WHAT IT IS
The pill—some people call it the oral contraceptive—is…well…a pill. Or rather, a series of pills that you take once a day, at the same time every day, every day of the month. There are a LOT of different pill options out there, so if one isn’t a good fit, ask your medical provider about the others that are available. There are two basic types of pills:
- Combination: These pills are estrogen/progestin combos.
- Progestin-only: These are also known as the mini-pill and have no estrogen.
HOW IT WORKS
The pill—regardless of which kind you end up using—works by releasing hormones that prevent your ovaries from releasing eggs. The hormones also thicken your cervical mucus, which helps to block sperm from getting to the egg in the first place.
The pill is 91% effective.
Note: When we talk about effectiveness we mean typical use numbers or what happens when couples used this method of birth control pretty well; it accounts for human errors and occasional contraceptive failure. BUT, teenagers are often not as careful as older people in using these methods, so real typical use rates for teens may be a little worse than what you see here. Keep that in mind as you're looking at the options and remember that for birth control to be effective, you have to use it consistently and correctly every single time.
- Effective (when used correctly).
- Relatively private.
- Some women have trouble remembering to take their pill or to take it at the same time every day which is key to making sure it's effective.
- Nausea and sore breasts.
- Irregular bleeding (using the pill can cause spotting).
- No STI protection (it’s a good idea to double up with a second method like a male/female condom if you’re using the pill as your primary method).
Note: Not every woman experiences these drawbacks—they are just some of the ones that are commonly reported. Talk to your medical provider to learn more and keep in mind that if this method doesn’t work for you, there are LOTS more out there…but it’s best to wait at least six months to see if things get better before you decide to switch. If they don’t, or if you just can’t deal with them, talk with your medical provider about finding something that works for you.
NEED TO SEE A MEDICAL PROVIDER?
Yep; because the pill is a hormonal contraceptive, you’ll need a medical provider to give you a prescription. BUT, once you’ve gotten your prescription (and filled it), you take the pill on your own.
Originally published on stayteen.org on January 2, 2015.