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Birth Control Pills (Oral Contraceptives)

What are birth control pills?

•   Birth control pills (oral contraceptives) are a method of birth control that uses hormones to prevent pregnancy. These hormones stop your ovaries from releasing eggs. Without an egg, you cannot get pregnant.

•   No method of birth control is 100% effective, but birth control pills are 99% effective if you take them each day.

How are the pills used?

   There are 2 ways to start the pill:

          Quick Start: Take your first pill as soon as you get the pack.

          Next period: Take your first pill soon after your next period begins.

•   If you take your first pill up to 5 days after the start of your period, you are protected against pregnancy right away.

•   If you take your first pill more than 5 days after the start of your period, you should use condoms as back-up for the first 7 days.


•   Once you start using the pill, take 1 pill each day. Take your pill at the same time each day.

•   After you finish a pack of pills, you should start a new pack the next day. You should have NO day without a pill.

What if I forget to take a pill?

Your risk of pregnancy increases when you miss any pills.

•   I forgot ONE pill: Take your pill as soon as you can.

•   I forgot TWO pills or more:Take your pill as soon as you can. Take your next pill at the usual time. Use condoms for 7 days. Use emergency contraception (EC) if you have unprotected sex.

What are the benefits?

•   Birth control pills are 99% effective in preventing pregnancy if taken as directed.

•   You do not have to interrupt intercourse to use a birth control device or spermicide.

•   Your periods may be more regular, lighter, and shorter.

•   You may have clearer skin.

•   Menstrual cramps may be less severe.

•   Birth control pills may reduce symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS).

•   The pill lowers your risk of getting cancer of the uterus and ovaries.

•   The pill has no effect on your ability to get pregnant in the future, after you stop taking it.

How will I feel on the pill?

•   You will feel about the same. In the first 2-3 months you may have nausea, bleeding between periods, weight change, and/or breast pain. These problems often go away after 2-3 months.

Does the pill have risks?

The pill is very safe. Serious problems are rare. If you have any of the symptoms below, call your health provider.

•   Leg pain, swelling, and redness

•   Weakness or numbness on 1 side of your body

•   Bad headache

•   Vision problems

•   Chest pain

Your health provider can help you find out if these symptoms are signs of a serious problem.