How the Pill Works
The pill works primarily by stopping ovulation (release of an egg). Pills are very effective if swallowed at the same time every day and if other instructions regarding concurrent drug use or use during episodes of diarrhea or vomiting are followed. In addition to preventing pregnancy, pills decrease your risk for ovarian cancer, cancer of the lining of the uterus, benign breast masses, and ovarian cysts. Pills decrease menstrual blood loss and menstrual cramps.
Starting the Pill
If you are beginning birth control following a pregnancy, you should begin the day of or the day after your abortion, delivery or miscarriage. Otherwise, you may start the Sunday following the beginning of your menstrual cycle. They will be effective after seven continuous days of use.
Take one pill a day until you finish the pack, then:
- If your are using a 28-day pack, begin a new pack immediately. Do not skip any days between packs.
- If you are using a 21-day pack, stop taking pills for 1 week then start your new pack.
If you have spotting/bleeding between periods try to take the pill at the same time every day. Spotting will sometimes stop on its own after your body gets used to the pill. If the spotting doesn't stop on its own after 1-3 cycles, you can come back to the clinic for a change in your prescription.
Missing your Pill
If you forget to take yesterday's pill, take it as soon as you remember and take today's pill at the regular time. The risk of getting pregnant is slight, but you can use a second method of birth control just to be sure.
If you miss two pills in a row, take two pills as soon as you remember and two again the next day. You may have some spotting. It is recommended that you use a second method of birth control along with the pills until your next period.
If you miss three or more pills in a row, take two pills a day for three days. It is strongly advised that you also use a second method of birth control until your next period.
Stop taking the pills from your old pack of pills.
Start a new pack of pills the next Sunday (even if you are bleeding). Use a second method of birth control while you are off pills and for the first two weeks that you are on your new pack.
Missing a Period
If you miss a period but you have not missed any pills and you have no signs of pregnancy, it is unlikely that you are pregnant. If you are worried, you can come into the clinic for a pregnancy test. Many women who take the birth control pill miss a period every now and then. There is a simple way to determine early pregnancy. If your period does not appear during the last few days on the pills or during the first three days off the pills, then take your basal body temperature. If it is below 98 degrees Fahrenheit for 3 days in a row, you probably are not pregnant.
If you do become pregnant while on the pill, the risk of having a child with birth defects is slightly increased by taking pills in the first month or two of pregnancy. The magnitude of this risk is not yet defined.
You may have few temporary side effects while taking the pills such as nausea, breast tenderness, slight weight gain, bloating or break-through bleeding, usually these will be lessened after you have taken the pill for 2-3 months.
You may experience pronounced mood changes while taking the pill, such as depression, irritability, and a change in sex drive. Sometimes switching pill brands can help this.
Be familiar with the pills warning signs:
- Severe abdominal pain
- Severe chest pain, cough, shortness of breath
- Severe headache, dizziness, weakness, or numbness
- Eye problems (vision loss or blurring)
- Speech problems
- Severe leg pain (calf or thigh)
If you are seen by another doctor for any problem, mention that you are taking birth control pills. This could effect your diagnosis and treatment.