When it comes to taking pills, your birth control is one you never want to skip. But that's not the only thing to keep in mind when it comes to oral contraceptive. The things your doctor wants you to know about birth control don't only prevent you from becoming pregnant, but affect your overall health as well.
According to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention, 10.6 million women take the birth control pill or oral contraceptive pills. (So thank you, Margaret Sanger, the birth control advocate who popularized birth control and pioneered women's health in the first decade of the twentieth century.) Though women and the pill have come a long way since its inception, but there are still some things every woman needs to know about taking oral contraceptive pills. It's especially important to have an open dialogue with your doctor because ingesting hormones is a serious thing, don't you think?
But because you might be too concerned with an incoming speculum during your routine OB-GYN visit, all the questions you had about the pill might slip your mind. It's a good idea to prepare yourself before your visit so you know what to pick your OB-GYN's brain about. Curious about what to ask? I talked to Matthew A. Lederman and Jeffrey Klein, two reproductive endocrinologist and infertility specialists and OB-GYNs, to get a better idea about what your doctor wants you to know about taking oral contraceptive pills. Here are some of their pointers so you can use the pill effectively with minimum discomfort to your overall health.
1. Skipping A Pill Is Too Common
Lederman says skipping a dose is the most common mistake women make when taking OCPs. "Forgetting to take a pill is a common cause of contraceptive failure." Yikes. To remember to take your pill, try setting an alarm on your phone or using an OCP reminder app.
2. You Can Make Up For Miss A Dose
Everyone misses a pill once and a while, and you can try to make up for it. "In these instances, an active pill should be taken as soon as possible," Lederman says. "In cases where two pills are missed, a backup form of contraception should be used for seven days." Got it?
3. Certain Oral Contraceptive Pills Have Risks
"In the early days of OCPs, the doses of both the estrogen and the progestin were quite high," Ledermen says. "As a result, there was a slight increased risk for cardiovascular issues such as high blood pressure, heart attacks, strokes and blood clots." He notes, however, that "lower doses of estrogen and progestin in currently available OCPs have dramatically decreased these risks," making them a safe option for women.
4. Oral Contraceptive Pills May Not Be For You
According to Klein, "women with a predisposition for blood clots—meaning they've had a blood clot in the past or someone in their family has (which would make that woman a carrier of that gene)" should avoid taking OCPs. Additionally, he says, "the pill is contraindicated for smokers over the age of 35." As if you needed another reason to quit your cigarette habit.
5. Timing Is Everything
Lederman emphasizes how important timing is to effective use of birth control. "An estrogen/progestin containing OCP can be taken at any time during the day," he says. "However, unlike estrogen/progestin containing OCPs, a progestin-only pill needs to be taken at the same time each day (within three hours) to maximize contraceptive efficacy."
Klein adds, "there's a lot of cushion with the combined hormone pills. Those are more forgiving than the progestin-only pills." Choose OCPs wisely.
6. There Are Side Effects To Oral Contraception Pills
If you've ever seen a pharmaceutical ad on TV, you know that drugs come with side effects. "Common early side effects of OCPs include bloating, nausea, mood changes, breast tenderness, and headaches," Lederman says. If you don't feel like your symptoms are getting better over time, or are disruptive to your life, you should discuss switching pills with your doctor. And, always ask your doctor what to expect with each OCP.
7. Side Effects Subside
Lederman says that often, side effects from taking OCPs subside after a few months. A watch, and wait-and-see approach is best to dealing with side effects from your OCPs, and, of course, an open dialogue with your doctor.
8. The Link Between Oral Contraceptive Pills And Fertility
Klein says taking oral contraceptive pills has "no effect on a woman's fertility," underscoring that there's no evidence to link oral contraceptive pills with increased or decreased fertility. "A woman is losing about 40 eggs per cycle on or off the pill," Klein says, which is good news for women who are taking OCPs and want to have children in the future.
9. Acne, Weight Gain, And Oral Contraceptive Pills
Klein tells me there is no evidence of weight gain with OCPs these days. As for acne, "some pills a certain type of progesterone are actually FDA approved to treat acne." So, if acne is an issue for you, ask your doctor which kind of OCPs can keep you child and acne free.