Birth control pills are used to keep you from getting pregnant. They also are sometimes used to help treat symptoms of irregular, heavy, or painful menstrual periods. If you are taking birth control pills, you should take them according to the schedule prescribed by your healthcare provider.
Birth control pills are one of the most reliable forms of birth control. For every 1000 women who use the pills exactly as instructed for a year, 3 women may get pregnant. The chance for pregnancy is higher if you don’t carefully follow the instructions for taking the pills.
Another name for birth control pills is oral contraceptives.
Birth control pills contain medicine that is similar to a woman’s natural hormones. Normally, the hormones control the release of an egg from an ovary each month. Taking a birth control pill changes the hormone levels and keeps the ovaries from releasing an egg. If the ovaries don’t release an egg, you cannot get pregnant. The hormones also cause a thickening of the mucus on the cervix and change the lining of the uterus. These changes also help prevent pregnancy.
The most common pills contain man-made forms of the hormones estrogen and progesterone. There is also a progesterone-only pill, which is used only in special cases.
When you take birth control pills, your periods are regular and usually lighter. Menstrual cramps may not be as painful. The symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) may not be as bothersome.
If you have any questions, ask your healthcare provider or pharmacist for more information. Be sure to keep all appointments for provider visits or tests.