17 February 2021
Did you know that 1 in 5 people with cycling ovarian hormones within the reproductive age take the birth control pill? You’re definitely not alone if you’re considering the pill—in fact, you probably have multiple friends who are already on the pill! Let’s dive in on why we take the pill, how to find the right pill, and why it’s important to take it consistently.
Why do we take birth control pills?
“Birth control” is almost a misnomer because there are a ton of other reasons to take the pill besides preventing pregnancy. In a 2015 online survey of US pill-takers, almost half said that they sought out the pill for a primary reason other than preventing pregnancy.
Some of the reasons were:
- Regulate menstruation
- Lighten/skip/shorten periods (yes, it’s OK to skip your period if done intentionally 👌)
- Improve acne
- Manage mood (especially if you suffer from severe PMS)
- Reduce menstrual cramps
- Help with fertility (IVF) treatments
- Help manage polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
- Help manage and reduce pain for endometriosis
- Reduce the recurrence of painful periods, pelvic pain, and endometrioma cysts when the pill is taken continuously
- Lower the risk of endometrial cancer
- Lower the risk of ovarian cancer (fun fact: it’s estimated that the worldwide use of oral contraceptive prevents 30,000 deaths from ovarian cancer annually)
- Lower the risk of colon and rectal cancers by approximately 20%
- Manage migraines
- Reduce the risk of anemia
And the list of health benefits continues!
So, what are the side effects of the pill?
There's no denying that the pill isn't a perfect solution for everyone. Nearly half of pill-takers surveyed report being concerned about side effects before starting their first prescription, with the most frequent concerns being weight gain, mood swings, blood clots, infertility (P.S. the pill does NOT affect fertility), nausea/vomiting, and irregular/missed periods.
Some reported side effects, including menstrual bleeding irregularities and mood swings, may be related to not taking the pill at the same time everyday.
Other noted side effects may actually be normal cyclical bodily changes such as water retention and breast tenderness.
Sometimes, the pill just isn’t meant for you, even if you’re taking it correctly. In that case, talk to your ob/gyn about potentially switching to another brand or dose, or trying another form of birth control, such as the IUD, ring, patch, and more.
How do I choose the right pill?
Finding the right pill can be a little bit of a trial-and-error process. Before going to your ob/gyn for a pill prescription, jot down your answers to these questions:
- Why do you want to be on the pill?
- What issues or side effects are you concerned about regarding the pill?
- What health problems do you have? Do you suffer from migraines, irregular period, acne, etc.?
- What kind of lifestyle do you have? (e.g. Do you travel a lot? Are you a serious athlete?)
- How do you typically respond to hormones? How do you feel during the first half of your cycle vs the second half? How do you feel during your period?
Based on your responses, your ob/gyn should know what kind of birth control, hormone type, dose, and frequency of period would be best for you 👍
Any tips on taking the pill consistently?
Because the pill stabilizes your hormone levels, missing a dose or even taking a dose a couple of hours late can have consequences to your body. You may notice your mood swings coming back. You may even start to spot. To mitigate these symptoms, you just have to take the pill as close to the same time as you can each day. Easier said than done, right?
We got you! When surveying birth control users who never miss a pill, 90% said they have a routine that involves taking the pill at the same time everyday. The key is to find the right routine for you.
When looking at psychological factors which reduced missing pills, a study noted that the only factor was feeling a higher sense of control in planning around and taking the pill.
Try attaching your pill routine to something you already do every day. Here are some tips that Aavia members shared with us:
And, a shameless plug:
Remember that we all have different lives and routines, so it’s important that you figure out the lifestyle that suits you, starting with making your birth control work for you ✌️
*No information on this post should be relied upon to make a medical diagnosis, or determine treatment for a medical condition. The information on this website is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical advice. Though I am a physician, my blog posts are for information purposes only and shouldn’t be seen as medical advice. Different people react to hormones differently, and it is important to be clinically evaluated and talk about your specific situation with your doctor.
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