Oral (COCP & POP)

 

Birth control pills are one of the most commonly used methods of hormonal contraception. There are two general types of oral contraception, the Combined Oral Contraceptive Pill (COCP) and the Progestin Only Pill (POP).


WHAT IS IT?

The Combined Oral Contraceptive Pill (COCP for short), also known as “the Pill” or combination pills, are pills with both progestogen (a progestin) and ethinyl estradiol (estrogen). Common brand names include Alesse, Apri, Aranelle, Aviane, Enpresse, Lessina, Levlen, Levora, Loestrin, Mircette, Natazia, Nordette, Lo/orval, Ortho-Novum, Ortho Tri-Cyclen, Yasmin, Yaz, Lysel, Seasonique, and Seasaonale.

HOW DOES IT WORK?

There are 28 pills in one pack, taken daily at around the same time. The first 21 days have hormones, and the remaining 7 days are usually hormone free, a placebo. Some packets contain only 21 pills and users are advised to wait 7 days until the new pack, while others contain 7 placebo pills to take until your new pack (largely used to keep users on track).

On those 7 days, one will experience withdrawal bleeding, which simulate a period (but aren’t a “real” period!). Some COCPs have 24 days of hormones pills and 4 placebo pills, while others contain 84 pills with hormones and 7 pills without hormones, resulting in bleeding only 4 times a year. This is known as continuous dosing or an extended cycle pill.

The progestin and estrogen in COCPs suppress ovulation, keeping your eggs in your ovaries, and thicken cervical mucus making it harder for sperm mobility, and thin the uterus lining making it harder for eggs to attach there.

HOW EFFECTIVE IS IT?

The pill has a 91% effectiveness for contraception. The efficacy of the pill may be affected due to missing/skipping pills, delay in starting new pack, intestinal malabsorption due to vomiting/diarrhea, ingestion of other drugs that interact with hormone levels. If used exactly as instructed, it can prevent pregnancy to up to 99% effectiveness.

BENEFITS, SIDE EFFECTS, AND SERIOUS RISKS

Potential Benefits Can treat PCOS, endometriosis, menorraghia, amenorrhea, reduce menstrual cramps, treat acne, ovarian cysts, PID, and endometrial cancers, incidences of anemia, possible decreased risk of ectopic pregnancy
Common Side Effects Change in bleeding pattern, may have a longer/shorter/no bleeding during period, spotting, breast tenderness, headaches, nausea, vomiting, weight gain, cramps, bloating, mood swings, depression, anxiety
Serious Risks High blood pressure, heart attacks and stroke, gallbladder disease, cancerous and noncancerous tumors, smoking increases the change of higher risk of serious blood clots

YOU SHOULD NOT USE THE PILL IF you smoke, are pregnant or think you may be pregnant, have severely high blood pressure, liver cancer or disease, a history of blood clots, vascular diseases, heart attack or stroke, diabetes, headaches with neurological symptoms, major surgery, known or suspected breast, cervical, and endometrial tumors or cancers, undiagnosed vaginal bleeding, chest pain, or may be allergic to its components.


WHAT IS IT?

Progestin-Only Pills (POP for short) are also known as the “minipill,” have a lower dose of progestin than COCP and don’t contain estrogen, making it good for people who are sensitive to or cannot use estrogen medication. Common brand names include Camilla, Errin, Heather, Jolivette, Microno, Nor-Q-D, Norethindrone, Ovrette.

HOW DOES IT WORK?

There are 28 pills in one pack, taken daily at the same time. Every pill in the pack is active with hormones, unlike COCP.

The progestin in the minipill thickens cervical mucus making it harder for sperm mobility and thins the uterus lining making it harder for eggs to attach there. It can also inhibit ovulation but is not as effective as blocking egg release as COCP is.

HOW EFFECTIVE IS IT?

The minipill has a 91% effectiveness for contraception. Those on the minipill must adhere most strictly to the time in which they take the pill; the contraceptive efficacy is dependent upon this. If you take your pill more than 3 hours of your usual time, make sure to use a backup method to prevent pregnancy. When taken exactly as instructed, it can prevent pregnancy for up to 99% effectiveness.

BENEFITS, SIDE EFFECTS, AND SERIOUS RISKS

Potential Benefits Used to treat PID, endometriosis, menorraghia, amenorrhea, protect against reproductive organ cancers
Common Side Effects Change in bleeding pattern, may have a longer/shorter/no bleeding during period, spotting, acne, headache, mood swings, depression, anxiety, fatigue, bloating, hair thinning, breast tenderness, dizziness
Serious Risks Ectopic pregnancy, increased cholesterol, liver tumors, breast tumors and cancer, ovarian cysts may develop but usually go away, sometimes surgery is needed to remove them, smoking increases the change of higher risk of serious blood clots, high blood pressure

YOU SHOULD NOT USE THE MINIPILL IF you smoke, are pregnant or suspect you may be pregnant, have or suspect breast tumors and cancer, undiagnosed vaginal bleeding, liver tumors and disease.

Always consult with your doctor for your personal health. Don’t hesitate to voice your concerns with them. They are there to provide you more information and recommendations about the most suitable options for your body and overall wellness.