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Birth Control Pills

Medically reviewed by Last updated on May 6, 2024.

What are birth control pills?

Birth control pills are also called oral contraceptives, or the pill. It is medicine that helps prevent pregnancy by stopping ovulation. Ovulation is when the ovaries make and release an egg cell each month. If this egg gets fertilized by sperm, pregnancy occurs. You will need to take the pill at the same time every day. Your healthcare provider will tell you when to start taking the pill. You will also be told what to do if you miss a dose. Instructions will depend on the kind of birth control pills you are taking.

What are the different kinds of birth control pills?

Some kinds are taken for 21 days in a row, followed by 7 days of placebo (no hormones) pills. Other kinds are taken for 24 days followed by 4 days of placebos. Each kind has a certain amount of female hormones. Your provider will decide on the kind that is best for you based on your age and other health conditions.

What may be done before I can start taking birth control pills?

You need to see your healthcare provider to get a prescription. Any of the following may be done before your healthcare provider gives you a prescription:

What are the advantages of birth control pills?

When birth control pills are used correctly, the chances of getting pregnant are very low. Birth control pills may help decrease bleeding and pain during your monthly period. They may also help prevent cancer of the uterus and ovaries.

What are the disadvantages of birth control pills?

You may have sudden changes in your mood or feelings while you take birth control pills. You may have nausea and a decreased sex drive. You may have an increased appetite and rapid weight gain. You may also have bleeding in between periods, less frequent periods, vaginal dryness, and breast pain. Birth control pills will not protect you from sexually transmitted infections. Rarely, some birth control pills can increase your risk for a blood clot. This may become life-threatening.

What should I do if I decide I want to get pregnant?

If you are planning to have a baby, ask your healthcare provider when you may stop taking your birth control pills. It may take some time for you to start ovulating again. Ask your healthcare provider for more information about pregnancy after birth control pills.

When should I start taking birth control pills after I have a baby?

If you are not breastfeeding, you may start taking birth control pills 3 weeks after you give birth. You may be able to take certain types of birth control pills if you are breastfeeding. These pills can be started from 6 weeks to 6 months after you give birth. Ask your healthcare provider for more information about when to start taking birth control pills after you give birth.

What do I need to know about birth control pills and menopause?

Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) for any of the following:

When should I seek immediate care?

When should I call my doctor?

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.