Similarly, it is good to find out how these work and what side effects they can cause, and other factors to help you choose if birth control pills are a good choice.

What are the types of birth control pills?

Combination pills

Combination pills contain artificial forms of the hormones estrogen and progestin.

However, most pills in each cycle are active, which means they contain hormones.

The rest pills are inactive, meaning they don’t contain hormones.

There are many types of combination pills:

  • Multiphasic pills: These pills are used in one-month cycles and produce different hormones during the cycle. However, during the last week of the cycle, you take inactive pills and have your period.
  • Monophasic pills: These are used in one-month cycles, and each active pill gives you the same dose of hormone. During the last week of the cycle, you take inactive pills and have your period.
  • Extended-cycle pills: These are typically used in 13-week cycles. You take active pills for 12 weeks, and during the last week of the cycle, you take inactive pills and have your period. As a result, you have your period only three to four times per year.

Examples of brand-name combination pills include:

  • Beyaz
  • Enpresse
  • Estrostep Fe
  • Azurette
  • Kariva
  • Levora
  • Loestrin
  • Natazia
  • Low-Ogestrel
  • Ortho-Novum
  • Ocella
  • Ortho Tri-Cyclen
  • Seasonale
  • Seasonique
  • Velivet
  • Yasmin
  • Yaz

Progestin-only pills

Progestin-only pills comprise progestin without estrogen. This type of pill is also called the minipill.

Progestin-only pills may be a great option for women who can’t take estrogen for health or other reasons.

With these progestin-only pills, all pills in the cycle are active.

There are no inactive pills, so you may or may not have a period while taking progestin-only pills.

Examples of progestin-only pills include:

  • Camila
  • Errin
  • Heather
  • Jencycla
  • Nor-QD
  • Ortho Micronor

Deciding on a type of birth control pill

Not every type of pill is a suitable fit for every woman. It is always important to talk to your doctor about which pill option would work best for you.

Factors that can influence your choice include:

  • whether you are breastfeeding
  • your menstrual symptoms
  • your cardiovascular health
  • other chronic health conditions you may have
  • other medications you may take

How do birth control pills work?

Combination pills work in two ways.

  • Firstly, they prevent your body from ovulating. This means that your ovaries won’t release an egg each month.
  • Secondly, these pills cause your body to thicken your cervical mucus. This mucus is fluid around your cervix that helps sperm travel to your uterus so it can fertilize an egg. The thickened mucus aids stop sperm from reaching the uterus.

Progestin-only pills also work in a few different ways.

  • Mainly, they work by thickening your cervical mucus and by thinning your endometrium. Your endometrium is the lining of your uterus where an egg implants after it’s fertilized.
  • If this lining is thinner, it’s harder for an egg to implant in it, which will prevent a pregnancy from growing.
  • In addition, progestin-only pills may prevent ovulation.
  • Combination pills come in different formats. It includes monthly packs, which follow either 21-day, 24-day, or 28-day cycles.
  • Extended regimens can follow 91-day cycles. For all of these formats, you take one pill each day at the same time of day.
  • Progestin-only pills, on the other hand, only come in packs of 28. As with combination pills, you take one pill at the same time every day.

How active are birth control pills?

When taken accurately, there are very powerful in preventing pregnancy. According to the CDC, both the combination pill and the progestin-only pill have 9% failure rates with typical use. Meaning that out of 100 women using the pill, 9 would get pregnant.

To be adequately effective, progestin pills must be taken within the same three-hour time period every day.

There is lightly more flexibility with combination pills. Overall, you should try to take combination pills at the same time each day, but you can take them within the same daily 12-hour window and still have pregnancy protection.

Certain medications may make either type of pill less effective. These include:

  • certain HIV medications such as lopinavir and saquinavir
  • rifampin (an antibiotic)
  • certain antiseizure medications such as carbamazepine and topiramate
  • St. John’s wort

The pill may also be less active if you have diarrhea or vomiting. If you’ve had a stomach illness, have a checkup with your doctor to see if you’re at risk of pregnancy.

What are the benefits of birth control pills?

Birth control pills have plenty of benefits, which include:

  • It protects you 24/7. You don’t have to worry about birth control during intimacy.
  • They’re effective. They protect against pregnancy better than most other birth control options.
  • It helps regulate your menstrual cycle. This can be effective for women with irregular or heavy periods.
  • They’re fully reversible. Meaning when you stop taking them, your cycle will return to normal, and you can get pregnant later.

There are also benefits depending on the type of pill.

Combination pills may also provide some protection against:

  • acne
  • ectopic pregnancy
  • thinning bones
  • non-cancerous breast growths
  • severe menstrual cramps
  • endometrial and ovarian cancer
  • anemia
  • heavy periods

Progestin-only pills have other benefits as well, such as being safer for women who:

  • are smokers
  • are older than 35 years
  • can’t tolerate estrogen therapy
  • have a history of blood clots
  • want to breastfeed

Birth control pills don’t protect against sexually transmitted infections. To certain you’re protected against these infections, you need to use condoms in addition to your daily pill.

Furthermore, you have to remember to take your pill every day. And you need to make sure you always have a new pack ready to go when you finish a pack. If you miss a pill or delay starting a new pack after finishing a cycle, your risk of pregnancy increases.

Side effects and risks

While birth control pills are safe for most women, they have some side consequences and risks. Every woman reacts differently to the hormones in birth control pills.

Some women have side effects, such as:

  • decreased sex drive
  • breast tenderness
  • nausea
  • bleeding between periods

If you have these side effects, they will likely change after a few months of using the pill. If they don’t improve, talk to your doctor. They may suggest that you switch to another type of birth control pill.

Risks

The severe risk of using birth control pills, especially combination pills, is an enhanced risk of blood clots. This can lead to:

Overall, the risk of a blood clot from using any birth control pill is low.

According to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, out of 10,000 women, less than 10 will develop a blood clot after taking a combination pill for a year.

This risk is still lower than developing a blood clot during pregnancy and quickly after giving birth.

However, the risk of a blood clot from the pill is higher for certain women. This includes women who:

  • have high blood pressure
  • are very overweight
  • are on bed rest for long periods

If any of these factors apply to you, talk with your doctor about the risks of using a birth control pill.