As the first FDA-approved medicine designed to be taken by people who aren't sick, the contraceptive pill has evolved over the decades to keep up both with modern technology and the modern woman.
Contraceptive pills fall under the category of hormonal contraceptive methods, which use man-made, synthetic hormones to trigger changes in your body that prevent you from getting pregnant. Birth control pills work by preventing your ovaries from releasing an egg, thinning your uterus lining so that even if an egg is fertilized, it cannot become implanted, and by thickening the cervical mucus so that sperm is blocked from reaching an egg and fertilizing it.
Most pills are made from different combinations of estrogen and progestin, and are referred to as combination pills. There is another type of pill-- called a minipill-- that contains only progestin, and no estrogen. As consumers have become more cautious about the levels of artificial hormones, pills with lower dosages of hormones have recently become the most popular. Here is a brief lesson on “the pill” and some important factoids to help you make healthy reproductive choices.
How effective are pills? Population studies have found that 8 out of 100 typical users of the combination pill (typical use refers to the real-life usage of the pill, including occasionally forgetting to take their pill on time, or skipping a day or two) will have an unplanned pregnancy within the first year of using the pill. Out of 100 women who take the pill exactly as directed, however, fewer than 1 will have an unplanned pregnancy. By comparison, barrier methods of birth control (such as condoms, spermicides, cervical caps, etc) show that out of 100 women using that method, 15 to 32 women end up with unplanned pregnancies, suggesting that the pill is more effective.
In that same population study, the methods that were more effective than contraceptive pills were surgery, hormonal shots, hormonal implants, and IUDs(intra-uterine devices). Additionally, in separate studies, the minipill has been shown to be about 95% effective.
Antibiotics have been shown to reduce the effectiveness of the pill, as do other drugs. Before deciding what contraceptive method is best, make sure to let your doctor know what medications you're taking, both prescribed and over-the-counter. If you're already on the pill and are seeing different specialists for other medical conditions, don't forget to inform all of them that you're taking contraceptive pills so that they can prescribe medications accordingly. It may also be a good idea to let a trusted pharmacist know you're on the pill if you change or begin new medications.