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revised Wednesday April 22 2009
healthy sexuality
Birth Control Methods

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Birth Control Pill

The birth control pill is an oral contraceptive taken daily that contains estrogen and progestin. It is more-commonly known as “The Pill.”

The Pill prevents pregnancy by stopping an egg from being released each month (ovulation) and by changing the cervical mucous to make it more difficult for sperm to enter the uterus.

Effectiveness

When used correctly, the Pill is 92 - 99.2% effective in preventing pregnancy. This means that up to 8 out of 100 females taking the Pill for one year will get pregnant.*

* source: The Mayo Clinic

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How to Use the Pill

Always read the package information that accompanies your pills.

Using a 21-Day Pack

This type of pill pack contains 21 hormone pills. Take one pill every day for 21 days, and then don’t take any pills for 7 days. (Your period will start during these pill-free days.) Start a new pack of pills the day after your 7th pill-free day whether bleeding has stopped or not.

Using a 28-Day Pack

This type of pill pack contains 21 hormone pills and 7 "fake" pills. Take one pill every day for 28 days and then start a new pack of pills whether bleeding has stopped or not. (Your period will start during the last 7 "fake" pill days.)

When to Use Backup Protection

You should also use a back up birth control method - such as condoms - for 7 days if:

  • You're starting your very first pack of pills.
  • You haven't taken your first 7 pills as directed.
  • You've missed a pill.
  • You’re taking any prescribed or over-the-counter medications which interfere with the Pill. Speak to your pharmacist or doctor about medications that impact the effectiveness of the Pill.
  • You vomit within 1 hour of taking a pill.
  • If you have severe diarrhea or vomiting for more than 24 hours.
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What to Do If You Miss a Pill

Follow the steps below if you miss one or more of your birth control pills. Match the number of pills missed with the appropriate starting time for your type of pill pack.

If you forget more than one pill two months in a row, contact us for ideas to help taking your pills easier or about using other methods of birth control.

NOTE:If you’re using a 28-day pack and you forget any of the seven "fake" pills (without hormones) in week 4, just safely dispose of the pills you missed. Then keep taking one pill each day until the pack is empty. You don’t need to use a back-up method.

! The emergency contraceptive pill (ECP or "morning after pill") is an option to reduce the chance of pregnancy if you miss a pill.

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Sunday Start

If you start your pill on a Sunday and you:

What to Do

Miss 1 pill

  • Take your pill as soon as you remember and take the next pill at the usual time. This means that you might take 2 pills in one day.
  • Use a back-up method of birth control if you have sex in the 7 days after you miss the pills.

Miss 2 pills in a row - 2nd Week

  • Take 2 pills on the day you remember and 2 pills the next day. Then take 1 pill a day until you finish the pack.
  • Use a back-up method of birth control if you have sex in the 7 days after you miss the pills.

Miss 2 pills in a row - 3rd Week

  • Keep taking 1 pill a day until Sunday. On Sunday, safely discard the rest of the pack and start a new pack that day.
  • Use a back-up method of birth control if you have sex in the 7 days after you miss the pills.
  • You may not have a period this month.
  • If you miss 2 periods in a row, call your doctor or clinic.

Miss 3 or more pills in a row at anytime during your cycle

  • Keep taking 1 pill a day until Sunday. On Sunday, safely discard the rest of the pack and start a new pack that day.
  • Use a back-up method of birth control if you have sex in the 7 days after your missed pills.
  • You may not have a period this month.
  • If you miss 2 periods in a row, call your doctor or clinic.
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Other Day Start

If you start on any day besides Sunday and you:

What to Do

Miss 1 pill

  • Take your pill as soon as you remember and take the next pill at the usual time. This means that you might take 2 pills in one day.
  • Use a back-up method of birth control if you have sex in the 7 days after you miss the pills.

Miss 2 pills in a row - 2nd Week

  • Take 2 pills on the day you remember and 2 pills the next day. Then take 1 pill a day until you finish the pack.
  • Use a back-up method of birth control if you have sex in the 7 days after you miss the pills.

Miss 2 pills in a row - 3rd Week

  • Safely dispose of the rest of the pill pack and start a new pack that same day.
  • Use a back-up method of birth control if you have sex in the 7 days after you miss the pills.
  • You may not have a period this month.
  • If you miss 2 periods in a row, call your doctor or clinic.

Miss 3 or more pills in a row at anytime during your cycle

  • Safely dispose of the rest of the pill pack and start a new pack that same day.
  • Use a back-up method of birth control if you have sex in the 7 days after you miss the pills.
  • You may not have a period this month.
  • If you miss 2 periods in a row, call your doctor or clinic.
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Advantages & Disadvantages

Advantages

Disadvantages

  • Allows for spontaneity and doesn’t interrupt sex.
  • Your chances of getting pregnant are very low.
  • Your period is very regular. You might not bleed as much during your period.
  • Does not protect against sexually transmitted infections or HIV.
  • A doctor or health care professional has to prescribe the Pill.
  • You have to take it at the same time every day. If you miss a pill or take a pill late, it may not be as effective.
  • A very small number of women suffer side effects or more serious complications.
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Cautions & Things to Consider

Side Effects

When you first start the Pill, and for some months after, you might:

  • Have bleeding between periods (break-through bleeding).
  • Have an upset stomach or nausea.
  • Gain weight or have bloating due to water retention.
  • Have headaches.
  • Experience sore breasts.
  • Experience mood swings.
  • Have lighter and/or shorter periods, or missed period.
  • Find you get drunk faster and stay drunk longer if you use alcohol (wine, beer, liquor).
  • Experience a decrease in some vitamin levels, so eat a well-balanced diet.

Smoking and The Pill

You shouldn’t smoke while taking the Pill. Women who take the Pill and smoke have a slightly higher chance of developing a blood clot.

Potential Complications

The Pill can slightly increase the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and blood clots in some women. Talk to your doctor about how your medical history and age might affect your taking the Pill.

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