover, using other forms of birth control like a patch, ring or IUD cannot protect you against sexually transmitted infections like HIV.

Moreover, you have to remember to take your pill every day. If you miss a pill or delay starting a new pack after finishing a pack, the risk of conceiving increases.

Breakthrough bleeding is another side effect of birth control pills. It is especially common in the beginning months of using hormonal birth control pills.

While most birth control pills are easy and effective to use, they do have side effects and risks.

Every woman reacts differently to the pills. Most commonly you might experience the following side effects:

  • Decrease in sexual drive
  • Nausea
  • Bleeding between periods
  • Breast tenderness
  • Breakthrough bleeding

These effects usually subside after a few months of use. Talk to your doctor if they do not improve.

Your doctor may advise you to change the regime or brand of the pill.

However, some risks are associated with taking combination pills. These can lead to the development of rare complications like:

  • Blood clots
  • DVT i.e. deep vein thrombosis
  • Hypertension
  • Stroke

Overall, the risk of developing blood clots is rare. According to studies, only 10 out of 10,000 develop a blood clot after taking combination pills for a year.

The risk of developing blood clots during pregnancy and after giving birth however is still lower.

The women who have the following conditions have a higher chance of blood clotting who is overweight i.e. obese, have high blood pressure, or are on bed rest for a long period of time.

Consult to your Doctor

Before taking any medication, you should always consult your doctor or health care professional.

There are a large number of options available in the market of both combination and mini pills.

However, the best choice for you depends on many factors like your weight, your medical conditions, if you had or have any medical illness, your cardiovascular conditions, etc.

Discuss with your doctor your complete medical history and the medications you have or are taking currently.

Certain medication like antibiotics, HIV medications, and antiseizure makes birth control pills less effective.

female doctor and patientAre these Pills Effective?

If taken correctly, then yes. These pills are very effective for preventing pregnancy.

Both combination and progestin-only pills have only 9% failure rates. This means that only 9 out of 100 women would conceive while using this pill.

You should take progestin-only pills within the same 3 hour time period every day to make it effective.

However, combination pills are slightly flexible. You should try to take your pill at the same time but you can take them within 12 hours and still have pregnancy protection.


A hormonal birth control pill is not for everyone. If you are a woman of age 35 and above or you smoke it can significantly increase your risk of developing blood clots and high blood pressure.

Always consult your doctor before taking birth control pills, discuss with them the potential benefits and side effects of using these pills. In case you have severe nausea, vomiting consult your doctor immediately.

Birth control pills contain hormones that affect your body in many ways. However, once you discontinue using them your body will return to how it was before.



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