Oral contraceptives are also known as birth control pills, the pill, OCs, BC tablets, or BCs. There are typically two different kinds of hormones in these medications (progestins and estrogens). Oral contraceptives can prevent pregnancy, when they are taken correctly. Oral contraceptives prevent the egg within a woman's body from developing completely every month. When this occurs, fertilization cannot take place as the egg will not be able to take in a sperm. This is the prominent action that oral contraceptives take, however there are additional effects that prohibit a pregnancy from occurring.
The egg within a woman's uterus can sometimes still mature despite the fact that the contraception is taken once daily, specifically under circumstances when the dose is taken more than an entire day later.
In circumstances where the patient takes the medication properly and still an egg advances, oral contraceptives can still prevent fertilization. This is due to the tendency of the oral contraceptives to make cervical mucus thicker near the uterus opening. This will make it more difficult for the sperm to get near to the egg. Furthermore, the lining of the uterus is changed sufficiently by the oral contraceptives so that the egg will not be held to develop in the uterus. Each of these aspects increases the difficulty of becoming pregnant while taking oral contraceptives.
There is not a method of contraception that is 100% successful. Research has proven that less than 1 out of every 100 women are utilizing oral contraception correctly, and they usually end up pregnant within the initial year of taking the medication. Methods of contraception that are more effective include sterility surgery or avoiding sex completely. The use of diaphragms, condoms, spermicides, or oral contraceptives that are made of progestin-only are less effective than estrogens and progestins contraceptives. Your medical professional can brief you on the many choices for birth control.
Physicians may sometimes prescribe estrogen and progestin oral contraceptives for uses other than preventing pregnancy. Acne is another use for this medication in patients who also want an oral contraceptive, are 15 years or older, and have started their menstrual period. Patients must have already tried to use topical treatments and have not found relief. The patient must plan to use this medication for 6 months or more. Only a doctor can prescribe this medication.
It is highly important that your medical care professional is aware if you are eating a unique type of diet, specifically a low-sugar or low-sodium diet.
The following are the various brands of estrogen and progestin oral contraceptives.
There is a very small likelihood that healthy, non-smoking women will experience serious side effects from oral contraceptives. Women with unique health issues can experience especially undesirable side effects from this medication. A few of these side effects can include non-cancerous tumors within the liver, blood clots, liver cancer, or stroke. While these rare side effects hardly occur, when they do there is a chance death can occur. Discuss any concerns you may have with your physician.
Patients must be aware that there is an increased risk of side effects for women taking oral contraceptives who smoke cigarettes. For reduced side effects, women should avoid smoking cigarettes at the same time as oral contraceptives are taken. Oral contraceptive use can impact severe side effects (cardiovascular) due to the use of oral contraception. This danger is increased from intense smoking (more than 15 cigarettes daily) and age. Women over the age of 35 experience side effects more often than younger patients.
It is essential to understand that medications can trigger undesirable side effects in addition to the prevention of pregnancy. While it is not expected for many (if any) to take place, patients should be aware that they should pursue medical care if they do take place.
Blood clots can trigger side effects, including the following lists. Seek emergency medical treatment right away if you experience any of the subsequent side effects:
Consult with your physician right away if you experience any of the subsequent side effects while taking oral contraceptives.
Sometimes, other side effects may arise but these will not typically require medical care. As you become more adjusted to the medication, the following side effects will likely diminish over time. In addition, your doctor can inform you of additional methods of reducing or preventing various side effects of oral contraceptives. Consult with your medical professional if any of the subsequent effects are bothersome or become prolonged, or if you have questions or concerns.
Certain patients may also experience other effects that are not listed here. If other side effects are noticed, be sure to consult with your doctor. Contact your physician for health guidance regarding side effects. Patients may also report unlisted side effects by calling the FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.
Patients must be familiar with oral contraception in order to make the experience as reliable and safe as possible. There are many details regarding what to expect, potential side effects that could occur and information regarding when and how estrogen and progestin oral contraceptives should be properly taken.
