How to Choose the Right Birth Control Pills

With literally hundreds of brands and doses of oral contraceptives on the market, it can be hard for you to know how to choose the right birth control pills. Here are some tips about how to choose the right pills for you.

Types of Pills

There are two major types of birth control pills: progesterone-only pills (POPs) and combined oral contraceptive pills (COCs).

POPs

POPs are sometimes known as the “mini-pill.” POPs are an oral contraceptive pill formulation that contains a single hormone, progesterone. All of the pills in the pack are one color, and every pill in the pack has progesterone. POPs are a better choice than other birth control pills if you have certain medical conditions, such as elevated blood pressure, migraines with aura and certain blood clotting disorders. If you are a breastfeeding mother or if you are older than 35 and you smoke, POPs might be a better choice for you than COCs.

It is essential that you take your POPs at the same time every day. If you forget to take your pill or are late, you may be at an increased risk of pregnancy. The main side effects of POPs are changes to your menstrual cycle. You may have spotting, light periods, or irregular periods.

COCs

Combined oral contraceptive pills contain two hormones: estrogen and progesterone. These pills are generally structured so that you take a hormone-containing pill (or active pill) each day for 21 days and then a placebo pill each day for 7 days. Because the placebo pills do not contain hormones, your hormone levels drop during that week and you will typically experience menstrual-like bleeding. While this bleeding is neither a true period nor medically necessary, many women like to have regular episodes of bleeding. Other women prefer to skip or suppress their periods. Some pills are packaged so that you take an active pill each day for 84 days and then a placebo pill each day for 7 days. This allows to you have your “period” once every 3 months instead of each month.

Non-Contraceptive Benefits of the Pill

Oral contraceptive pills provide many health benefits in addition to pregnancy prevention. When you take the pill, you can reduce your risk of ovarian cancer, PMS, anemia and uterine cancer. Taking the pill can also help regulate your monthly cycles, especially if you have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. Women who take the pill often get relief from heavy, painful periods. Birth control pills can also improve symptoms from endometriosis and ovarian cysts. If you have acne, COCs can improve your complexion.

Talk to Your Health Care Provider

As you and your health care provider choose the right pill for you, it is important to consider your overall health and risk factors, as well as other benefits that you desire from taking the pill. It can take a few months for your body to get used to a new pill, but if you try one and you are having unacceptable side effects, talk to your health care provider. There are many options to try as you find the perfect pill for you.

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