Hormonal birth control pills, patches and shots promote continuously raised estrogen levels in a woman’s body, something that’s neither natural nor very safe. Hormonal Birth Control Pills and Their Side Effects – Let’s see…
What Is a Birth Control Pill?
The Department of Health and Human Services defines birth control pills, also known as oral contraceptives or just “the pill,” as types of medications taken daily by women in order to prevent unwanted pregnancies. While the majority of women choose to take birth control pills so they don’t risk becoming pregnant accidentally, a small percentage also take them for other reasons, including to regulate or temporarily stop their menstrual cycles or reduce symptoms associated with PMS and/or hormonal imbalances (such as acne, heavy bleeding during menstruation or painful cramps).
As of 2012, in the United States alone around 11 million women report using birth control pills, and the number is more than 100 million women worldwide! The total number of women exposed to any type of “synthetic hormonal contraception” is even higher, since most figures don’t account for women using the “morning-after pill” — a type of high-dose hormonal birth control available in the United States without a prescription since 2000. Surveys show that women most likely to take the pill are white women, women in their teens and 20s, never married and cohabiting women, childless women, and college graduates.
Types of Birth Control Pills (Oral Contraceptive)
There are dozens of different brands of birth control pills, with most falling into one of two categories: combined pills or progestin-only pills.
Combined birth control pills:
- As the name implies, combine pill birth control medications contain more than one type of female hormone. They’re made with chemical hormones that mimic the effects of estrogen and progestin, which prevent pregnancy by stopping ovulation. Ovulation occurs when the ovaries release an egg every month, which can then lead to pregnancy when the egg is fertilized by sperm.
- In addition to preventing ovulation, combine pill formulas cause other changes to a woman’s reproductive system that stops egg fertilization, including thinning the lining of the uterus and thickening cervical mucus.
- Combined pills are taken in a cycle every month, with usually about 21–24 “active days” of taking a pill, followed by about four to seven days off from taking a pill. Menstrual bleeding usually occurs on the days when pills are taken. Even on days when no pill is taken, the woman still won’t become pregnant.
- “Conventional packs” of birth control pills cause bleeding every month, while “extended packs” can result in a woman losing her period the majority of months. Extended packs can contain up to 84 active pills, which means a woman only bleeds about four times per year (or sometimes not at all).
- Combination birth control pills that contain less than 50 micrograms of ethinyl estradiol (a kind of estrogen) are considered “low-dose pills,” which are usually recommended with women who are sensitive to higher dose brands of birth controls.
Progestin-only birth control pills (sometimes called “minipills”):
- These pills contain only progestin (no estrogen). They’re normally recommended for women who can’t take combination pills due to side effects or interactions.
- Minipills don’t usually stop ovulation, but rather cause cervical mucus to thicken and the lining of the uterus to thin.
- There are far less brands of progestin-only pills available, and they tend to cause more breakthrough bleeding.