The combined oral contraceptive pills are commonly referred to as “the pill”. The Pill contains two hormones – an oestrogen and a progestogen. Various types of pills are available depending on the dose of the estrogen and the type of progesterone that they contain. All pills work on the same principle. They prevent a pregnancy by different mechanisms, the most important being by preventing the formation of the egg. In addition they also thicken the cervical mucus thereby preventing the sperm from reaching the egg. It also makes the lining of the uterus unreceptive to the pregnancy. The pill is extremely effective and the failure rate is less than 0.2. This is provided it is taken properly.
The pill not only provides birth control but also has other advantages. It makes the periods lighter, shorter and usually there will not be any period pains whilst on the pill. The pill is used widely in treatment of certain problems such as acne, excessive hair growth, management of endometriosis and management of PCOS.
When one starts the pill it is possible that in the first 1-2 cycles one may have common side effects such as nausea, vomiting, breast pain, leg cramps, and may be spotting just before the period begins.
Most of these side effects settle down. If they persist then they can be easily managed by switching to another brand.
There are certain situations wherein women should avoid the pill completely. There are certain medicines which will interfere with the action of the pill. Therefore it is essential that before you start the pill you should have a complete evaluation and discussion with the doctor. Once you are on the pill then it is advisable to see the doctor for a routine check once in a year.