An informational booklet will be given to the patient and will include the prescription as well as other details regarding how oral contraceptives work. Be sure to read this information thoroughly and consult with your medical care professional if you need further explanation or more information.
This medication should be always taken around mealtime to try and prevent nausea that is typical of occurring the initial few weeks of taking estrogen and progestin oral contraceptives. To try and prevent these effects, the medication could be taken near bedtime. Side effects that include nausea also tend to diminish after the first several weeks of taking this medication.
Upon starting contraceptive use, the body will likely need to have at least a seven-day calibration period to become more adjusted to the medication until a pregnancy will be able to be prevented. Additional methods of birth control should be implemented during the initial seven-day period. Certain physicians recommend implementing an alternative form of birth control during the entire first menstrual cycle (3 weeks) in order to ensure patients are protected fully. Always carefully follow the directions given to you by your medical care professional.
If possible, try and take the dose at the same time daily and try not to allow more than 24 hours in between each dose to avoid pregnancy and to lower the chance of side effects taking place. The medication supply should never run out, so patients should have their prescriptions filled in advance. A highly important factor of taking oral contraception correctly is taking each dose precisely on schedule. If possible, it would be wise to keep even an extra month supply of medication on hand; this should of course be taken and replaced every month.
Estrogen and progestin oral contraceptives must be stored in the container they originally came in. Always take the medication in the designated order that is directed on the container, these notations help the patients understand which tablet should be the next one to be taken. Never take the tablets out of order as the effectiveness of the contraception can be reduced. Packages that include tablets that are different colors than the others may include varied doses of the hormones, or may include placebo pills (pills with no medication but are part of the prescription regimen).
The majority of dosing schedules will fall under the monophasic category. Patients are on a monophasic schedule if they take contraception made up of one color of pills (meaning that all pills have the same strength) for a 21-day period. Seven tablets that are colored differently will also be included in the dosing schedule for this cycle (these are inactive pills and will not protect against pregnancy but will replenish estrogen). The Mircette brand includes two tablets that are inactive (the day 22 and 23 doses), and five low-estrogen dose tablets (days 24 to 28).
An alternative schedule is based off 21 days and includes an initial set of doses that are all the same strength (and color) over the course of either seven or ten days (the initial phase). The second phase includes another strength of medication for the subsequent 11 or 14 days. A total of 21 tablets will have been taken over the two separate phases. For patients on the 28-day option for the biphasic cycle will be given a third color of inactive tablets (7 tablets total).
Another option is a dosing schedule that is 21 days long. In a triphasic dosing routine, one color (strength) of tablets is taken for either a five-day, six-day, or seven-day stretch; contingent on the medication that was prescribed for the initial phase. Then, tablets that are a different color (strength) are taken for the subsequent five-day, seven-day, or nine-day period; contingent on the medication that was prescribed for the third phase of medication. Ultimately, 21 tablets will have been taken through the three phases. Patients who are on the 28-day option for the triphasic cycle will be given a fourth type of tablet (7 tablets total) which are inactive and a different color.
Estrogen and progestin oral contraceptives are also offered in a 28-day dosing schedule (quadriphasic). This type of dosage is offered in one strength and is dark yellow in color. These tablets are taken for the initial two days, contingent on which medication was taken for the initial phase. Then, a different strength of tablets are prescribed for the following 3-7 days, these are medium red in color. Finally, light yellow tablets are prescribed that are a different strength than the first two phases of tablets. Following this medication schedule, 24 tablets will be taken in total. Alternatively, the 28-day cycle will include two additional tablets that are dark red in color, then two white tablets that are inactive. Finally, begin taking the initial tablet (dark yellow in color) the day after the white tablets are finished.
