Women have been empowered undoubtedly since the discovery of contraception enabling them to put into effect the decision for selecting the best time for motherhood. Moreover, with the demanding careers and household chores to meet up, the safest is a pill to keep a woman free from an unwanted pregnancy. The side effect of the oral contraceptives must be known by taking a close look at any symptom and thereafter consulting your doctor immediately before the problem aggravates.
Oral contraceptives commonly referred as pills are one of the effective reversible strategies of birth control that consist of two artificial feminine hormones – estrogen and progesterone. These contraceptives inhibit the periodical release of the egg from the ovaries, thus preventing pregnancy. It can be highly effective if taken properly in applicable dosage. However, it is recommended to use the second form of contraception in the first 7 days of the first cycle to maintain 100% safety. You must also bear it in mind that oral contraceptives do not protect a woman against sexually transmitted disease.
In addition to the known use of avoiding pregnancy, these contraceptives have similar supplementary uses. They are helpful in the treatment of premenstrual dysphoric disorder, polycystic ovarian syndrome, skin disorder and endometriosis. There is an extra medication called the ‘morning after pill’ used in the case of an emergency contraception but benefits only when taken within the first 72 hours of sexual activity.
Oral Contraceptive Pills
The main function of estrogen in a contraceptive pill is to prevent the release of the egg from the female’s ovary (ovulation). While progestin in the pill does have some alternating effect on ovulation (about 50% of the time) but the pills primarily clot the mucus in the region of the cervix to prevent sperm from getting through to the egg.
There are mainly two types of contraceptive pills: mini pills or the single hormone pill(progestin only) and combined hormone pills (estrogen + progestin) Pills are supplied in two packs- 28 day pill packs equivalent to 3 weeks of active hormone pills plus l- week of placebo pills (in 28 day pill packs, the pills for the fourth week in the pack are placebo or ‘reminder pills’ that are not active and do not contain any hormones), and 2L day pill packs equivalent to 3 weeks of active hormone pills with no placebo pills.
Progestin-only pills (the single pill) have less amount of progestin with no estrogen. The progestin-only pills are often prescribed to breastfeeding women and women who cannot take the synthetic estrogen based on medical purpose. One of the side effects of the progestin only pills to breastfeeding women is a reduction in the production of milk. Generally, the progestin-only pills have fewer side effects compared to pills containing estrogen. They are not associated with heart disease but irregular mood swings and bleeding may occur. Progestin-only pills must be taken at about the same time each day
These contain estrogen and progestin and can be further characterized(based on whether or not the level of hormones they contained remain constant throughout the first thr:ee weeks of a woman’s menstrual cycle) as Monophasic, Biphasic or Triphasic
Monophasic Pill – This one contains the same amount of hormones in every active pill, so you are less likely to experience mood swings as your hormone levels do not change much throughout the month. Very common monophasic pills include
A new package for monophasic contraceptive called Seasonale was approved by FDA in 2003. This pill is designed to be taken for 91 days, during which no menstrual periods occur. Therefore, in one year, women taking this pill will only have 4 menstrual periods (this will occur for the first year, though, you should expect the same no. of menstrual days as with when using a traditional contraceptive pill until your body conforms to it)
Biphasic Pill – Contains different amounts of hormones all through the pack. These pills vary the levels of your hormone once, during your menstrual cycle by increasing the amount of progestin in the middle of menstrual cycle. The biphasic pills are considered as the best match for the body’s natural production of hormones because they contain a smaller amount of hormones in total than monophasic pills. However, inadequate evidence has been collected which placed the biphasic pills over monophasic pills. ln a situation where more reliable data is available, monophasic pills are preferred. Breakthrough bleeding has been accounted as a side effect with these tablets. Popular biphasic pills include:
- Necon 10/11
- Nelova 1O/11
- Ortho-Novum 10/11.
Efforts to lessen side effects of oral contraceptives led to the discovery of the triphasic pill in the 1980s.
Triphase Pill – This contains 3 different amounts of hormones in the active pills over three weeks, i.e. an alteration in the levels of hormone within the body occurs every 7 days for the first 3 weeks. The amount of estrogen is steadily increased and in some pills, the dosage of progestin is also increased. It is unknown whether the triphase pills lead to fewer pregnancies than the triphase pills is nor is it known if the pills provide an improved control over the menstrual cycle or have fewer side effects. You have to try to check for the ‘TRl’ on the label such as:
- Ortho Tri-Cyclen,
Other varieties include: Ortho-Novum 7/7/7 and Cyclessa
NB: All contraceptive pills are effective if taken accurately, but the combination pills (containing both estrogen and progestin) are more effective than the little dose ‘mini pill/single pill’. Monophasic pills may be the best to start with as they are cheaper and those with lower measures of estrogen may cause fewer side effects. Always prepare to use backup (such diaphragm or preferably, condom) for the rest of the month if you miss out a tablet. Attempting trial and error while talking to your doctor should help you to get a contraceptive pill that fits your body type. Pregnancies usually occur when women do not remember to take a pill or take it wrongly, or feel nausea, diarrhea, or in a situation whereby they fail to take the pill exactly the same time as usual. It is really easy to take off a pill packet late if you just forget or if you don’t sustain the next new packet on hand. The most dangerous time to miss a pill is at the end or the start of a package because it lengthens the pill free gap beyond seven days, which means that you may not have absorbed sufficient synthetic hormones to prevent you from ovulating in the following month.
Side Effect of Oral Contraceptive
Caution: Oral contraceptives do not cause any side effect, but sometimes some women may face certain problems because of this. It is therefore recommended to talk with your physician if any or all of the following symptoms occur after getting hold of the tablets.
- Blurred vision
- Severe or persistent headaches
- Abnormal leg or thigh pain
- Severe chest pain
- Shortness of breath, or coughing up blood
- Severe abdominal pain
If you suffer any other health challenge such as heart or kidney disease, fibrous growths of the uterus, depression, diabetes, thyroid disease, or epilepsy, it is a must for you to discuss with your physician before consuming these pills. In certain severe cases, such as having a problem of a blood clot, cancer of the breast or womb, you should avoid oral contraceptive tablets. If you use the pills in these examples, either the pills will lose their effectiveness, or it will further cause your health problems worsened.
If you do not possess any specific health problems as noted above, the oral contraceptive pills can be really efficient. However, sometimes, some women complain of certain side effects that might be bothersome but are not harmful at all. They are in fact temporary changes that tend to melt in the first three to four menstrual cycles. To evaluate how you are adjusting, it is highly recommended to stay on the pill for at least three rounds. The common side effect is feeling nausea but you can avoid this by taking the pill along with a meal just before you go to bed. Some women also complain of depression or loss of interest in sex. However, the best cure for this is regular exercise and a healthy lifestyle and diet.
You should note that all allopathic medicines are known to have side effects, oral contraceptives are no exception. Most oral contraceptives contain estrogen and progestin the combination pill. The type of progestin and the dosage combined with the strength of the estrogen, altogether play a role in deciding which side effects a particular oral contraceptive is likely or unlikely to have. Some of the minor side effects of oral contraception are breast lumps, nausea, heavy vaginal bleeding between periods, a headache, a decrease in sexual libido and sometimes weight gain which varies with body types. In that respect are other side effects as well, which need to be described to the doctor immediately such as depression, migraine, and hypertension.