Birth Control Pills: Frequently Asked Questions

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birth control pills

Are there different kinds of birth control pills?

Yes. There are many different kinds of birth control pills (there are different doses of hormones in different hormonal pills). Your health care provider may prescribe a progestin-only pill (if there’s a medical reason why you shouldn’t take estrogen). If you don’t have any medical problems that would put you at risk for medical complications, your health care provider will decide which birth control pill is the best one for you.

What if I’m not happy with the birth control pill that I’m taking?

If you’re not happy with the birth control pill that you are taking and the effects they have on you, talk to your health care provider. Don’t just give up and stop taking them. Your provider can give you a prescription for a different type of pill. There are many types, and they affect people differently. Some you’ll like, and some you won’t. You may have to try a few different kinds of birth control pills before you find the one that works best for you. There are also lots of other methods to prevent pregnancy, so you can talk to your provider about other options.

How long can I be on birth control pills?

As long as there is no medical reason to not take the Pill, many women are on it for years, whether it is to regulate their menstrual cycle, treat cramps, protect against pregnancy, or for hormone replacement therapy.

Do I need to use other forms of contraception with the Pill?

Birth control pills don’t protect a woman from getting sexually transmitted infections. It’s very important to use condoms every time you have sexual intercourse or when using a sex toy. Condoms are also an important second method of protection against pregnancy if you miss more than one birth control pill, especially during the first month of pills (to be extra safe), when you are taking other medications that change the effectiveness of the Pill, or when you are sick with diarrhea or vomiting. Anytime you get a new medication, ask your health care provider if it changes the effectiveness of the birth control pill.

Do I need to take a break from the Pill?

There is no medical reason that you need to take a “break” from the Pill.

Will I have trouble getting pregnant after using the birth control pill?

There is no change in fertility with the use of birth control pills. However, if your periods were irregular before you started taking the Pill, it’s likely that your periods will be irregular again when you stop taking it.

Does the birth control pill cause birth defects to an unborn baby?

No, the Pill does not cause birth defects nor does it affect the health of future children.

Does the birth control pill cause cancer?

No. The Pill actually protects against cancer of the ovaries and cancer of the lining of the uterus. A woman is half as likely to get cancer of the uterus or ovaries if she takes the Pill. Most experts believe that taking oral contraceptive pills does not cause an increased risk of developing breast cancer. Even girls with a family history of breast cancer can take the Pill. Users of the Pill have been shown to have increased risk of cervical cancer (the cervix is the lower part of the uterus), as compared to nonusers, but cervical cancer is caused by the HPV virus, so it is important to get the HPV vaccine and use condoms every time you have sex. Smoking increases the risk for cervical cancer, so quit smoking (or don’t start) to keep your body healthy.

Can I smoke if I’m taking the Pill?

For lots of reasons, it’s much better to not smoke. By quitting smoking (or never starting), you lower your risks on the Pill. Smoking increases your risk for heart disease, blood clots, and stroke. The more you smoke and the older you are, the higher the risk.

Do birth control pills protect against STIs?

Birth control pills do NOT protect you from sexually transmitted infections. Not have sex (abstinence) is the only 100% effective way to avoid STIs. Condoms help to prevent most sexually transmitted infections.

What if I forget to take my birth control pill(s) and I’m sexually active?

Talk to your health care provider. Emergency contraception (EC) is usually recommended if you’ve had unprotected intercourse during the time you have missed your birth control pills. In the United States, women of all ages can  without a prescription.

Does it mean I’m pregnant if I don’t get my menstrual period while I’m on the Pill?

Not usually. At times, you may not get your menstrual period while using birth control pills. This can be normal. If you miss one menstrual period and you have not missed any pills, everything is probably fine. Just start a new pack of pills at the usual time. But if you are concerned, or skip 2 periods in a row, you’re still probably fine, but check with your health care provider and get a pregnancy test. If you miss any pills and miss your period, keep taking your pills, but see your health care provider for a pregnancy test.

Should I tell my friends that I’m taking birth control pills?

It depends. You may or may not want to tell your friends that you are taking birth control pills. Even if you’re taking birth control pills as hormonal treatment for a medical condition, someone hearing that you are taking “the Pill” may assume it’s because you are having sex. However, you may want to share with your friends so they can help you with ideas on how to avoid missing pills. Just think about what’s best for you.

How do I talk to my parents about taking the Pill?

If you decide to tell your parent(s) that you are taking birth control pills, you’ll want to put some thought into how to tell them. They may assume you are sexually active which may cause them to ask you questions that might make you feel uncomfortable at first. However, at the same time it’s a good idea to have a calm and open conversation as they can be a good resource for you if you have any questions or concerns about the Pill. Talk about the benefits of the Pill as well as their concerns. If your parent(s) or guardian(s) have questions, tell them about our parent’s guide to birth control pills.

Where can I get birth control pills?

Girls may take birth control pills for bad cramps, irregular periods, and contraception. You can get a prescription for birth control pills from your health care provider. Your health care provider will check your blood pressure and weight, ask you about your medical history and your family’s medical history, and ask whether you smoke and if you use condoms. If you don’t have any medical issues that would make taking birth control pills a problem, your health care provider will probably write you a prescription right then. You can buy birth control pills at a pharmacy or by mail order depending on your insurance plan. Your birth control pill should be free in almost all circumstances if you have health insurance. It’s normal to have a follow-up visit after you have been on the Pill for 3 months to check your weight and blood pressure. Make sure that you make an appointment long before you run out of pills so you never miss any.

Have you heard that if you have intercourse during your menstrual period, you won’t get pregnant?

This isn’t true. If you have a long menstrual period and a short cycle, you can still be ovulating at the end of your menstrual period. Some women have a small amount of bleeding during ovulation and may mistake it for a menstrual period. This means that you can still get pregnant during your period.

Have you heard that if you stand up immediately after having sex, you won’t get pregnant?

This is definitely not true! Standing, sitting, lying down—no physical position can prevent pregnancy.

Have you heard that the first time you have sex, you can’t get pregnant?

Not true! No matter when or how many times you have sex, you still run the risk of getting pregnant.