Birth control pills are one of the most widely used methods to prevent pregnancy. However, they are also one of the most surrounded by myths and false beliefs that can cause confusion and fear in many women. Do birth control pills cause cancer? Do they reduce fertility? Can they be taken at any time? These and other questions are very common among users or those interested in this contraceptive method. For this reason, in this article we will clarify the most frequent doubts about the side effects, the efficacy and the correct use of birth control pills, based on the criteria of the doctors.
Before going into detail, it is important to know what birth control pills are and how they work. Birth control pills are a type of hormone medicine that is taken every day to prevent pregnancy. There are two types of birth control pills: combined, which have estrogen and progestin, and progestin-only. Both prevent pregnancy by preventing ovulation (the release of an egg during the menstrual cycle) and by thickening the cervical mucus to block the passage of sperm. Birth control pills are safe, effective, and have many health benefits, as long as they are used correctly and under medical supervision.
However, like any medication, birth control pills can also have side effects, risks, and contraindications that you need to be aware of and consult with your doctor. In addition, its effectiveness can be affected by various factors, such as forgetfulness, vomiting, diarrhea, or interactions with other medications. Therefore, it is essential to know how to take birth control pills correctly and what to do in case of a problem. In this article, we'll explain everything you need to know about the side effects, effectiveness, and correct use of birth control pills, and we'll help you disprove some of the most common myths that circulate about this method of birth control.
Side effects of birth control pills
One of the issues that most worries women who take or want to take birth control pills is whether they have side effects and how they affect their health. Side effects are the reactions that some people may have when taking a medication, and depend on individual sensitivity and the type of pill. Not all women experience side effects from taking birth control pills, and if they do, they are usually mild and temporary. However, it is important to be aware of them and see your doctor if they are very bothersome or persistent.
Side effects of birth control pills can be categorized by frequency or severity. Depending on the frequency, they can be distinguished between:
- Common side effects: these affect more than 1 in 10 women taking birth control pills. For example, breakthrough bleeding, nausea, breast tenderness or mood swings, and vaginal dryness.
- Uncommon side effects: these affect between 1 and 10 in 100 women taking birth control pills. For example, weight gain or loss, acne, headache, or decreased libido.
- Rare side effects: these affect less than 1 in 100 women taking birth control pills. For example, allergy, depression or migraine.
How to prevent or manage the most common side effects of birth control pills
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If symptoms persist despite support with nutritional supplements, you should talk to your doctor to evaluate changing the pill or contraceptive method.
Myths about birth control pills
There are many myths about the side effects of birth control pills that can cause fear or confusion in women who use or want to use them. Some of these myths are:
- Myth: Birth control pills cause cancer.
- Fact: There is no scientific evidence that birth control pills cause cancer. In contrast, birth control pills have been shown to reduce the risk of ovarian and endometrial cancer. The effect of birth control pills on breast cancer risk is less clear, but appears to depend on other factors such as age, family history, and length of use.
- Myth: Birth control pills reduce fertility.
- Fact: There is no scientific evidence that birth control pills reduce fertility. Rather, birth control pills have been shown to protect fertility by preventing pelvic inflammatory diseases, ovarian cysts, and ectopic pregnancies. Most women regain their reproductive capacity soon after stopping birth control pills.
- Myth: Birth control pills cause abortions.
- Fact: There is no scientific evidence that birth control pills cause abortions. On the contrary, birth control pills have been shown to prevent miscarriages by preventing unwanted pregnancies. birth control pills put your ovaries to rest or 'sleep', so there is no fertilization or implantation of the egg. Birth control pills have no effect on an already established pregnancy.
- Myth: Birth control pills make facial and body hair grow.
- Reality: Some pills (depending on the progestogen they have) could induce it, but this is solved by changing the type of pill, since there are types of pills specially formulated to improve acne and inhibit facial hair.
- Myth: Birth control pills damage the liver.
- Fact: There is no scientific evidence that birth control pills damage the liver. Conversely, some birth control pills can improve liver function by lowering the risk of gallstones and benign liver tumors. However, birth control pills are contraindicated in women with severe liver disease or a history of malignant liver tumors. This is because the processing of the active compound is at the level of the liver, and if this organ is not working well, it can overload in function and deteriorate even more.
- Myth: Birth control pills affect memory.
