Let’s talk about sex, baby: Ok, what is the pill and how does it work?

-Written by Dr. Anjali Mediboina, House Surgeon, ASRAM

Sex is a fascinating subject. For some, it’s a physiological act meant for reproduction. For others, it’s a means for pleasure. It can be a simple escape, or the purest form of intimacy. And yet, it’s a topic that is never meant to be spoken of, at the risk of appearing crude and vulgar. It is this stigma that has caused numerous health disparities, from mental health issues to undiagnosed health conditions. 

So, in an effort to normalize it, let’s talk about sex, baby.

Ok, What is the pill and how does it work?

If you’re a romance reader like me, chances are you’ve probably (and inevitably) come across a scene where the heterosexual couple decide that they don’t want anything between them (anything, as in a condom) and decide that because the heroine is on the pill, it should be fine. Following which the heroine gets pregnant (gasp) etc etc. 

Now, I’ve always wondered, what exactly is the pill? Will you get your period or not when you use them? Are they associated with hormonal imbalances? Is it true that there might be a risk of breast cancer? These are some questions I’ve had, and hopefully, this post can clear them.

Basically, birth control pills are a form of hormonal contraception which work by either preventing ovulation, changing up the cervical mucus in order to prevent sperm from reaching the egg, or by changing the uterus to make sure implantation doesn’t happen. 

Pharmacologically, there are different types of pills, as explained by this table below:

Now, each type of pill has its own pros/cons. 

Q: Will using birth control stop periods completely?

A: Extended-cycle pills are a type of combo pills, with which you will only have 4 periods per year, that is once every three months. There is also another type of combination pills, continuous-cycle pills, where your periods will be eliminated completely (provided you use them exactly as specified).

Do keep in mind that you may experience breakthrough bleeding or spotting. 

Q: Does using birth control increase risk of cancer?

A: Recent studies have shown that risks of breast cancer were associated in those using combined pills. It was also shown that risk of cervical cancer increases with increased usage of oral contraceptives.

On the flip side, it was shown that those using birth control had lower risks of ovarian and endometrial cancers.

Q: Is birth control only used for preventing pregnancy?

A: No, hormonal birth control can be used to

  • Reduce heavy bleeding and severe cramping
  • To treat endometriosis
  • Treat premenstrual syndrome
  • To treat facial hair growth, associated with PCOS
  • To prevent anemia
  • To make irregular periods regular

Q: Is a proper form of birth control really needed? An emergency pill can just be taken afterward, right?

A: Unfortunately, there are many people who do this. While it is true that an emergency pill (or, e-pill) can be effective upto 72 hours, e-pills won’t work if fertilization and implantation have taken place. Also, do keep in mind that hormonal birth control is NOT effective at all when it comes to protection against STDs.

Q: So, are birth control pills the best form of birth control?

A: This is a very common question! And the answer is… no. There is no such thing as “best” form of birth control; it’s upto the individual using it. For some, hormonal contraceptives work the best, while for others IUDs work better. Basically, it’s all trial and error. If you feel OCPs aren’t working out for you, maybe you could try IUDs or just stick to condoms, instead.

Either way, it’s incredibly important to remember that contraceptives aren’t just for pregnancy prevention, but prevention of STDs as well.

Stay safe kids, and until next time!





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