The phrase "birth control" is a great cover-all but the pill is so much more than that.
In reality, women have been taking it throughout the years to manage a number of other health concerns — from polycystic ovary syndrome to severe acne to extreme menstrual cramps. You should talk to your obstetrician gynecologist (OB-GYN) before going on any specific pill, but here are some things that you may want to know before you think about taking the pill.
The pill is 99% effective when you take it "perfectly"
The real world is far from perfect. That's why in reality, of women who take birth control pills, approximately 9 out of 100 (or 9 percent) will get pregnant anyway.
"It's hard to actually [take the pill at the same time every day] when you're living a busy life. If you take these pills every single day, the chances of getting pregnant is 1 percent. But typically the chance is much higher than that, because people miss pills. This isn't just true with birth control pills. It's true with any prescription medication.
If you miss your pill, that doesn't mean you'll definitely get pregnant if you have sex. Just be sure to use a backup barrier birth control method, such as a condom with spermicide. Talk to your OB-GYN with any specific questions or concerns you may have.
Your period may change or even stop altogether
Some women with irregular and debilitatingly painful periods find relief from those symptoms by taking birth control pills. Taking the pill on a regular schedule can lead to more regular periods for some.
If you decide that you want to stop having a period altogether, talk to your doctor about starting a continuous birth control pill regimen. Whether you have a monthly period is a decision that is entirely up to you and your doctor, and there is no medically necessary reason for you to have one if you choose not to do so.
Your acne may clear up
The hormones in all birth control pills — regardless of brand — may help prevent acne from forming. In some cases, when other over-the-counter and prescription medication for moderate to severe acne has not been a success, a doctor may even prescribe birth control pills for this welcome side effect.
Your mood may change dramatically or not
New studies come out frequently that link both positive and negative emotional effects with birth control pills. It's unclear what information we can draw from these studies because both prescriptions and patients vary so greatly.
What is clear is the fact that the hormones progestin and estrogen have some effect on our emotional states. It's understandable that tinkering with the levels of those hormones in our bodies can affect us emotionally as a result.
Do you suffer from polycystic ovary syndrome? If so, the pill may help. Taking it may also lower your risk of anemia, as well as your risk of developing certain cancers, including ovarian and endometrial cancer.
Negative side effects can happen, but your doctor can help
As mentioned above, if you notice severe mood swings or otherwise don't feel quite right after you start any birth control regimen, call your OB-GYN immediately.
The Center for Young Women's Health also wants you to remember "ACHES," which stands for the following negative side effects:
- Abdominal pain (severe)
- Chest pain (severe), cough, shortness of breath
- Headache (severe), dizziness, weakness, or numbness
- Eye problems (vision loss or blurring), speech problems
- Severe leg pain (calf or thigh)
You may need to try more than one brand before finding the one that works best for you
Since every woman is different, finding the birth control pill that works best for you may not happen with the first prescription you try. If you're experiencing any negative side effects that you don't like, talk to your doctor about switching your prescription.