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Things To Know About Birth Control Pills

Written by Munirah Yaqoub

Image via Unsplash

Caveat: This article doesn’t serve as expert medical advice. It is important to consult your doctor when you notice something is off with your body.

The route of birth control you choose is your personal decision. As a sexually active person, you have a range of birth control options to choose from. These include intrauterine devices (IUDs), tubal litigation (tying up your fallopian tubes), condoms, diaphragms, pills and many others.

Birth control pills or oral contraceptive pills or “the pill” or whatever you’d like to call it are, as the name suggests, means to prevent unwanted pregnancies. The pills contain small amounts of hormones similar to the ones regulating your menstrual cycle, and work to prevent pregnancy by elevating your hormones, which in turn, prevent ovulation. Some pills also temporarily change the lining of the uterus so it’s less likely a fertilised egg will implant. If taken religiously, it has a 91% chance of preventing you from getting pregnant. There is, however, more to the pills than is known. These include:

1. Birth control pills are of two kinds

There are two kinds of birth control pills — combination pills (or oral contraceptives) and progestin-only pills (POPs or mini pills). Combination pills contain synthetic forms of estrogen and progesterone hormones. Estrogen controls the menstrual cycle and is usually highest in the middle of your cycle and lowest during your period. Progesterone prepares the uterus for pregnancy after ovulation by thickening the endometrium. The pill works by increasing your level of progesterone to prevent ovulation and thickening your cervical mucus which helps prevent sperm from reaching the uterus.

Combination pills come in a 28-pack and contain active (hormone-filled) and inactive (without hormones) pills which are taken as prescribed by your doctor. Progestin-only pills contain only synthetic progesterone, without estrogen. They may be a good choice for people who can’t take estrogen for one health reason or the other. All pills in POPs are active so, you may or may not have a period while taking them. POPs work by thickening your cervical mucus and thinning your endometrium. A thin endometrium prevents the egg from fertilising.

Both pills also come with their individual side effects so it’s important to do enough research and consult your doctor before deciding on a pill. Factors that could affect your choice include your menstrual symptoms, your reason for opting for the pill, whether or not you’re breastfeeding, your cardiovascular health, etc.

2. They are used for more than just birth control

Aside from the obvious benefit of preventing unwanted pregnancies, birth control pills also have a range of other benefits. These include protection against acne, painful periods, ectopic pregnancies, benign breast growths, endometrial cancer, ovarian cancer, anaemia, severe menstrual cramps, ovarian cysts (including PCOS), endometriosis, and fibroids. This doesn’t mean you should self medicate just because you have these issues; please consult your doctor first.

3. They come with a load of side effects

Like much of the other birth control options available to women, birth control pills come with a truckload of side effects, depending on the particular pill and its consumer. Everyone reacts differently to a pill. Some of the side effects include weight gain, decreased sex drive, severe nausea, breast tenderness, increase in vaginal discharge, vaginal spotting, breast enlargement, increase in appetite, missed periods, headaches, blood clots, etc.

As is expected, many of these side effects are not listed on the package of the pill. This may be because people react differently to the same thing; some people even get no side effects. Some pills have been banned in several countries for being too dangerous, however, they are still being circulated. So, it’s important to ask questions, particularly to other women who are also on the pill (and may have used the particular pill you are intending to use). There is so much knowledge in sisterhood.

4. The pill does not protect you from Sexually Transmitted Diseases or Infections

STDs or STIs are transmitted through direct sexual contact and the exchange of bodily fluids like semen. The pills do not block out STDs or STIs. To protect yourself against them, it’s best to use condoms in addition to the pill as well as occasional testing.

5. You can still get pregnant even while on the pill

Remember I said that the pill is 91% effective, well that remaining 9% means that if small mistake happen like this, you fit still get belle o. To be fully effective, it must be taken religiously, however, there is a chance that you can still get pregnant. There are numerous stories of women who have gotten pregnant while on the pill. Heck, there are stories of women who have gotten pregnant even after tying their tubes. Personally, I think any child who is conceived while the mother is on some form of birth control is bad vibes and should be sued along with the father because, why are you here???? Lmaoooo. My point is, the pill is not 100% effective, but it does work most times. May the force be with you.

6. They do not cause infertility or delayed fertility

If the reason you’re yet to get on the pill is that you think it’ll be harder for you to get pregnant when you choose to, then babes, please stop stressing yourself and get on that pill. Birth control pills DO NOT lead to infertility or delayed fertility. The essence of the pill is to increase the level of your hormones to prevent pregnancies; when you stop the pill, the levels eventually go back to normal and conception can occur. Numerous women have gotten pregnant soon after they stopped using the pill. Don’t believe the fake news, please.

Conclusively, birth control pills are a viable option for sexually active women who do not wish to get pregnant. It is also for women with one or more health problems that the pills can help with. I cannot stress how important it is to conduct proper research before embarking on this phase — speak to your doctor, your friends, and other women; ask about their experiences with these pills, and make sure it’s something that YOU want to do. There is no shame in looking after yourself because society won’t help you with that.

Munirah Yaqoub is a law graduate who is passionate about women and children’s rights. You can connect with her on Instagram and Twitter.

Edited by Oluwatobiloba Ganiyu

Female, Editor, Medical student, ambivert, goofball, Christian. Always interested in learning new things. Connect with Oluwatobiloba on Instagram.

Published by Yetunde Onafuye

Yetunde is a storyteller, podcaster, and a graduate student with interest in the social and political history of post-independence Africa. She’s also the co-lead editor at Sisterly HQ. In her free time, she reads and reviews books, engages in social volunteering, and watches tons of dramas and TV shows. Connect with Yetunde on LinkedIn and Instagram.

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