Birth control pills for dummies
Mine found out about birth control pills when she was a senior in high school. She first started to use them to manage her polycystic ovary syndrome* on her doctor’s advise. Later, she also used them to prevent pregnancy, as she was in a long-term relationship and sexually active. She used the 21–pills pack and experienced no negative side effects. In fact, she was happy that her acne cleared up and she lost a few pounds because of the pills.
Another user, Selin also experienced lighter and regular periods and reduced pain during menstruation. Just like Mine, she started using the pills as a method of birth control during a long-term relationship. She was relieved that despite being a smoker, the side effects from the pill were positive.
Not everyone has similar experiences like Mine and Selin though. Take for example Elif. According to her, she gained quite some weight and had other negative effects such as mood swings and feeling depressed. She decided to stop using them and switched to another contraceptive methods such as condoms.
These diverse stories make one wonder why people have such drastically different experiences. In this blog, we explore this question.
What are birth control pills?
Birth control pills are medically known as oral contraceptives. They include estrogen and progesterone hormones; and prevent pregnancy. These hormones stop ovaries from releasing an egg during ovulation.
They also thicken the cervical mucus, which act as a barrier between the sperm and the egg.
And finally, the hormone progesterone makes the endometrium layer of uterus thinner. This makes it impossible for a fertilized egg to implant itself to the uterus and grow into a baby.
21-pill vs. 28-pill packs: are they different?
Well, their effect on preventing pregnancy is not different. Only the way of using them is.
With 21-pill pack, you take one pill for 21 days (3 weeks) and no pills for the next 7 days (week 4). You get your periods during week 4 when you are not taking any pill. You start a new pack after week 4 is over. Some of the brands that have 21-pill pack are Yasmin, Microgynon, Diane 35, Reginon and Ginera.
In 28-pill pack, there are 21 pills with hormones and 7 pills with no hormones. These 7 pills are often called “placebo” or “reminder” pills. You take the hormone pills for 21 days (3 weeks) and placebo pills for the next 7 days (week 4). Your periods will start during week 4 while you are taking the placebo pill. You start a new pack after week 4 is over. Some of the brands that have 28-pill pack are Yazz and Qlairista.
The decision regarding which pack (21-pill or 28-pill) and brand to use should be made in consultation with a medical specialist.
Whether using the 21-pill pack or the 28-pill pack, you should take pills at the same time, every day. Forgetting taking a pill affects the effectiveness of this method and you should use additional protection methods to stay safe such as a condom or an emergency contraceptive pill.
Things to keep in mind
Using birth control pills requires discipline. The protection rate is 99,9% if you use the pills regularly and correctly. So, you need to take the pill at the same time, every day.
Another point that is often misunderstood is that smokers cannot use oral contraceptives. Well, it is risky for a person who is 35 years old or above, but if you are a 21 years old, you should consult an expert and choose the right pill for yourself.
Birth control pills can have both negative and positive side effects, depending on individual differences.
Some users experience weight gain, some do not. For example, Elif stopped using her pills because she gained a lot of weight and she was not happy about it. After quitting, she lost many pounds.
Depressive mood, low sex drive, headaches, nausea, menstrual spotting and reduced menstrual bleeding are also some of the most common negative side effects of oral contraceptives. You should consult an expert in this case.
The good news is that there are also many other positive side effects to taking oral contraceptives. For example, Mine told us she experienced weight loss and her acne disappeared. She also felt better than ever as her pain from polycystic ovary syndrome subsided and her menstruation cycle became regular.
Oral contraceptives also reduce pain from endometriosis, and reduce the risk of endometrial cancer, ovarian cancer and pelvic inflammatory disease. They result in lighter and regular menstruation, reduced menstrual cramps and lesser premenstrual syndrome.
How to choose and get the pills?
You can go to the nearest pharmacy and get birth control pills without a prescription in Turkey. It would be wiser to consult a medical specialist before you start to use them because there are many factors that might affect your experience with the pills.
How your body will react to the pills depends on your menstruation cycle, age, weight, medical history and your preferences in relation to the content of the pills. For example, choosing the pills with the lowest dose of estrogen and progesterone could result in smoother menstrual cycle and very few side effects.
If you smoke and are below 35 years of age, then you might want to ask a specialist to see if there is any drawback to using the pills.
Everyone is different, so what you are experiencing might not be the same as another person. That is why a health provider and trained community expert can help you to figure out which one is the right for you.
*Women with polycystic ovary syndrome produce higher-than-normal amounts of male hormones, which causes their body to skip menstrual periods and makes it harder for them to get pregnant.
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About the author: Aysima Kiris is a psychologist and currently a graduate student of Gender and Women’s Studies. She is studying gender-based violence, consent, women empowerment, sexuality knowledge and body image.