Heres How Birth Control Works
Lets review the mechanisms of how hormonal contraception works. All hormonal contraception attempts to prevent ovulation by delivering the body a steady spike of synthetic hormones. For the pill, this is delivered every 24 hours you take it. For the vaginal ring, its constantly delivered over the 21 day cycle of wearing it. For the IUD, its a constant stream of hormones being released from the device for the years while wearing it.
Hormonal contraception contains one or a combination of two forms of synthetic hormones that mimic either progesterone or estrogen. Progestin, the artificial form of progesterone, is essential to the mechanism of preventing ovulation. Therefore, all hormonal contraception contains a form of progestin. Some hormonal contraception also contains an artificial form of estrogen, such as Ethinylestradiol or Estradiol valerate . The main reason hormonal contraception contains synthetic estrogen is to mimic a real period. The bleeding you experience on these combined forms of hormonal contraception is a result of the withdrawal of synthetic estrogen during the week you take the sugar pills in your pack.
How Long Does It Take For The Hormones In Birth Control To Start Working
It depends on the type of birth control youre using. For pills, it can take up to a week or two for your body to start using them properly. Once theyre used correctly, theyll prevent pregnancy 99 percent of the time when taken correctly every day.
The patch starts working immediately, but it only works for seven days out of every four weeks .
The ring starts working within three hours after inserting it into your vagina for three weeks in a row .
The shot needs to be given every 12 weeks by a health care provider or nurse practitioner who will also give you a prescription for pills or patches dont try self-injecting Depo Provera yourself!
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The Birth Control Pill
Oral contraceptives contain hormones that stop ovulation. If you use them perfectly, theyâre a great way to prevent pregnancy, with a 99.7% effectiveness rate. But in reality, a lot of women forget to take them every day, so the typical use rate is only 91%. Other reasons why your pill might not work include:
- Youâre vomiting or have diarrhea for more than 48 hours.
- You take the antibiotic rifampin, the antifungal griseofulvin, certain anti-seizure meds, or the herbal supplement St. Johnâs wort.
- Youâre obese. Some research suggests that the birth control pill doesnât work as well in very overweight women.
If you have any of these issues, talk to your doctor about using condoms as a backup method, or switch to another form of birth control entirely.
If you skip a dose, take it as soon as you can. If youâve missed more than two pills, take them as soon as you remember, and continue to take pills daily while you use a backup method of birth control like condoms for the next week. If youâre on the mini-pill or the progestin-only pill, take it within the same 3 hours every day .
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How To Prevent Birth Control Failure
If youre hoping to prevent pregnancy while taking the birth control pill, be sure to follow these tips:
- Set reminders: Create a reminder on your phone or smartwatch to ping when its time to take your pill, and keep your pack somewhere youre likely to see it each day. Ideally, youll take it at the same time every day, like when you brush your teeth in the morning or right after dinner.
- Take the placebo pills: Taking the inactive pills can help you keep up the habit, even though theyre not medically necessary. Itll help ensure youre not late when starting your next pill pack.
- Track your cycle: Even though youre technically not ovulating and dont have a traditional menstrual bleed , it can be helpful to track your cycle in an app, which can help you pinpoint your pill bleed week and also give you reminders to take your pill and start your new pack. We like Clue or Spot On.
Wondering if you can have sex during your placebo week without risking pregnancy? Youre still protected from conception during your pill bleed week as long as youve been taking the active pill doses consistently for the previous 3 weeks.
What Is The Birth Control Implant
Birth control implants are devices that go under a woman’s skin. They release a hormone that prevents pregnancy.
The implant available in the U.S. is Nexplanon. Itâs a newer version of the implant Implanon. You might hear people call them arm bars.
The implant is a plastic rod about the size of a matchstick. It contains a form of the hormone progesterone called etonogestrel.
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Getting Pregnant While On Birth Control Pills
The birth control pill is popular with Canadian women. According to the Canadian Health Measures Survey released by Statistics Canada in 2015, some 16 percent of non-pregnant Canadian women aged 15 to 49 had taken either the combined pill or the progestin-only pill in the month before they were polled. And it is quite effective, though definitely not perfect. Amanda Black, a professor of obstetrics and gynaecology at The Univeristy of Ottawa, notes that both the combined and the progestin-only pill have an eight percent failure rate with typical use. The main reason for failure? People dont take it consistently. For those taking the combined pill, its especially important to take it every day during the first week of your pack, says Costescu. If you miss any, even a single pill in that first week, there may not be enough estrogen to keep you from ovulating, and then theres a risk of getting pregnant, he says, explaining that the lull in hormones during the previous week off already begins the process of making an egg, so missing a pill in the first seven days can trigger ovulation. Theres even less room for error with the progestin-only pill, where being more than three hours late with your dose is a risk for pregnancy.
