Everything You Need to Know About Continuous Birth Control Pills
Birth control pills are around the clock contraception method where one pill is all that is needed to prevent unwanted pregnancies. However, it is important to remember that they are only 91%-99% effective and that too if you are compliant with your medication. That means the pill is taken at the same time every day, with no days missed in between. In a nutshell, hormonal contraceptives disrupt the biological and hormonal mechanisms required for a successful pregnancy, thus preventing the fertilization of the egg. The birth control pill is aka "The Pill."
Types of Continuous Birth Control Pills Available in Canada
These are the two categories of birth control pills available in Canada:
They contain estrogen and progestin in the synthetic form. Most pills in a pack are active pills, while a small number of them can be inactive pills. It is not required to take the inactive pills as they are simply placebos; however, some women find them helpful to keep up with their daily routine.
The types of combination pills available are as follows:
- Monophasic:: Every package of pills covers a 1-month cycle, and all active pills contain the same amount of hormones.
- Multiphasic: Package contain pills to cover 1 month, but the active pills have varying amounts of hormones.
- Extended cycle: These pills are used typically for 13-week cycles. There is 1 week of inactive and 12 weeks of active pills.
Progestin Only Pills
These pills do not contain any estrogen; instead, the active hormone is progestin. These pills are best suited for women who can't take estrogen due to certain health factors. All pills in a progestin-only pack are active pills.
Brands Available in Canada:
- Combination Pills:
- Progestin Only pills:
- Ortho Micronor
How Do They Work?
Continuous cycle birth control pills, for the most part, work just like hormonal contraception, which contain estrogen and progestin. There are three ways that the pills work to prevent pregnancy:
The primary way that the pill works is by prevention of ovulation during the monthly cycle. So, if the ovary does not release an egg, then fertilization cannot occur. The pill also makes it less likely that the fallopian tube will push an egg towards the uterus. By preventing hormone fluctuations during the menstrual cycle, the pill prevents FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone level) from rising. Without FSH availability, ovulation cannot occur.
- Cervical Mucus:
The second way that these pills work to prevent pregnancy is by thickening the cervical mucus. Cervical mucus is the viscous fluid around the opening of the uterus. The pill thus makes the mucus stickier, which reduces the sperm's ability to reach the egg. Under normal conditions, the mucus will get thinner during ovulation, which eases the passage of sperm and provides them a hospitable environment.
The third method involves the uterine lining, also called the endometrium. Hormonal contraceptives make the lining thinner, thus making it difficult for a fertilized egg to implant. Without implantation, the egg cannot receive nutrients and blood, which it requires to survive. Normally, the lining thickens during ovulation to allow the fertilized egg to implant and grow.
Side Effects of Birth Control Pills
Birth control pills can have side effects, just like any other medication, and your doctor must consider your past medical history before prescribing them for you. Some common side effects are as follows:
- Breast tenderness
- Weight gain
- Decreased Libido
- Mood fluctuations
- Spotting or nonscheduled bleeding
It is common for women to experience side effects when first starting a medication. Doctors try to have patient try a medication for three months, after which if the side effects persist, a switch to another type of birth control can be made. An easier way to remember the symptoms is with the acronym ACHES, i.e., Abdominal pain, Chest pain, Headaches (severe), Eye problems (or blurriness), and Swelling.
Benefits of Birth Control Pills:
Continuous cycle pills offer the same non-contraceptive benefits that hormonal contraception does, but they may do more. If you have period-related issues, extended cycle pills can greatly improve your quality of life. They allow you to control the number of periods and how long they last. They could provide relief if you suffer from:
- Heavy bleeding or menorrhagia
- Long and frequent periods
- Painful periods or dysmenorrhea
- Menstrual-related bloating, breast tenderness, or mood swings.
- PMDD or PMS
- A disability making it tougher to use pads
- Health conditions adversely affected by periods such as migraines or anemia.
Even if you may not have these issues, there are many reasons you may wish to use extended birth control pills such as:
- Having fewer or shorter periods are more convenient
- Saving money on costs of pads, tampons, or liners
- Choosing a more environmentally friendly lifestyle as you will consume fewer period products.
- It reduced the risk of certain types of cancers.
As with hormonal contraceptives, continuous cycle pills also require a doctor's prescription. If you have certain medical conditions or contraindications, continuous pills may not be the safest for you to consume. Therefore, it is advised to consult doctors for birth control care before getting on the cycle to prevent any complications.