Birth Control Pills

What Is It?

Birth control pills are a kind of medication that women can take daily to prevent pregnancy. They are also sometimes called “the pill” or oral contraception.

How Does It Work?

It’s pretty common for people to be confused about how birth control pills work. Some birth control pills contain two hormones — estrogen and progestin. These are called combination pills. Some are progestin-only pills. Most women on the pill take combination pills.

The hormones in the pill work by keeping eggs from leaving the ovaries. Pregnancy cannot happen if there is any egg to join with sperm.
Making cervical mucus thicker. This keeps sperm from getting to the eggs.

How Do I Take Birth Control Pills?

It depends on what kind of pill you are taking. Most combination pills come in 28-day or 21-day packs. Both types have 21 “active” pills that contain hormones. The last seven pills in 28-day packs of combination pills are called “reminder” pills. They do not contain hormones.

With progestin-only pills, you may get your period the fourth week, no period, or have to bleed on and off throughout the month.

How Much $$$?

Cost about $0–$50 each month.

Is It Effective?

Combination pills work best when taken every day. Progestin-only pills must be taken at the same time every day. That keeps the correct level of hormone in a woman’s body. The pill may be slightly less effective for women who are very overweight. Talk with your health care provider if you are concerned about how well the pill may work for you.

Side Effects?

  • bleeding between periods (most often with progestin-only pills)
  • breast tenderness
  • nausea and vomiting



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