Patients who are on Loestrin Fe or Estrostep Fe (specific brand name drugs) will take a tablet containing iron daily for the last seven tablets of the cycle. These tablets with iron will be colored differently than the other types of tablets in your container, and aid in replacement of some of the iron stores within your body that are typically lost during a menstrual period.
Various patients will be given different doses of medications within the estrogen and progestin oral contraceptives class. Patients must follow the instructions given by their doctor or the directions on the medication container label. Average doses are detailed below; however, if you were given a dose that differs from the below information, never change your dose (unless your physician prescribed otherwise).
The quantity of medication prescribed will depend directly on the strength and power of the medication. In addition, the count of doses taken every day in addition to the time allotted in between doses will make an impact on the dose that you are prescribed. Also, the total duration for which you need this medication and the medical issue you have will determine dose.
O 21-day cycle: One tablet should be taken daily for a 21-day sequence. Patients should miss seven days of taking medication at the end of their cycle.
O 28-day cycle: One tablet should be taken daily for a 28-day sequence, then continue the cycle again.
O 21-day cycle: One tablet should be taken every day, for the course of the entire 21-day period. Seven days will be skipped in this cycle, and then the cycle should be repeated.
O 28-day cycle: One tablet needs to be taken once per day for a total of 28 days. Then, the cycle repeats the next month.
Always remember to begin taking the medication on the same day every month.
If a dose of estrogens and progestins contraceptives is accidentally skipped, patients should contact their pharmacist or doctor for more information. Always follow the directions given by your doctor or the medication label instructions if you accidentally miss taking a dose of contraception. The information listed here contains only a few methods of managing a missed dose. Your physician may decide it would be best that you discontinue taking this medication and implement alternative methods of birth control for the remainder of the month until the menstrual period occurs; consider taking their advice. Your physician can instruct you as to how to begin the medication again after your period is over.
O For patients who use a medication schedule that begins on day 1: The current cycle should be disposed of and a new cycle should begin. Make sure to utilize another form of birth control until seven consecutive days of taking a tablet have passed after the final dose that was missed. The menstrual period may not occur during this month. However, if two menstrual periods are skipped in a row, be sure to alert your physician.
O For patients who use a medication schedule that begins on Sunday: Continue to take a single tablet daily from the current medication pack until Sunday. When Sunday arrives, dispose of the old package and start a new cycle of medication. Make sure to have an alternate form of birth control in place until seven tablets of medication have been taken following the final dose that was missed. A menstrual period might not occur during this month. However, if more than one period is missed in a row, contact your medical professional right away.
If the final tablets (the seven inactive tablets) are accidentally missed, patients will not encounter a risk of becoming pregnant. However, it is important that patients begin taking the medication (the active tablets) on the same scheduled day every month to counteract pregnancy (even if missed doses occur). Patients can differentiate the active from the inactive tablets because the active tablets are different colors.
Some prescription drugs never should be used at the same time, however in other circumstances two medications can be combined, despite the possibility of interaction. Your physician could adjust the dosage, or they may choose to take other safety precautions in the best interest of the patient. Always inform your medical care professional if you are taking other nonprescription or prescription medications.
Take caution while eating or drinking certain kinds of food as this increases the likelihood of an interaction occurring. Some medications can trigger interactions more than others. Consult with your medical professional about the implications of using tobacco, alcohol, or certain types of food with this medication.
Patients who have additional medical issues could experience impacts in the usefulness of birth control medications. Be sure to inform your physician if you currently have additional medical issues, including:
It is not typically suggested to use oral contraception if you have one or more of the following conditions. Take caution if there is a history of breast disease in your family; testing may need to take place more frequently, but estrogen and progestin oral contraception may still prove to be a helpful option.
It is imperative that your physician regularly monitors your progress to ensure that undesired side effects do not take place. You should visit your medical care facility for these appointments typically every 6 to 12 months, although certain physicians will want to check progress more frequently.
