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Oral Contraceptives : The pill for women is an oral contraceptive made from synthetic hormones. The pill is considered to be 97 to 99% effective, if used properly. The pill is also fully reversible. The pill has been available since 1960, and it is estimated that more than 10 million American women currently use birth control pills. There are two types of birth control pills available: The combination pill (currently 39 brand names); and The minipill (currently 3 brand names). 1. The combination pill The combination pill contains the hormones estrogen and progestin, a form of progesterone. When a woman uses the combination pill, the eggs in her ovaries do not mature and she does not ovulate. She doesn't become pregnant because no egg is available to be fertilized by a sperm. The combination pill comes in 21-day packs or 28-day packs depending on the manufacturer. The 21-pill pack has pills for 21 "on" days and no pills for the 7 "off" days that follow. The 28-pill pack has active pills for the first 21 "on" days and 7 inactive (placebo) or reminder pills for the following 7 "off" days. For more, please read the Oral Contraceptives article. 2. The Minipill The minipill only contains one hormone, progestin. Progestin thickens the cervical mucus, making it more difficult for sperm to pass through the cervix. It also makes the lining of the uterus less receptive to the implantation of a fertilized egg. The progesterone-only pill is sometimes recommended for women who have medical reasons for which they must avoid taking estrogen hormones. (These reasons include liver disease, certain types of blood clots in the veins, breast cancer, and uterine cancer). In addition, it is often recommended in nursing mothers because it has no adverse affects on breastfeeding. Indeed, extended breastfeeding, as well as delay in the need for formula supplementation has been observed in breastfeeding users of the minipill.
Birth Control Pills : Oral contraceptives (OCs) are medications that prevent pregnancy. They are one type of birth control. OCs may contain combinations of estrogen and progestin or progestin alone. Combinations of estrogen and progestin prevent pregnancy by inhibiting the release of the hormones LH and FSH from the pituitary gland in the brain. LH and FSH play key roles in the development of the egg and preparation of the lining of the uterus for implantation of the embryo. Progestin also makes the uterine mucus that surrounds the egg more difficult for sperm to penetrate and, therefore, for fertilization to take place. In some women, progestin inhibits ovulation (release of the egg). The combination OCs are called "monophasic," "biphasic," or "triphasic." Monophasic OCs deliver the same amount of estrogen and progestin every day. Biphasic OCs deliver the same amount of estrogen every day for the first 21 days of the cycle. During the first half of the cycle, the progestin/estrogen ratio is lower to allow the endometrium to thicken as it normally does. During the second half of the cycle, the progestin/estrogen ratio is higher to allow normal shedding of the lining of the uterus to occur. The triphasic OCs have constant or changing estrogen concentrations and varying progestin concentrations throughout the cycle. There is no evidence that bi- or tri-phasic OCs are superior to monophasic OCs, or vice-versa. OCs are prescribed for the prevention of pregnancy. When taken as directed, OCs fail in less than 1 in every 200 users over the first year of use. OCs also are prescribed to treat mid-cycle pain which some women experience with ovulation. OCs, while regulating the menstrual cycle, reduce menstrual cramps and heavy bleeding, and, because of the reduced bleeding, they may prevent the anemia that can develop in some women. Doctors sometimes prescribe higher doses of OCs for use as "morning after" pills to be taken up to 72 hours after unprotected intercourse to prevent fertilization and pregnancy.
The Pill - Preventing Pregnancy : Commonly called "the pill," combined oral contraceptives are the most commonly used form of reversible birth control in the United States. This form of birth control suppresses ovulation (the monthly release of an egg from the ovaries) by the combined actions of the hormones estrogen and progestin. If a woman remembers to take the pill every day as directed, she has an extremely low chance of becoming pregnant in a year. But the pill's effectiveness may be reduced if the woman is taking some medications, such as certain antibiotics. Besides preventing pregnancy, the pill can make periods more regular. It also has a protective effect against pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), an infection of the fallopian tubes or uterus that is a major cause of infertility in women, and against ovarian and endometrial cancers. Birth control pills are considered safe for most women but they carry some risks. Current low-dose pills have fewer risks associated with them than earlier versions. But women who smoke, especially those over 35, and women with certain medical conditions such as a history of blood clots or breast or endometrial cancer, may be advised against taking the pill.