The Pill

The Pill

An image of a pill package

"The Pill" is a pill. Some people call it "oral contraception." It's taken once a day, at the same time every day. There are lots of different kinds of pills on the market, and new ones come out all the time. Most work by releasing hormones that keep the ovaries from releasing eggs. The hormones also thicken cervical mucus, which helps to block sperm from getting to the egg in the first place.

Types of Pills

An image of a pill package
Combination

These use an estrogen/progestin combo that works with a person's body to prevent ovulation. A monthly combination pill pack contains three consecutive weeks of hormone-based pills and a week of placebos that’ll bring on the period.

An image of a pill package
Progestin-only

Better known as the mini-pill, these have no estrogen in them and are often prescribed for those who are sensitive to combination pills and having side effects. They release a small amount of progestin everyday of the month and don’t give the user a period during a set week.

Details

It takes discipline

It's critical to remember to take the pill at the same time every day. Even on weekends. Even on vacation.

You want predictable periods

For those who feel comforted by getting their period every month—and not having random spotting in between—this could be a good choice.

Skipping Aunt Flo

Some pills allow people to skip their period altogether.

Smokers over 35, beware

For those over age 35, smoking while on the pill increases the risk of certain side effects. 

The pregnancy question

A person's return to fertility should occur very quickly after they stop taking the pill, which is great for those looking to conceive. But for those who aren't ready or interested in getting pregnant, an alternative method will be required immediately after stopping the pill. 

Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, for those with health insurance, chances are good that IUDs are available without out-of-pocket costs. Explore all insurance options at HealthCare.gov or at a state-based marketplace. For those who don't have insurance or Medicaid coverage, the pill averages anywhere from $10 to $50 per month, depending on if it is a generic or name brand.

Prices:

  • This method may be free or low-cost.
  • With Medicaid: free.
  • With insurance: free under most plans.
  • Without insurance: the full price of the pill can range from $10 - $50 a month. Depending on a person's income, they may be able to go to a low-cost clinic to get it at reduced cost.
  • Payment assistance: for brand-name pills, contact the manufacturer’s website for information about coupons and discounts. Or contact the Partnership for Prescription Assistance at 1-888-4-PPA-NOW (1-888-477-2669) or www.pparx.org. Also, check with a local family planning clinics and find out if they offer free or low-cost birth control pills (most do).

To be most effective, the pill must be taken at the same time every day, no matter what. 

Some pills come in 21-day packs. Others come in 28-day packs. Some give you a regular period every month. Others let you have your period once every three months. And some even let you skip your period for an entire year. Because there are so many options available, it's important to discuss all the options with a health care provider. 

Tips and tricks

Try taking your pill at the same time you always do something else in your daily routine—like brushing your teeth.

Set up a free text message or email reminder with us.

Have a box of emergency contraception on hand, just in case you forget your pill sometime during the month and then have sex without a condom or other barrier method.

Every method has its own positives and negatives, and because everyone's birth control is different what one person experiences may not be the same as another's experiences.

The Positive

  • Easy to use—just swallow with water.
  • Doesn't interrupt the heat of the moment.
  • Might give you lighter periods.
  • Gives you control over when you have your period.
  • Some pills clear up acne.
  • Can reduce menstrual cramps and PMS.
  • Some pills offer protection against some nasty health problems, like endometrial and ovarian cancer, iron deficiency anemia, ovarian cysts, and pelvic inflammatory disease.

The Negative

Everyone worries about negative side effects, but for many people, they're not a problem. Most folks adjust to the pill pretty quickly, but it could take a few months. For a very small number of people there are risks of serious side effects, however, so it's best to discuss those with a provider.

Things that will probably go away after two or three months:
  • Bleeding in between periods.
  • Sore breasts.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
Things that may last longer:
  • A change in sex drive.

If after three months, the pill or its side effects still feel uncomfortable, it's important to go to a provider and discuss switching methods. 

Do you have questions about The Pill? Visit Bedsider.org for answers to many of the most popular questions about this method of birth control.