Are you contemplating the use of contraceptive pills to avoid a pregnancy? Are you unsure of how to go about it?
Well, contraceptive pills are one of the most commonly used methods of contraception. Yet, most women are not completely aware of what these pills are, how to use them correctly, and the possible side effects of these pills.
Before you decide to take up any method of contraception, it is important to know about it in depth; after all, it is something that is going to intervene with the natural process of your body.
Through this article, we will discuss the usage; side effects, and alternatives to contraceptive pills simply to ensure you make well-informed choices in life.
Contraceptive pills primarily consist of hormones that prevent a woman from conceiving. A woman gets pregnant when a man’s sperm fertilizes the egg released from her ovary. Once this fertilized egg embeds in the womb, it receives nourishment and slowly develops into the baby. The contraceptive pills release synthetic hormones in the body that take a two-way approach to prevent a pregnancy from happening. Firstly, the hormones control or stop the ovaries from ovulating (releasing the egg). Secondly, if the egg is released and is fertilized, the pills alter the lining of the womb in a way that the fertilized egg cannot implant itself on the lining of the uterus and is passed out of the body.
Usage Of Contraceptive Pills
Using a contraceptive is simple and just involves swallowing a tiny pill every day. The number of days to have the pill is different based on the brand and the type of pill you are using.
#1. Combination Pills
These are the most common type of pills available. They must be consumed daily. These pills consist of two hormones - estrogen and progestin. There is no compulsion on the timings of consuming these pills. They can be had at any time of the day. They are available in packs of 21 days, 28 days, and 91 days. The major difference between the different pack sizes is the number of recovery pills available in them. For e.g. - a 28-day pack would have seven days of recovery pills, which act as reminder pills. These recovery pills provide you iron and other supplements to keep you healthy. You can start the next pack of pills once you finish the entire month.
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#2. Progestin-only Pills
Progestin-only pills are also called mini pills and these have a time restriction attached to them. This means you will have to consume these pills within the same 3-hour window every day. Missing the pill within this 3-hour frame puts you at a risk of pregnancy. They are only available in a 28-day pack, which lasts for four weeks. During the course of these pills, there are chances you may experience spotting on and off throughout the month.
#3. Extended cycle pills
These contain the same hormone as the other pills but they reduce the number of menstrual cycles you would have throughout the year. This means, consuming extended pills reduces your periods form 13 in a year to just four in a year. These pills are taken for 12 weeks continuously and followed by one week of inactive pills, which result in a menstrual cycle.
Side Effects Of Using Contraceptive Pills
Contraceptive pills are used by many women for contraception and also to skip their period. This works as an option especially if someone wants to be period-free during religious occasions or a vacation.
Although there is nothing dangerous about using these pills to skip a period or control pregnancy, it is important t0 understand that using, contraceptive pills regularly causes side effects that may range from mild to severe dysfunctions, depending upon individual body types.
Some of the common side effects of pills include -
- Experiencing nausea, headaches, sore breasts, and light bleeding (spotting) which usually disappear after a few months on their own.
- Sometimes blurred vision or appearance of zigzag lines may occur in front of the eyes causing difficulty to see things.
- Missed periods, light periods or irregular periods are also common.
- Weight gain, abdominal pain, and mood swings can also be seen in some women.
- Contraceptive pills may very rarely cause some serious complications like heart attack, stroke, blood clots, or liver tumors.
- These pills can also cause wide fluctuations in vitamin levels in the body.
- It is always safe to consult your doctor if you experience any of these symptoms as they need to be treated on priority. Sometimes, change of the brand of contraceptive pills may also resolve the problem so you need to decide which brand of contraceptives suit your body better.
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Alternatives To Contraceptive Pills
Though birth control pills are convenient, they remain a synthetic option, which causes problems in the normal functioning of the body. While there are no restrictions on personal choices, you may also consider few alternative options before considering for contraceptive pills.
Some alternatives to contraceptive pills would be -
#1. Natural Remedies
Natural or homemade remedies to avoid pregnancy are not just effective but are also safe on the body. Neem leaves, figs, cotton root, ginger etc. are few ingredients that provide natural contraception.
#2. Intrauterine Device (IUDs)
These are devices inserted into the uterus, which make the walls of the uterus unfavorable for pregnancy. They are therefore, an effective birth control method. Copper T is a well-known IUD available in India. It is not easy to insert an IUD and therefore, requires a doctor’s help. It is a minor procedure and works for almost 5 years after put in place.
#3. Birth Control Ring
This is also called the Vaginal Ring. It is inserted into the vagina and releases hormones in a similar manner as the pills. However, unlike the pills, the rings do not have to be changed every day and are effective for a period of three weeks. Once the ring is removed post three weeks, you are likely to get your periods. You may insert a new ring immediately after three weeks if you do not wish to have your periods. One common problem associated with vaginal rings is that it can sometimes slip out and needs a re-insertion after a wash or simply a new ring can be put.
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#4. Contraceptive Injections
Contraceptive hormones can also be injected into the body as intramuscular injections. These injections are effective for about 150 days and regular periods are disabled during the course of this injection.
#5. Birth Control Patch And Implants
Birth control patch is a small skin-colored patch worn on the skin of the arms or back. It works in releasing same hormones as the pill and can be removed when you desire to have a period. This patch is effective for a week and needs to be replaced.
#6. Birth control implant
This is a new method of contraception where a metal piece containing progesterone is inserted into the arm surgically where it releases the hormone for its contraceptive effect. This implant works for three years and can be re-implanted. It is not possible to have periods during this time but some women may get light spotting.
The patches and implants do not claim to have any adverse effects and are completely safe. However, they have currently not been introduced in the Indian market. Any woman can take a birth control pill but it is not advisable for women above 35 who smoke. If you are a non-smoker, you can take contraceptive pills until menopause. Always seek your doctor’s advice before you start any methods of synthetic contraception.
It is very important to understand that contraceptive pills only help to avoid pregnancy and not end one. They do not protect one from sexually transmitted diseases either and nor do they cause an abortion if a pregnancy is already positive.
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