The combined pill is an oral contraceptive that contains a combination of synthetic hormones. These chemicals closely resemble the naturally produced female hormones, estrogen and progesterone, which help regulate ovulation i.e. the formation and release of the egg. The pill gives the woman control over her ovulation cycle.
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The combined pill is extremely effective in preventing unwanted pregnancies. It can prevent the egg from forming, thicken the mucus in the neck of the womb to the detriment of the sperm, and thin the lining of the womb so that the egg cannot implant itself there after fertilization. However it is important to remember that the pills offer absolutely no protection from sexually transmitted diseases or STDs.
Using the combined pill
There are many different birth control pills available in the market. These vary depending on their constituent hormone combinations and their resultant potency. The woman will need to consult with a doctor before picking out the choice that works best as a contraceptive for her. There are different ways to use the combined oral contraceptive pills.
The period option
In this case the woman will have the pill for 21 days consecutively, and then take a 7 day break to allow the monthly menses to occur. After the 7 days the next round of pills is taken. This option allows the woman to experience the regular pattern of monthly bleeding. Most women who wish to continue with a regular bleeding pattern will opt for it.
The no-period option
Here the woman continues to take the combined pill every day. There is no break in consuming the pills and this means that she does not have her monthly menses. Athletes training for serious physical competitions often opt for this method as it gives them better control over their ovulation cycle and they are less likely to be hindered by bleeding during an important competition.
Some women take the no-period option for a few months and then take a couple of months off to take the inactive pills in order to have a monthly bleed. During initial implementation, most women may get some bleeding or spotting even if they go in for the no-period option.
With the period option you will be at risk for pregnancy if you forget to have more than one pill in the week. However the no-period option keeps you safe as long as you do not forget to take more than 8 pills in a row.
Advantages of the combined pill
Oral hormonal contraceptive pills are more than 99% effective in preventing fertilization, if consumed the right way. Missing a dose, running out of prescription pills, vomiting after swallowing the pill, having the stomach flu, are some conditions where the effectiveness of the pill may be doubtful.
In real life studies conducted by the WHO it was found that the combined pill was roughly 91% effective in preventing pregnancies.
The birth control pill is also one of the most non-invasive methods of contraception currently available. It is also not a permanent method i.e. the natural fertility of the woman is restored once she discontinues use of the pill.
Disadvantages of the combined pill
The combined pill is not effective as a birth control method for everyone
Women above 35 and smokers should use another method of contraception. Those prone to blood clots in the circulatory system and heart disease should not use the pill. Additionally, those struggling with obesity or suffering from repeated migraine headaches are asked to use different contraceptive options.
The pill may not be effective if used in conjunction with other medication
Before you consume any such medication please consult your health care provider to know that the effectiveness of your contraception pill is not going to be affected.
Remembering to take the pill everyday may be difficult
One must remember to take the pill every day and, in addition, at the same time each day. Any irregularity can result in the contraceptive pill failing.
While few women suffer from serious side effects by being on the pill, some do suffer from those which must be endured. These could include dark patches showing up on your skin, mild headaches, tenderness in the breast region, enlargement of the breasts, change in frequency of sexual desire, mild weight gain and even nausea. Not all side effects may affect each woman.
Reviewed by Afsaneh Khetrapal, BSc (Hons)