Birth-control pills contain hormones that prevent pregnancy. The pills are taken every day. There are two types of birth control pills -- combined pills that contain the hormones estrogen and progestin and progestin-only pills. Birth-control pills do not protect you from HIV or other sexually transmitted diseases.Effectiveness
Birth-control pills are very effective in preventing pregnancy, with effectiveness rates as high as 99 percent, if taken every day at about the same time. The effectiveness of birth-control pills depends on how consistently the pills are taken.Advantages
Birth-control pills are very effective in preventing pregnancy and provide continuous pregnancy protection while you are taking them. Birth-control pills regularize menstrual cycles and can relieve severe cramps and heavy bleeding. In addition, they protect against ovarian and endometrial cancers, ovarian cysts, benign breast lumps, pelvic inflammatory disease, and iron-deficiency anemia. Progestin-only pills are safe to use while breastfeeding.Drawbacks
Birth-control pills do not protect you from HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. Also, it can be hard to remember to take a pill each day. Side effects may include nausea, bleeding between periods, headaches, breast tenderness, weight gain, mood changes, or changes in your sex drive. Birth-control pills are not recommended for women with heart problems or high blood pressure or those over age 35 who smoke.Availability
Visit your health-care provider or a family-planning clinic. Birth-control pills require a prescription.Cost
Birth-control pills ordinarily require an initial (and then yearly) visit with a clinician, which can cost from $50 to $150. A month of combined oral-contraceptive pills generally costs between $20 and $35. A month of progestin-only pills costs about $30. Medicaid and some private health-insurance plans cover most or some of these costs. Many family-planning clinics provide services and supplies FREE or on a sliding scale, based on your income.Information Resources
For additional information, check out these books:
- Boston Women's Health Book Collective, Our Bodies, Ourselves for the New Century. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1998.
- Winikoff, B. & Wymelenberg, S., The Whole Truth About Contraception: A Guide to Safe and Effective Choices. Washington, DC: Joseph Henry Press, 1997.
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From the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association Copyright 2003. All rights reserved.