The Pill

The birth control pill (also called “the Pill”) is the most popular form of reversible contraception in the United States and is a daily pill that contains the hormones estrogen and progestogen to prevent pregnancy. Most birth control pills are “combination pills” containing a combination of the hormones estrogen and a progestogen, which act upon the body in several ways. Primarily, the Pill prevents ovulation, which is the release of an egg during the monthly cycle. A woman cannot get pregnant if she doesn’t ovulate because she is not releasing an egg to be fertilized. The Pill also works by thickening the mucus around the cervix, which makes it difficult for sperm to enter the uterus and reach any eggs that may have been released. Finally, the hormones in the Pill may also affect the lining of the uterus, making it difficult for a fertilized egg to attach to the wall of the uterine cavity.

Combination pills come in either a 28-day pack or a 91-day pack (Seasonale). One hormone pill is taken each day at about the same time for 28 days or 91 days, depending on which style of Pill you have. In either style, the last week of pills in each package are placebos (inactive). It is during this time that your period should occur.

Advertising for today’s birth control pills is widespread. No doubt you have heard about the oral contraceptive which improves acne, Ortho Tricyclen and Ortho Tricyclen Lo; or the pill which assists with weight loss, Yasmin and Yaz. Very effective advertising campaigns have pushed these pills to the best sellers list.

The Pill is very effective in preventing pregnancy. When taken correctly, the data indicates that they have a failure rate of approximately 1.0% per year.

In general, women do not ovulate until at least 10 days after stopping birth control pills.

Starting the Pill

There are several ways to start taking the Pill, but many physicians prefer the “Sunday Start” method. Using this approach, you will start your first pack of Pills on the first Sunday after your period begins. This will result in your period almost always beginning on a Tuesday or Wednesday every 4 weeks.

Use a backup method of contraception until your first period. Take one pill a day until you finish the pack. Then begin a new pack immediately. Do not skip any days between packages.

Try to associate taking your pill with something you do at about the same time every day, like brushing your teeth in the morning, eating a meal, or going to bed. Also, it will help you to remember if you keep the pill near the place where you engage in the selected activity. Establishing a routine will make it easier for you to remember.

The pills work best if you take one at about the same time every day. Check your pack of pills each morning to make sure you took your pill the day before.