Inform any dentist or medical professional you may see that you are on oral contraceptives prior to emergency treatments or surgery (dental included). Your physician will give you further instructions on if it is the best form of treatment for you to keep taking oral contraceptives.
The efficacy of oral contraceptives can be reduced by the subsequent medications. Another form of birth control should also be utilized in circumstances where the following medications are being taken.
Consult with your physician if you have questions regarding potential interactions.
In the initial three months of taking this medication, patients may experience vaginal bleeding (amount may vary) between their regular period cycles. This is known as breakthrough bleeding when the blood comes through in greater amounts, or spotting when the blood is less.
If this takes place, take note of the following:
For patients who experience missed or skipped menstrual periods:
Consult with your physician if you do not have your menstrual period in order to find out what the cause may be.
Bleeding, swelling, or tenderness of the gums may take place for certain patients. To counteract this, regularly brush and floss teeth. It may also be helpful to massage the gums carefully to prevent these side effects. Your dentist should regularly clean your teeth, ensure to keep all dental appointments. Consult with your dentist or doctor if you are not sure how to effectively care for your gums and teeth; or if any bleeding, swelling, or tenderness of the gums is noticed. However, there have been studies revealing that oral contraceptives with estrogen can trigger dry socket, which is a healing issue after tooth extraction. It is important to inform your oral surgeon or dentist that you are on oral contraception if you need a tooth extraction.
Certain patients may experience heightened sensitivity to sunlight when on oral contraception, even greater than they typically would. Patients should avoid excessive direct sunlight until they understand how their unique body reacts to the sunlight (specifically patients who usually burn easily). Patients who experience serious reactions should consult with their physician. Certain patients can develop blotchy, brown spots on their skin in areas exposed to sunlight. These spots will typically diminish gradually after the medication is ended.
Patients who suspect they have become pregnant should quit contraceptive use right away and should consult with a doctor.
Laboratory tests could also be impacted by this medication. Inform your physician that you are on estrogen and progestin oral contraception if you have laboratory tests scheduled.
Patients should always have a consultation prior to renewing a prescription. Check with your physician prior to refilling a former prescription specifically after pregnancy. The prescription may be adjusted as a new physical exam will need to take place.
Patients must inform their physician if they have experienced allergic or unusual reactions to any medications, even if they are not similar to oral contraceptives. Also inform your medical professional if you experience additional kinds of allergies, including to preservatives, animals, dyes, or foods. Individuals should always read the medication container label and ingredients summary to find out if the medication is safe for them.
This medication has not been shown to cause different issues or side effects for adolescent females than for women. Certain teenagers may benefit from being given additional instruction in regards to how important it is to always take oral contraceptives precisely as directed.
Females who suspect they may be pregnant and those who become pregnant should stop taking this medication immediately. However, there have not been any issues identified regarding issues for the fetus when women have accidentally been taking oral contraceptives early on in the pregnancy. Women may begin taking birth control two weeks after giving birth as long as they are not breastfeeding.
Oral contraceptives impact breastfeeding to a certain extent. The medication can pass through to the breast milk and can alter or reduce the quantity of breast milk. In addition, the duration of breastfeeding can be reduced by a single month, specifically in situations where the mother only breastfeeds part-time. However, contraceptives tend to have a very low dose of hormones, so your physician may choose to allow you to start birth control after breastfeeding has been established. Some circumstances may require for another type of birth control to be utilized or for the mother to stop breastfeeding while on oral contraception.
Ensure this medication is always kept far from children's reach. It should be stored in a sealed medication container (in the original container it came in) out of direct light and away from freezing temperatures. The medication should also be kept away from moisture and heat. Never keep medication that is no longer required or that is expired.
Estrogen and progestin oral contraceptives are prescribed to prevent pregnancy, and are prescribed for acne for patients who also desire to prevent pregnancy. Side effects could be increased for patients who smoke. Patients must be careful not to miss a dose of this medication or they will need to also utilize an alternate medication until at least seven tablets of this medication have been taken.