Learning About Birth Control Pills
Although women are grateful for this relatively simple and reliable form of contraception, most of them readily admit that they don't know much about how oral contraceptives actually work.
When you take oral contraceptives, the hormone thins out the lining of the uterus making it unable to host egg implantation. The mucus in the cervix thickens, making it tough for sperm to swim through.
Most birth control pills contain two hormones, estrogen and progestin. Pills that contain both estrogen and progesterone are called combined contraceptives. There is also another type of pill that contains progestin-only, called the mini-pill.
Progestin-only birth control pills are a popular choice for many nursing and non-nursing women immediately postpartum. Also called the mini-pill, this method is less effective than combination pills. But, it is often recommended after delivering your baby because combination pills increase your risk of developing blood clots.
They may also reduce the risk of triggering migraine headaches compared to pills with estrogen.
Combination Oral Contraceptive Pills
The same kind of estrogen is in all low dose combination pills. The exact dose of estrogen may have an impact on the kind of side effects you experience.
If you have a history of blood clots, or have high blood pressure, your doctor may advise that you take the progestin-only pill. Also, many organizations are concerned that combined oral contraception may suppress milk production, so they do not recommend them in breastfeeding women. But, currently there is not enough evidence to show that birth control pills affect how much milk your body makes.
Monophasic vs. Triphasic
Within the family of estrogen-containing pills, there are two main types: monophasic and triphasic. As the names suggest, monophasic pills provide the same level of hormones throughout the pill cycle. Triphasic pills also induce a steady state of hormones, but at three different levels during the cycle. The two types are equally effective for pregnancy prevention.
Last reviewedMay 2014by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.