Birth Control Pill

Combined Hormonal Contraception (CHC)
 What is the birth control pill?
The birth control pill (BCP) is the most common type of birth control. It is a pill taken by mouth every single day to prevent pregnancy. The BCP contains two types of female hormones - estrogen and progestin. The BCP is up to 99 per cent effective if used as instructed. 
How does the birth control pill work?
The BCP prevents the ovaries from releasing an egg each month (ovulation). If there is no egg to meet the sperm, pregnancy will not occur. The BCP also thickens the cervical mucus making it difficult for the sperm to reach the egg. It also changes the lining of the uterus making implantation difficult.
Who can use the birth control pill?
The BCP is a great choice for most women seeking a reliable and reversible method of birth control. Some women cannot take estrogen for medical reasons, please discuss with your health care provider.
How do I use the birth control pill?
Begin taking the BCP on the first day of your period or on the Sunday following the first day of your period. Be sure to take your BCP at the same time each day to avoid unintended pregnancy. Try to take your BCP with a scheduled daily activity such as a shower or breakfast.

28-day packs: take one pill at the same time every day for 28 days (21 days of active pills and seven days of hormone free pills). Your period should begin during the last seven days of that pill pack (hormone free pills). Start a new pill pack after completing the previous pack.

21-day packs: take one pill at the same time every day for 21 days, then stop taking the pill for seven days. Your period should begin during the last seven days (pill-free week). Start a new pill package after your seven-day break, even if you still have your period.

Backup?
For the first seven days you begin the BCP, use a backup method of birth control such as condoms or do not have sex during this time. If you start on the first day of your period, no backup is necessary.

If you miss a pill, follow these directions:

  • If you miss a pill, take it as soon as you remember. This may mean taking two pills in one day.
  • If you miss two pills in a row during the first two weeks of the pack, take two pills on the day you remember and two the next day. Use a backup method of birth control if you have sex in the next seven days. If you had unprotected sex after missing a pill, use emergency contraception.
  • If you miss two pills in a row in the third week of the pack, throw out the rest of the pack and start a new pack on the day you remember. You may not have a period this month. If you have unprotected sex after missing a pill, use emergency contraception.
  • If you miss three pills in a row, at any time, throw out the rest of the pack and start a new pack on the day you remember. You may not have a period this month. Use a backup method of birth control if you have sex in the first seven days of the new pack. If you had unprotected sex after missing a pill, use emergency contraception.
What are the advantages, possible side effects or complications of the BCP?
 Advantages
  • Decreased cramping and menstrual bleeding
  • Improved cycle control (regular periods)
  • Reduced risk of ovarian and endometrial cancer
  • Can reduce acne

Possible side effects

Minor possibility of: (will likely resolve within the first three months)

  • Irregular bleeding (breakthrough bleeding)
  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Sore breasts
  • Mood changes
  • Slight bloating

Possible complications

The warning signs of a blood clot spell out the acronym ACHES:

Abdominal pain (severe pain or lump in the abdomen)

Chest pain or shortness of breath

Headache (severe) with dizziness, weakness or numbness

Eye problems (vision loss or blurred vision) or speech problems

Severe leg pain or numbness (calf or thigh)

Women who have any of these symptoms while on the BCP should go to the hospital.

 

Progestin-Only Pill (POP)
What is the progestin-only pill?
The progestin-only pill (POP), also known as Micronor®, is not as well known or frequently used as the combined oral contraceptives, but is very safe and effective. It is a pill taken by mouth every single day at the same time to prevent pregnancy. The POP contains one hormone - progestin. The POP is 92 to 99.7 per cent effective if used the right way, i.e. it must be taken at the same time every day.
How does the POP work?
The POP primarily changes the mucus in the cervix making it harder for sperm to enter the uterus. In some women, the POP prevents the ovaries from releasing an egg each month (ovulation) and changes the lining of the uterus making it difficult for an egg to attach itself.
Who can use the POP?
All women seeking a reliable and reversible method of birth control can use the POP. Also, this method may be a good option for women who are unable to take estrogen or women who are breastfeeding. The POP may be a good option for women over age 35 who smoke and women who experience migraine headaches.
How do I use the POP?
Begin taking the POP on the first day of your period. You must take the POP at the same time each day to avoid pregnancy (within a three-hour window). Try to take your POP with a scheduled activity such as a shower or breakfast.

28-day packs: POP is only available in 28-day packs. Take one pill at the exact same time every day [emphasis] for 28 days (28 days of active pills). There is no pill-free interval (hormone free pills). Start a new pack of pills after completing the previous pack.

Backup?
During the first month of taking POP, your body is adjusting to the hormones and you may be at risk of pregnancy. For the first seven days you begin the POP, use a backup method of birth control such as condoms or do not have sex during this time.
What if you miss a pill?
Follow these directions if you are late by more than three hours

If you miss a pill take it as soon as you remember. The next pill should be taken at the regular time. This may mean taking two pills in one day. Use a backup method of birth control if you have sex within the next 48 hours. If the backup method fails, use emergency contraception.

If you miss two or more pills in a row take two pills per day for two days. Use a backup method of birth control if you have sex in the next 48 hours. If the backup method fails, use emergency contraception.

What are the advantages, possible side effects or complications of the POP?
Advantages
  • Decreased menstrual bleeding
  • Some women stop having periods
  • Decreased menstrual cramping and premenstrual symptoms

Possible side effects

  • Minor possibility of irregular bleeding (will likely resolve within the first three months)

Hormonal side effects

  • Headache
  • Bloating
  • Acne
  • Breast tenderness

Remember

  • The POP does not protect you against STBBIs or HIV; use condoms to lower your risk
  • If you have any vomiting or diarrhea, continue to take the POP, but use a backup method of birth control (condoms) for the remainder of the cycle
  • For additional information or assistance contact the province wide Aids and Sexual Health Infoline at Toll free: 1 (800) 668-2437
  • For more information on the POP please consult, the Sex and U website

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