Birth control pills are an effective form of pregnancy prevention for most women. However, there are some side effects associated with taking the drug. As with anything, it's essential to do your research first and consult your doctor before taking the pill. Luckily, there are several forms of birth control available, and if you decide that one isn't right for you, less invasive options available. Also, there are many birth control pill brands, so you can try different ones to decide which one suits you best.
How Do Birth Control Pills Work?
Women take birth control to help prevent pregnancy, and the drug is generally 99 percent effective (1). The pill works by interrupting a woman's natural cyclical hormones to prevent pregnancy (2). The hormones in a female's body trigger the ovaries to release an egg, and they prepare her body for fertilization.
Ovulation, simply put.
When the egg and sperm meet, the egg is fertilized and adheres to the woman's uterus where it grows into a baby.
Birth control pills contain small amounts of artificial estrogen and progestin hormones that prevent pregnancy in different ways. Either halting ovulation, altering the cervical mucus, or changing the womb's lining. Those occurrences make it difficult for the sperm to get through or hinders a fertilized egg from getting implanted.
As you can see, the pill works as a blocking agent within conception. Its primary objective is to interrupt the beginning stages of pregnancy. However, it's easy to forget to take birth control pills, which reduces its effectiveness down to about 91 percent. Here are a few other reasons why the tablet might be less potent:
The Most Common Birth Control Pills: Side Effects
Although birth control is beneficial for preventing pregnancy, there are some side effects of the drug. Many of the common symptoms are nausea, vomiting, weight gain, headaches, and bleeding between menstrual cycles (3). Also, women who take progestin-only pills experience acne, fatigue, ovarian cysts, decreased libido, weight gain, and more.
Generally, the reason behind these symptoms is a fluctuation in hormones. The pills are also designed to regulate hormones throughout a woman's cycle, but fluctuations occur when a dose is skipped or taken late.
Luckily, many of these side effects will subside a few weeks after starting the pill. For a majority of women birth control is safe and effective, and there are no issues. However, certain factors can increase her chances of experiencing side effects. A few of them include:
What's The Future Of Birth Control Pills?
For many years, women have been tasked with the burden of taking oral contraceptives to prevent pregnancy. However, new developments have suggested that a birth control pill for men is on its way. According to a study conducted by the Endocrine Society, the pills have passed human safety tests and will decrease sperm production without reducing libido (12).
Current birth control options for men are limited:
Condoms or a vasectomy.
One potential side effect of male birth control is a reduction in testosterone, which may cause mood swings and decrease sex drive.
Luckily, only a small number of participants in the study experienced those reactions (13). On the other hand, many of the men in the study gained weight as a result of the pill's use.
Possible Long-Term Effects Of Birth Control Pills
Many women take birth control pills for years to help prevent pregnancy. However, some long-term health risks could trigger problems that occur later in life (14).
Here are a few:
The pill has been linked to increased risks of benign liver tumor, but they aren't usually cancerous. There are some inconsistencies because some studies found the possibility of liver cancer is higher after taking oral birth control for a minimum of five years. On the other hand, other studies did not come to that conclusion.
Breast cancer has a higher chance of developing in women, especially if they started the pill at a young age. However, those who start the pill after years of not using it tend to have the same risk as someone who never used it.
Long-term use of taking oral contraceptives has been associated with an increased risk of cervical cancer compared to women who have never used it. On the contrary, cervical cancer is generally caused by human papillomavirus (HPV), and its link to birth control pills hasn't been established.
Taking combination birth control pills can increase the potential of cardiovascular side effects like stroke, heart attack, and blood clots.
And some pills have a higher risk than others.
Women who have these diseases in their family history should use more precaution and choose alternative methods.
What Causes The Pill To Be Less Effective?
After learning the potential risks of taking birth control pills, you may feel like they're a good option for you. However, it's vital to ensure that the contraceptive will be sufficient. Here are a few things that can weaken the pill:
Not Taking It At The Same Time Each Day
Progestin-only pills require a structured routine that's time-sensitive. They mainly work by altering the fluid to make it difficult for sperm to get through. With that said, cervical mucus can be penetrated within three hours, so the drug has to be in the system. If you are late taking a mini-pill, Planned Parenthood suggests using an alternative method of birth control for at least two days after skipping a dose (16).
Migraine Or Seizure Medication
Certain epilepsy medications are liver enzyme-inducing which means they can increase the rate in which the liver breaks down hormones (17). As a result, birth control isn't as potent and therefore, less effective. Furthermore, some seizure medication is used to treat migraines, so women must speak with their physician before starting a new treatment.
Missing A Dosage
This reason is pretty self-explanatory, and it's one of the most common reasons why birth control pills aren't as effective for some women. It's easy to forget to take it, which could cause problems. The drug has to consistently be in the system to make sure it's strong enough to prevent pregnancy. If a woman routinely misses days, there won't be enough hormones in the body to counteract the process of pregnancy.
Although birth control is used to prevent pregnancy, it’s not exactly true to its name. The pill is used to treat other ailments and is often more effective than drugs designed specifically for certain conditions.