Navigating the world of birth control can be overwhelming, especially with so many options available. One of the most popular and effective methods is the birth control pill (also known as simply "the pill").

A person holding 5 birth control pill packs. Photo by Sharon Waldron on Unsplash

Are you thinking about using the pill?

Understand the basics of using the pill before making your decision.

What is the pill?

The birth control pill is a daily medication that contains hormones to prevent pregnancy. There are two main types:

  1. Combination pills: Contains both estrogen and progestin.

  2. Progestin-only pills

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Both types are effective when taken correctly, so be sure to talk to your doctor about which one is better for you.

How does it work?

The pill does several things to prevent pregnancy:

  • It prevents ovulation, meaning your ovaries won’t release an egg.

  • It also thickens cervical mucus, making it harder for sperm to reach an egg.

  • It thins the lining of the uterus to prevent a fertilized egg from implanting.

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How do you use it?

  1. Consult a doctor before you use the pill. You'll need to get a prescription.

  2. Start taking the pill. You can start either on the first day of your period, or the first Sunday after your period starts.

  3. Take your pill at the same time every day. Usually, you'll take 21 pills with hormones, and 7 pills without hormones. You'll get your period while taking the pills without hormones.

  4. If you forget to take a pill, take it as soon as you remember. If you miss more than one, follow the instructions that came with the pill pack or call your doctor.

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If you choose to use the pill, remember:

  • Be consistent and take it every day at the same time!

  • Use condoms because the pill doesn't protect you against sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

  • Visit your doctor regularly to make sure the pill is the best option for you.


Your friend forgot to take her birth control pill twice this week. What advice should you give her? Select all that apply:

What are the side effects?

As with all things, there are side effects to taking the pill:

The Good

  • Make your periods regular

  • Reduce period cramps

  • Clear up acne

  • Reduce the risk of some cancers

The Bad

  • Cause spotting and headaches

  • Increase your risk for blood clots

  • Increase your risk of some cancers

Three young women sit surrounded by tulips. Photo by Priscilla Du Preez 🇨🇦 on Unsplash

What do I do if I have questions?

The above list only includes the most frequently listed side effects, but they don't happen to everyone who uses the pill.

  • Stay informed and read any information that comes with your birth control pills.

  • Discuss your concerns with your health provider.

  • Schedule a follow-up visit if you have any concerns or want to try a different pill or a different contraceptive method.


What birth control pill should you use?

Take Action

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Deciding to use the pill is a personal choice. Stay informed, follow the guidelines, and talk to your doctor if you have any questions.


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