Birth control pills, also known as oral contraceptives, have been prescribed to women to prevent pregnancy for decades. They are one of the most common and reliable forms of birth control. Birth control pills prevent pregnancy by preventing ovulation from occurring each month. The pill also makes the cervical mucus thick, which prevents the sperm from fertilizing the egg, according to Planned Parenthood.
The pill is considered an effective form of contraception. If it is taken correctly, which is daily, fewer than 1 percent of women will get pregnant. Effectiveness decreases if it is not taken as directed. About one in eight woman will become pregnant if the pill is not taken daily, according to Planned Parenthood.
There are two main types of birth control pills. One type is the combination pill, which contains two hormones, including estrogen and progesterone. It comes in a 28-day pack. For the first 21 days, the pills taken contain the two hormones. In the last seven days, a placebo is taken, which does not contain any hormones. This is done as a reminder, to stay consistent with taking the pill daily. The second type of birth control pill is considered a mini-pill and contains progesterone only. The progesterone-only pill is taken everyday. A placebo is not taken when using the progesterone-only pills.
Some women may have side effects when taking birth control pills. According to the University of California at Davis Student Health Services, side effects may include mood changes, spotting or bleeding between periods and nausea. More serious side effects are rare, but they can occur and include blood clots in lungs or legs and benign tumors in the liver. Serious side effects are more common in women who smoke cigarettes, particularly women over 35.
In addition to preventing pregnancy, birth control pills may have other benefits. Taking birth control pills may reduce the risk of ovarian cancer, according to University Of Maryland Medical Center. The pill may also help treat conditions, such as polycystic ovarian disease and endometriosis. The pill may also help reduce symptoms of premenstrual syndrome and improve acne.
The pill will not protect against HIV, HPV or other sexually transmitted diseases. The antibiotic rifampin may reduce the effectiveness of birth control pills. Other medications may also interfere with the effectiveness of the pill, such as certain HIV medications. Women should ask their doctor about any medication they are taking and how it will interfere with the effectiveness of birth control pills. A back-up method of birth control may be needed.