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Oral Contraceptives: Everything You Need to Know About the Pill

Who invented oral contraceptives? How do they actually work and change your body? Today we’re answering the most pressing questions about the pill.

How were first oral contraceptives invented?

The invention of the first contraceptive pill is said to have been one of the most important discoveries of the 20th century.

Getting to the buyers was not easy, however. In the 1950s, birth control was considered immoral in many U.S. states.

The first pills, created by Dr. Gregory Pincus, went on sale in 1957. To avoid accusations of immorality, they were recommended as “a means to solve the problems of irregular cycles.”

However, the inventors did not forget to point out its contraceptive properties as a “side effect.”

Doctors immediately noted the epidemic of “irregular cycles.” Just two years later, about half a million women in the U.S. began to use the pills due to its alluring “side effect.”

Planning to take oral contraceptives? Consult your doctor first

Most women believe they can choose their own combined oral contraceptives (COCs) or just take the same ones that were prescribed for their friend. This is a very common (and dangerous) misconception!

Based on your age and medical history, the doctor will prescribe the most suitable hormone combination and dosage for you.

Medication for an 18-year-old girl is different than that for a 30-year-old woman. Different hormone dosages will help a girl with acne, a woman suffering from painful menstruation, or a mother of several children.

There is no perfect pill for all. Consult your gynecologist to find the optimal COCs.

The most important thing while taking oral contraceptives

When taking oral contraceptives, keeping to a schedule is an important thing.

Such medicines are effective if their concentration in the body is constantly maintained at the same level. Taken on time, a birth control pill guarantees a continuous contraceptive effect. Consequently, it reliably protects against an unwanted pregnancy.

For best results, oral contraceptives should always be taken at the same time every day.

Can you gain weight from taking oral contraceptives?

Often, women don’t take birth control pills for fear of gaining weight. Let’s see if that fear is justified!

The first oral contraceptives actually contained very high hormone doses (twice as much as in modern pills), so they could cause metabolic disturbance and weight gain. After numerous laboratory tests, the dose was reduced.

Recent studies have not revealed a direct link between taking birth control pills and gaining weight. In fact, women often put on weight because of their age and lifestyle habits.

Sometimes, a slight increase in weight can be associated with water retention or an increased appetite while taking combined oral contraceptives (COC).

Flo users share their stories: conceiving after the pill

I didn't stop birth control until the week of my wedding. I started on Flo straight away. I knew it would take a few months at least to settle into a routine and for the side effects of the pill to disappear. I got pregnant on our fourth attempt. I'm now 8 weeks pregnant. I definitely recommend inputting BBT (basal body temperature) as that gave me a much better idea of ovulation.

How do mini-pills work?

There are two different kinds of pills: combined oral contraceptives (COCs), which contain estrogen and progestin, and the mini-pills, which contain progestin only.

The COCs primarily hinder the ovulation process. The mini-pills act differently. They affect cervical mucus, make it impenetrable for sperm, and prevent endometrial growth.

Mini-pills were designed as an alternative for women who have contraindications to combined oral contraceptives (COCs).

In comparison with the latter, mini-pills are as effective as IUDs and contain only one hormone — progestin. Most of these pills do not prevent ovulation and allow the occurrence of a regular menstrual cycle. How do they work?

Mini-pills alter the quality of cervical mucus. It becomes denser and forms an impenetrable barrier against sperm. If sperm still manage to go through and fertilize the egg, another important effect will be triggered. This type of contraception changes the uterus lining and prevents the egg from implantation.

Many women believe that they will still ovulate while on the mini-pill. This is not entirely true.

The presence or absence of ovulation depends on the body’s individual peculiarities and the generation to which the contraceptive belongs. Mini-pills contain progestin, a form of the hormone progesterone, which plays an important part in the menstrual cycle and pregnancy. Depending on the generation of the contraceptive, it may contain different progestin derivatives.

They are primarily responsible for whether the woman will ovulate. The first generation mini-pills prevent ovulation in 60% of women, while the more modern pills achieve this effect in 97% of users.


What to do if you miss a birth control pill?

The missed combined oral contraceptive pill should be taken immediately as soon as you remember it, and the next one, according to the set schedule. That is, within one day, you will have to take two pills instead of one. From there, continue taking the medicine according to the regular schedule.

In most cases, one missed birth control pill should not be a problem. The concentration of the drug in the body will not change because of that, and the chances of getting pregnant will still be negligible. However, if this happened to you in the first month of taking the medication, it is better to play it safe and use additional contraception (condoms, for example) for the next 7 days.

If the delay is less than 3 hours in taking the mini pill, take the missed pill right away, and the next one, according to the usual schedule. If the delay is more than 3 hours, take the pill immediately, but use barrier contraceptives for the next week.

Flo users share their stories: went off the pill and got pregnant right away

I downloaded the app to track my periods after deciding to come off the pill, not to start trying but to give my body a rest. As soon as we said, “Okay, let’s see what happens,” I was pregnant! I’m still in shock because according to when I should have been ovulating, I didn’t think I could have gotten pregnant! Shows how quick it can happen. I’m now 7 weeks, and it just about feels real now. I’m excited and nervous as to what’s to come!

Forgetting about birth control for a long time: long-acting reversible contraception

Women are busy with a great number of things and often dream about minimizing the need to worry about contraception on a daily basis. Modern means are making it possible to forget about contraception for 3, 5, or even 10 years.

Long-acting birth control methods include hormonal and copper intrauterine devices, as well as implants. The latter protect against unwanted pregnancy for up to 4 years.

Hormonal intrauterine devices should be replaced every 3–6 years, depending on the manufacturer's recommendations. Copper intrauterine devices have the longest effect. They can provide protection for 5–10 years, depending on the model.

When choosing a contraception method, be sure to consult a doctor who will help you pick the contraceptive that fits you best in terms of use and effect.



Flo Period & Ovulation Tracker

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  • Exactly what I needed Petrichjm
    I use this for fertility awareness as a contraceptive measure. It is so helpful and I am confident in its results. After three months I definitely see a pattern I never noticed. I have learned so many things as well!
  • So accurate Connie Joseph
    I use this app to track my period and symptoms and it's so accurate. I tried a few other apps before this one and they were never so accurate and didn't have as many tools to use.

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