New Delhi: Oral contraceptive pill (OCP) or birth control pill are fraught with numerous myths and deep concerns about their side effects, especially regarding the possibilities of conceiving in the future or the development of cancer.
There are many things a woman needs to consider before she starts taking regular birth control pills. Dr Sunita Verma, Director - Obstetrics & Gynecology, Fortis Hospital, Shalimar Bagh answers some of the most frequently asked questions:
What are contraceptive pills?
Contraceptive pills (also called birth control pill) is a daily pill that contains the female sex hormones estrogen and progesterone, which interfere with ovulation, as a result of which there is no fertilization.
What is the difference between the birth control pill and the emergency contraceptive pill?
An emergency contraceptive pill (also called as the morning after pill or I pill) is a single pill that prevents pregnancy after an act of unprotected sex which is only meant for occasional use. On the other hand, the birth control pill is designed to use regularly as a method to prevent pregnancy.
How and when should I take birth control pills?
Birth control pills must be taken every day at the same time to avoid pregnancy. These include monthly packs of 21-day, 24-day, or 28-day cycles depending on the brand & composition of the pill.
Tip: Keep it in your bathroom (near your toothbrush) or on your bedside table so you don't forget to take it every day.
How long does it take for birth control pill to start working? When will it be safe to have sex without a condom?
This depends on which day of your period you started the pill. If you started any day between 1 to 5 of your period, then it is effective immediately. If it is started randomly on any day of the cycle then you may need to use condoms for the first 2 weeks of use.
How effective are birth control pills?
If taken correctly, they are over 99 per cent effective in preventing pregnancy. It is important to remember that certain medications and supplements can make the pill less effective - consult your doctor if you are on any medication.
Tip: Take the pills at a fixed time daily +/- 2 to 3 hours. Don't skip any dose.
How safe are they?
The birth control pill is usually very low dose & is safe for most women, but all medicines have some risks and side effects. Inform your doctor about your detailed medical & family history. Also, make sure to get a thorough check-up done before starting the pill. Pills are very safe if taken under medical supervision.
Are there any side effects of taking these pills?
You may have some minor side effects like nausea, bloating, sore breasts or mood swings. Use of pills will usually not lead to any major side effects.
What should I do if I am on the pill and want to get pregnant? How soon can I try to conceive?
You can stop taking the pill at least 4weeks before you want to conceive. For some women, it takes a couple of months for their ovulation to resume, but for other women, it can happen right away when they stop taking the pill. Make sure to see your doctor for a preconception counselling at least 6 months before planning pregnancy/stopping the pills.
Is it true that you're likely to gain weight after starting birth control pills?
Some women do gain weight while on the pill, but there is no scientific evidence for that it is due to the pill. There may be other reasons for gaining weight like exercising less or a changed diet.
What are the additional benefits of birth control pills?
a) They are very effective & you don't have to worry about birth control during intimacy.
b) They also help regulate your menstrual cycle. This can be helpful for women with irregular or heavy periods.
c) Menstrual periods are more regular, lighter and their effects are fully reversible. This means when you stop taking them your cycle will return to normal and you can get pregnant soon.
d) A decrease in menstrual cramps and acne.
e) Doesn't interrupt sexual activity.
f) Protective against ovarian cancer.
In conclusion, OCPs are safe (even as a long term option), effective & easy to consume. Make sure you are under medical supervision - like any other medication, what works for someone else may not work for you, and may even harm you.