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Getting Pregnant With The Patch Ring Or Shot
There are a few more options when it comes to birth control, and these include the patch, the vaginal ring and the Depo-Provera shot. Black says the failure rate for typical use of the patch and the ring is the same as the pill: eight percent. The Depo-Provera shot has a failure rate of just six percent with typical use.
With all three types of contraception, adherence is the biggest risk factor. They need to be used as directed to work effectively. Costescu says with the patch, which you replace once a week , one issue is that it may accidentally fall off. With the ring, he explains that replacing it on time is key. And it can only be removed for short periods of time if you want it to remain effective. Some women choose to remove the NuvaRing when theyre sexually active, and we recommend that it only be removed for up to three hours so, it cant be taken out, for instance, for an overnight date, he says.
Black adds that the same medications that make the pill less effective would have a similar effect on the patch and ring.
With Depo-Provera shots, Costescu notes, you must visit a health-care provider every three months to get the shot. He also says that the shot may be a good option if youre on anti-seizure medication, as the high dose of hormones that come with this type of birth control means those medications may not interfere with its effectiveness.
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What Makes Birth Control Pills Less Effective
According to Planned Parenthood, the progestin-only pill becomes ineffective if you miss your scheduled dose by 3 or more hours .
Technically, you dont have to take combination pills at the same time every day, just taking 1 pill every day protects you. And if you missed a pill, the ineffectiveness may vary depending on the type of pill. Still, its a good habit to take any birth control pill at the same time. So set those alarms!
Generally speaking, both combination and progestin-only pills can become less effective if you:
How long it takes birth control pill to work can depend on a lot of things particularly when in your menstrual cycle you decide to start taking it.
If you take your first dose of a combination pill on days 1 through 5 of your period, youll experience max effectiveness right away. However, after the fifth day of your period, itll take up to 7 days for the pill to start working. Be sure to have other forms of BC handy during this time.
Its a similar situation with the minipill. If you start taking it during the first 5 days of your period, youre protected right away. Unlike the combination pill, however, it only takes the minipill 2 days to start working if you take it after the fifth day of your period.
With so many birth control options available, its easy to find a method of pregnancy prevention that works for you. So just how effective are the other BC methods out there? Lets break it down.
What Causes The Pill To Fail
A variety of things can cause the pill not to work properly . Common issues include:
- a late or missed pill
- vomiting or diarrhoea
- some prescription drugs including HIV medications and Epilepsy medications may interfere with the pill .
- most antibiotics are OK to use with the pill, but a rarely used antibiotic called Rifampin/Rifampicin is not.
- some over the counter medicines or supplements
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Is Birth Control Ever 100 Percent Effective
Real talk: the only way to guarantee you wont get pregnant is to not have sex. But if celibacy isnt your thing, its important to understand that no form of birth control is ever 100 percent effective.
If you think your birth control might have failed, emergency contraceptives, like Plan B, can be taken within 72 hours of sex to prevent pregnancy. This method is about 75 to 89 percent effective within this timeframe. But Plan B may not be as effective if you have a body mass index over 25.
Ella emergency contraception may be a better choice if you weigh more than 155 pounds. Planned Parenthood notes this EC method is about 85 percent effective in preventing pregnancy when taken up to 5 days after sex .
Combined Hormonal Birth Control
Combined hormonal birth control, also known as CHC or the pill, is readily available and is about 91% effective at preventing pregnancy. The pill is taken orally and contains both estrogen and progestin, which prevents the ovaries from releasing eggs. You can simply stop taking the pill if you want to get pregnant. Although it may take a while for your cycle to become regular again, it is possible to get pregnant right away after you stop taking the pill.
How long after birth control can you get pregnant will also depend on many factors that include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Age is an important factor when trying to conceive, since fertility decreases as a woman ages.
- Overall health is also something to consider. Obesity or malnutrition can make it harder to conceive, as can certain medical conditions such as pituitary gland disorders, or polycystic ovary syndrome , and thyroid disorders, among others.
- Your partners sperm count can also affect how long it takes to conceive.
