How Effective Are Birth Control Pills?

If you are sexually active but are not ready for your first (or next) baby, it is absolutely imperative that you use some form of birth control. Apart from birth control pills (popularly known as the pill, or mini-pill), there are numerous other family planning methods, see this infographic from Planned Parenthood for more information.

The list includes: IUD, Contraceptive Implant, Birth Control Shot, Birth Control Patch, Vaginal Ring, Diaphragm and Cervical Cap, Male Condom, Female Condom, Withdrawal, Sponge, Natural Family Planning and Fertility Awareness, Lactational Amenorrhea Method (LAM), Spermicide, Abstinence, and Emergency Contraception.

Benefits of birth control pills over other methods of contraception

So why would you choose the pill over all these other options? There are various reasons.

Effectiveness. When used correctly, at the same time every day, there is statistical evidence that the pill is up to 99.9 percent effective in preventing unwanted pregnancies.

Ease of use. Compared to devices such as diaphragms, vaginal rings, and condoms, it is certainly much quicker and easier to take the pill.

Safety. When used by healthy women without underlying medical conditions, the pill is safe to use and will not cause any adverse side effects in the vast majority of cases.

Non-intrusive. Let’s face it, when you want to have sex you don’t want the process to be interrupted unnecessarily. This is where the pill stands out above its competitors.

No long-term effect on fertility. When you stop using the pill, your fertility will return to what it used to be before.

Less severe menstrual cramps. Around 31 percent of women who regularly take the pill report a drop in the severity of menstrual cramps. When a woman doesn’t ovulate, her uterus does not go through the same painful contractions that are behind the cramps she typically experiences during ovulation.

Less acne. Fluctuations in hormone levels can often cause acne. This is why females often struggle with acne during adolescence. The pill helps to minimize hormonal changes, thereby reducing the risk of acne.

Regular and lighter periods. By balancing the hormonal fluctuations that occur throughout your menstrual cycle, the pill can help reduce heavy bleeding and make periods more regular.

Help prevent anemia. Women who experience particularly heavy bleeding when they menstruate have an increased risk of getting anemia, a disease where you do not have sufficient red blood cells. This can cause fatigue and weakness. Birth control pills that allow women to skip their period can help to address this problem.

Reduces cancer risk. Women who are on combination birth control pills face a 50 percent decrease in the risk of uterine cancer for up to 20 years after they have stopped taking the pill.

Lower risk of ovarian cysts. These are relatively small sacs filled with fluid that often form in women’s ovaries during ovulation. Although not dangerous, they can be painful. By inhibiting ovulation, the pill helps to stop these cysts from forming or re-growing.

Other benefits. The pill also helps to control endometriosis, and for many women helps to reduce menstrual migraines and PMS.

When the pill might not be your best (or only) option

Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs). Whatever your best friend says, the pill cannot protect you against sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV/AIDS. So, unless you have been with the same sexual partner for a long time, and both of you have been tested, make sure you use some sort of protective barrier, such as a condom, when having sex.

Other risks. If you are older than 35 and smoke, you should mention this to your doctor before starting to use the pill because it could increase the risk of high blood pressure and blood clots.

If, after starting to use the pill, you develop any strange physical or psychological symptoms, also consult your doctor.