Birth control pills, or commonly known as oral contraceptives, are medications women take to prevent pregnancy. They are an effective method of birth control.

If taken correctly, birth control pills are effective in preventing pregnancy. According to the CDC, both the combination pill and the progestin-only pill have 9 percent failure rates with typical use. That implies 9 women out of 100 would get pregnant.

To be fully successful, progestin pills must be taken within the timeframe of three-hour every day. There is more flexibility with combination pills. In general, 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.

Are birth control pills safe?

The birth control pills are safe and an effective method of birth control. Most young women who take the pill have none to very few side effects. The side effects that some women have while on the pill include:

  • mood changes
  • irregular menstrual bleeding
  • nausea, headaches, dizziness, and breast tenderness
  • blood clots (rare in women under 35 who do not smoke)

Some other side effects of birth control pills include lighter periods, reduces cramps, and is often prescribed for women who have menstrual problems. Taking the combination pill often helps reduce acne, protects against some forms of breast disease, anemia, ovarian cysts, ovarian and endometrial cancers. 

How do birth control pills work?

Combination pills work in two ways. First, they prevent your body from ovulating. This means that your ovaries will not release an egg each month. Second, 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 helps prevent sperm from reaching the uterus. Progestin-only pills also work in different ways. The pills thicken your cervical mucus by thinning your endometrium. Your endometrium is the lining of your uterus where an egg implants after it is fertilized. If this lining is thinner, it is harder for an egg to implant in it, which will prevent a pregnancy from growing. In addition, progestin-only pills may prevent ovulation.

What are the benefits of birth control pills?

Birth control pills have several benefits:

  • They protect you 24/7. Women do not have to worry about birth control during intimacy.
  • They are effective than most other birth control options.
  • They help regulate your menstrual cycle. This can be helpful for women with irregular or heavy periods.
  • They are fully reversible. This means 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
  • anemia
  • heavy periods
  • severe menstrual cramps
  • non-cancerous breast growths
  • endometrial and ovarian cancer

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

  • cannot tolerate estrogen therapy,
  • are smokers,
  • are older than 35 years,
  • have a history of blood clots, and
  • want to breastfeed.