- Fact: There is no scientific evidence that birth control pills affect memory. Conversely, some birth control pills may have a protective effect on the brain by preventing bone loss and dementia. However, some women may experience changes in mood or concentration due to hormonal changes, which can interfere with their cognitive performance.
- Myth: Birth control pills increase the risk of vaginal infections.
- Fact: There is no scientific evidence that birth control pills increase the risk of vaginal infections. Conversely, some birth control pills can help prevent vaginal infections by regulating the menstrual cycle and maintaining vaginal pH balance. However, some women may experience vaginal dryness or altered vaginal discharge due to hormonal changes, which may favor irritation or colonization by pathogenic microorganisms.
These are just a few examples of the myths that exist about the side effects of birth control pills. It is important to be well informed and consult your doctor before making a decision about the most appropriate contraceptive method for each case. Contraceptive pills are a safe and effective method, but they also have their limitations and risks, which must be known and evaluated by each woman.
Effectiveness of birth control pills
Another important aspect to know about birth control pills is their effectiveness, that is, their ability to prevent pregnancy. The effectiveness of birth control pills depends on several factors, such as the type of pill, the way it is used, and the presence of interactions or interferences. Some key points about the effectiveness of birth control pills are:
- The theoretical effectiveness of birth control pills is 99%, which means that if used perfectly, only 1 in 100 women who take them would get pregnant in a year. However, the true effectiveness of birth control pills is 91%, which means that if used typically, with some forgetfulness or errors, 9 out of 100 women who take them would get pregnant within a year.
- The effectiveness of birth control pills depends on taking them every day at the same time and without missing a dose. If a pill is missed, it should be taken as soon as possible and continue with the usual schedule. If two or more pills are missed, consult your doctor or pharmacist about how to proceed and use a backup method such as a condom until the pack is finished 1 .
- The effectiveness of birth control pills can be affected by some drugs or supplements that interfere with their absorption or metabolism. In general terms, it is always advisable to separate the taking of the contraceptive pill with other medications by more than 2 hours. It is equally important to separate the pill from alcohol consumption, since these are factors that could alter its absorption.
- The effectiveness of birth control pills can be affected by some physiological or pathological factors that alter their absorption or metabolism. Some examples are severe vomiting or diarrhea, obesity, smoking, advanced age, or liver or kidney disease. To avoid these factors while using birth control pills, it is ideal that you consult your doctor before starting any treatment.
Correct use of birth control pills
The correct use of birth control pills is essential to guarantee their efficacy and safety. Some recommendations for the correct use of birth control pills are:
- Consult your doctor to choose the most appropriate type of contraceptive pill for each case, according to the personal characteristics, health status and preferences of each woman. To do this, you should consult your doctor before starting treatment and carry out the periodic controls indicated.
- Read the package insert and follow the instructions for use indicated. In general, one pill should be taken a day at the same time, preferably in the evening or after a meal, and the first pack should be started on the first day of menstruation.
- Don't forget to take any pills. If a pill is missed, it should be taken as soon as possible and continue with the usual schedule. If two or more pills are missed, consult your doctor or pharmacist about how to proceed and use a backup method such as a condom until the pack is finished.
- Do not interrupt treatment without reason. If you want to stop taking birth control pills, you should talk to your doctor about available options and possible side effects. You must terminate the current package and not start a new one.
- Inform the doctor of any medications or supplements that are being taken or will be taken while using birth control pills. Some medications or supplements can interfere with the effectiveness of birth control pills and increase the risk of pregnancy or side effects.
- Inform the doctor about any change in health status or lifestyle that occurs while taking birth control pills. Some physiological or pathological factors may alter the efficacy or safety of birth control pills and require a dose adjustment or a change of method. Some examples are severe vomiting or diarrhea, obesity, smoking, advanced age, or liver or kidney disease.
Birth control pills are a very effective and safe method of contraception if they are used correctly and the doctor is consulted. However, they can also have some side effects that need to be known and managed properly.
Also, there are many myths about birth control pills that can cause confusion or fear in women who use or want to use them. For this reason, it is important to be well informed and to disprove these myths with scientific evidence.
Birth control pills are a valid option for many women, but they are not the only or the best option for all. Each woman must choose the contraceptive method that best suits her characteristics, criteria and personality, always with the advice and monitoring of her doctor.
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