The birth control pill is a prescription birth control drug that contains hormones to prevent ovulation. This form of birth control involves taking a pill once a day on a monthly cycle. The pill works by modifying a woman’s natural hormone system. The pills contain estrogen alone or in conjunction with synthetic progesterone which works to prevent conception in several ways:

  • Estrogen prevents ovulation by inhibiting the secretion of the follicle (FALL-ik-el)-stimulating hormone, or FSH (F-S-H).
  • Estrogen also thickens the cervical mucus making it hard for sperm to penetrate.

Progesterone protects against pregnancy by preventing the ovaries from producing eggs. Birth control pills have a 97 to 99.9 percent effective rate in preventing pregnancy if they are taken correctly.

The pill is convenient to use because there is nothing to insert before intercourse. Other advantages include lighter, more regular periods with less cramping, fewer cases of ectopic (ek-tah-pik) or tubal pregnancies, and less acne. The pill also reduces the risk of iron deficiency, anemia, premenstrual tension, and pelvic inflammatory disease.

As with any medication, there can be side effects. Some reactions, such as nausea, vomiting, weight gain or loss, breast tenderness, spotting between periods, and depression, will usually cease within two or three months.

Your healthcare provider will require you to have an examination before writing a prescription for the pill.

For more information on this subject, visit The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists website.