- Reproductive health is also a very important factor for couples who want to conceive immediately after birth control. Endometriosis, fallopian tube blockage, pelvic infections and irregular menstruations can also affect how long it takes to get pregnant.
- Lastly, having sex during your fertile days will increase the chances an egg gets fertilized.
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Birth Control Pills And Period: Your Questions Answered
Laurel is a linguist at heart and studying to become a Certified Spanish Interpreter and Translator. She believes in making quality healthcare accessible, and is proud of PlushCares mission to do so.
Birth control pills, also known as oral contraceptives or the pill, are one of the most common forms of hormonal birth control. Birth control pills have been studied for over 50 years, and were approved by the FDA for contraceptive use in 1960. Your menstrual cycle will change depending on the type of birth control pill you choose because each variety contains different quantities and types of hormones that work together to prevent pregnancy.
Understanding your options will help you determine the nature of your period while on birth control pills.
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News Flash: Birth Control = Rubber Stis = Glue
Women under 30 years old are incredibly fertiletheir ability to get pregnant is at its peak. In the U.S., about three in four sexually active women under 30 are using some type of birth control. But many of them ask me, does using birth control now hurt my chances of getting pregnant in the future? Sigh of relief: it does not.
All reversible birth control methods will help prevent pregnancy while youre using them, but none have long-lasting effects on your ability to get pregnant when you stop. Thats why people who use the pill but accidentally forget to take it for a few days can get pregnant that month.
Lets look, for example, at how long it takes for women to get pregnant when they quit the pill compared to when they quit non-hormonal fertility awareness methods . A big study of over 2,000 women who quit the pill after using it for an average of seven years found that 21% were pregnant in one month and 79% were pregnant in a year. Women who stopped using FAM had very similar rates of pregnancy, with 20-25% pregnant in one month and 80% pregnant in a year. In other words, women who quit the pill get pregnant just as fast as other women, even if theyve used the pill for years.
Okay, so birth control doesnt hurt your chances of having a baby in the future. But there is something that does: untreated sexually transmitted infections . By the age of 25, one in two young people having sex will get an STI.
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Can I Get Pregnant While On Birth Control
Ive heard that you cant get pregnant while on the pill. Is this true?
The pill is over 99% effective in preventing pregnancy if taken correctly. This means that if 100 women take the pill for a year, less than 1 will become pregnant.
The effectiveness of the birth control pill depends on whether you take it correctly and how often you get your prescription refilled. If youre taking a combination pack of pills, youll need to refill your prescription every month or every three months if youre taking an extended pack of pills that has four weeks of active pills and one week of inactive pills.
What Are The Risks Of Continuing
Any hormonal drug that you take makes its way to the baby youre carrying. This includes the contraceptive pill. So while there dont seem to be any risks, its best to stop taking the pill once you learn of your pregnancy.
women with an IUD get pregnant each year, and the risk is highest within the first year after insertion. If youre the 1 in 100 women, youre probably wondering what happens if you keep your IUD.
The truth is that you may be facing . Theres no known increased risk of congenital abnormalities, but your risk of miscarriage and premature birth both go up.
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How Does Your Birth Control Method Work
Before we start nerding out about the science behind the pregnancy-blocking obstacles different birth control methods introduce, heres a quick summary of how your current birth control method may work.
|Prevents ovulation||% of people pregnant in 1 year|
|Combined oral contraceptive|
|Low-dose hormonal IUDs||for 45% – 75% of cycles for 25 – 55% of cycles|
|Lower-dose hormonal IUDs||for 88% – 97% of cycles for 3% – 12% of cycles|
Table note: Typical use failure rates from the CDC. Source for additional data points: Mirena, Liletta, Kyleena, Skyla, Copper IUD. Copper IUDs are a bit of an outlier in that copper ions released from the implant create a local, non-dangerous inflammatory response that makes the uterus toxic for sperm .
Twinning And Birth Control Pills
This concept is primarily based on a 1977 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine that showed women who got pregnant shortly after stopping oral contraceptives were twice as likely to have twins. These twins were generally dizygotic , rather than monozygotic .
Dizygotic twins form when two separate eggs are fertilized by two separate sperm, supporting the idea that the ovaries were releasing multiple eggs in response to stopping contraceptive pills.
According to the study, after being off the pill for several months, ovulation should return to a normal pattern of one egg per month, and the chances of twins are reduced to normal levels.
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