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1 2011 Birth Control Pills

2 Birth Control Pills How do birth control pills work? Birth control pills usually contain 2 sex hormones, estrogen and progestin. The birth control pill prevents the release of an egg from your ovary each month. Birth control pills also change the mucus made by your cervix (the opening into the uterus). This slows the movement of sperm through the cervical mucus and uterus. How effective are birth control pills? The pill is more than 99% effective at preventing pregnancy when taken properly. When do birth control pills become effective? Birth control pills are effective after you have completed the first package of pills. Benefits of birth control pills: may help make your menstrual cycle more regular. cramps during your period may be less painful. your menstrual flow may be lighter. decreases the risk of getting cancer of the ovary, or endometrium (lining of the uterus). helps to keep your bones healthy. may help improve your complexion. are easy to take. 1

3 Disadvantages of birth control pills: You have to remember to take a pill every day. You have to see a doctor for a prescription. Some people have side effects and are unable to take birth control pills. There may be an increased risk of breast cancer if taken longer than 5 years. How should I take birth control pills? Take the pill within 4 hours of the same time every day. Set up a time that combines taking the pill with doing something else like going to bed at night or eating breakfast in the morning. 21 day pack: Start the first pill on the Sunday after your procedure. Take one pill each day for 21 days until all the pills are gone. When you have taken all 21 pills, wait 7 days. Start the new pack the following Sunday. It is common to have some spotting or bleeding during your first package of pills. You will probably have your period during the week when you are not taking any birth control pills. Sometimes you will not have your period after the first pack but keep taking the birth control pills on schedule. If you miss your period after the second pack see your doctor for advice. (See page 3 for 28 day package information.) 2

4 28 day pack: Start the 1 st pill on the Sunday after your procedure. Take one pill each day for 28 days until all the pills are gone. Start a new package of birth control pills the next day. You will probably get your period during the last 7 pills. It is common for some women to have spotting or bleeding during the 1 st package of pills. The last 7 pills (reminder or sugar pills) do not contain any hormone but by taking them, you can keep up your daily routine. What makes birth control pills less effective? Medications such as: - antibiotics (drugs for infections) - sedatives (drugs that help you sleep or relax) - oral anti-fungals (drugs to treat a yeast infection) - antacids (drugs for heartburn) - anticonvulsants (drugs for epilepsy) may interfere with the action of the pill. Always check with your doctor or pharmacist before you take another medication while on birth control pills. If the drug may interfere with how the birth control pill works, consider using condoms with your pills or waiting to have intercourse until you start your next package. 3

5 Even one episode of vomiting and diarrhea can make birth control pills less effective because the pill may not be absorbed properly. If any of the above things happen, keep taking your birth control pills. You should also use a condom as backup or not have intercourse until you start the next package of pills. What if I forget to take a birth control pill? You can become pregnant if you forget a pill or even if you are 4 hours late in taking your pill. The hormone level may be lowered and you may release an egg. If you miss 1 pill: Take the missed pill as soon as you remember it. Take your next pill at the regular time. To be safe, you should use a back-up method of birth control (such as a condom and spermicide) for the rest of the package or not have intercourse until you start the next package. If you miss 2 or more pills: Discard pills for the missed days. Continue taking the rest of the pills in your pack on schedule. Use a back-up method of birth control such as a condom and spermicide for the rest of the pack. If you miss your period, see your doctor. Note: If taking a 28 day pack and you forget any of the 7 reminder pills you do not need to use a back-up method of birth control. 4

6 Emergency Contraception You may need Emergency Contraceptive Pills (ECP) if you have unprotected sex, if a condom breaks, or if you are raped. ECP is effective for up to 72 hours after having sex, but most effective if taken immediately. You can get ECP from your pharmacist. You do not need a prescription. If you take ECP you may have an upset stomach or throw up. It will help if you take it with food or a medication for upset stomach. * Some women may not be able to take ECP because it is a hormone. An IUD (intrauterine devise) may be inserted by your doctor to prevent pregnancy if needed. The IUD may be placed in your uterus up to 7 days after intercourse. Possible side effects of birth control pills: Early side effects may be: headaches nausea vomiting breast tenderness depression rash/acne vaginal infections spotting or breakthrough bleeding (like a period). This does not mean that your birth control pills are not effective. 5

7 These side effects usually go away after the first 3 months. If any side effects occur see your doctor so he/she can adjust your dose. Check with your doctor before you stop taking your birth control pills. More serious side effects may be: migraine headaches leg cramps or chest pain high blood pressure blood clot in the leg or lungs You should discontinue the pill and see your doctor immediately. Smoking and birth control pills: Birth control pills may be safely taken by women until menopause if they are non-smokers. Women who smoke are encouraged to stop. Smoking increases the risk of high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, or blood clots. Birth control pills will not be prescribed for women who smoke and are over 35 because the risk of stroke and heart attack is too high. Will birth control pills protect me from sexually transmitted diseases? Birth control pills will not protect you from sexually transmitted infections (STIs) such as herpes, chlamydia, genital warts, gonorrhea, or HIV (the virus that causes AIDS). 6

8 Use a latex condom every time you have sex for protection from sexually transmitted diseases. Yearly healthy living exams You still need to have a yearly Pap smear and breast exam by your doctor as a part of staying healty. Looking for more health information? Contact your local public library for books, videos, magazine articles and online health information. For a list of public libraries in Nova Scotia go to Capital Health promotes a smoke-free and scent-free environment. Please do not use perfumed products. Thank you! Capital Health, Nova Scotia Prepared by: TPU, QEII, Halifax Designed and Printed by: Capital Health Audio Visual and Printing Departments The information in this brochure is provided for information and education purposes only. The information is not intended to be and does not constitute healthcare or medical advice. If you have any questions, please ask your healthcare provider. WP Rev. May 2011 The information in this pamphlet is to be updated every 3 years.

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