Birth Control Pills: Treatment, Procedure, Cost and Side Effects
Last Updated: Sep 30, 2023
What is the treatment?
Birth control pills are basically a type of hormonal contraception that prevents sexually active females from getting pregnant. They are an effective way to control pregnancy and they are generally taken by mouth. Birth control pills are generally prescribed by a doctor after a consideration of various factors like menstrual symptoms, cardiovascular health, whether a woman is breastfeeding, whether a person is suffering from any chronic condition or if the person is on any other medication.
There are different types of birth control pills. Combination pills contain synthetic forms of estrogen and progestin and most of such pills are active in each cycle. The different types of combination pills are monophasic pills, multiphasic pills and extended-cycle pills. Monophasic pills contain the same dose of hormones and are used in one-month cycles. Multiphasic pills also are used in monthly cycles but they provide different levels of hormones. A person on either of these pills has to take inactive pills during the last week and have her periods. Extended cycle pills cause a person to have period only 3-4 times a year as they are generally used in 3-week cycles.
Another type of birth control pill is known as the mini-pill or progestin-only pill. This medication is generally used by women who cannot take estrogen for some reason. All cycles are active when this pill is used. Do to the paucity of inactive pills, a woman even may not experience periods when she is on this medication.
How is the treatment done?
Pregnancy in women occurs when a man’s sperm fertilizes an egg released from the ovary of the woman. This fertilized egg develops into a baby after it gets nourished in the woman’s uterus. The entire process of releasing the egg from the ovary and preparing the body to accept the fertilized egg is regulated by hormones. The man-made estrogen and progestin hormones present in birth-control pills work together to inhibit the body’s natural cyclical hormones and thus, help to prevent pregnancy. There are a number of ways by which pregnancy is avoided. Birth control pills may cause a woman’s body to stop ovulating or they may also help to change the cervical mucus so as to make it difficult for the sperm cell to go through the cervix and impregnate an egg. Birth control pills may also change the lining of the womb and make it difficult for the fertilized egg to get implanted and hence, prevent pregnancy.
Another type of birth control pill is the extended-cycle pill. They contain the same hormones as other birth control pills but the hormones are taken over a longer period of time. This pill is generally taken continuously for a period of 12 weeks and this drastically reduces the number of periods that a woman normally experiences in a year. A person is generally supposed to take one week of inactive pills after the 12-week cycle.
Who is eligible for the treatment? (When is the treatment done?)
Birth control pills are a highly effective way of avoiding getting pregnant. Women who are sexually active but do not want to get pregnant are eligible to use birth control pills. As they pills help to regulate the menstrual cycle, this pill is helpful for women suffering from heavy or irregular periods. Progestin-only pills are good for women who are intolerant to estrogen, smoke, older than 35 years, have to breastfeed or have a history of blood clots.
Who is not eligible for the treatment?
As the effects of birth control pills are fully reversible, women who want to permanently avoid pregnancy are not eligible to use these pills. Progestin-only pills may not work so well in a woman who does not have a known intolerance to estrogen therapy. Similarly, women who have to breast-feed, are older than 35 years or who cannot handle estrogen therapy are not eligible to use combination pills.
Are there any side effects?
The side-effects of birth control pills include weight gain, sore or swollen breasts, nausea, lighter periods, small amounts of blood in between periods and mood changes. The majority of these symptoms are not so serious. Some of the less common but more serious side effects include abdominal pain, headaches, eye problems, chest pain and swelling or aching in the legs and thighs.
What are the post-treatment guidelines?
There are no such post-treatment guidelines. A woman has to adhere to the cycle of the birth control pill that she is using. Combination pills can follow a 21-day, a 24-day or 28-da cycle while extended pills follow a 91-day cycle. A woman has to take one pill everyday to avoid getting pregnant. A woman can get pregnant after she stops taking such pills.
How long does it take to recover?
A woman may get pregnant even if she misses one pill that she is supposed to take. The results of birth-control pills are fully reversible and women can get pregnant when they discontinue the medication. Thus there is no recovery period for consuming birth-control pills.
What is the price of the treatment in India?
Azurette is a combination pill that aids in birth control. It costs around Rs 1400 to get such pills for one cycle. Ovora oral tablets generally cost more than Rs 8000. Ocella is another combination drug that can be purchased for Rs 3800. Progestin-only pills are available between Rs 900 and Rs 3200.
Are the results of the treatment permanent?
Birth control pills prevent a woman from getting pregnant when they are consumed regularly. However, its effects are fully reversible and a woman can get pregnant by discontinuing the consumption of such pills. Hence, the results are not permanent.
What are the alternatives to the treatment?
A woman who does not wish to get pregnant can opt for alternative treatment in the form of birth control patch, birth control implant, birth control shot, vaginal ring, sponge or cervical cap. A woman can also use a female condom, diaphragm or an intra-uterine device. Surgical methods like tubal litigation and vasectomy are also highly effective in birth control.
- Birth control pills - overview- Medline Plus, NIH, U.S. National Library of Medicine [Internet]. medlineplus.gov 2019 [Cited 18 July 2019]. Available from:
- Birth Control Pill- TeensHealth from Nemours [Internet]. kidshealth.org 2017 [Cited 18 July 2019]. Available from:
- Medical Uses of the Birth Control Pill- Center for Young Women's Health [Internet]. youngwomenshealth.org 2018 [Cited 18 July 2019]. Available from:
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