Birth control pills have been around since about 1960 and offered a much needed alternative to the very limited contraception methods of the time. Since then, numerous options have become available, yet “the pill” continues to be the number one method of preventing unplanned pregnancy (WebMD). There are several reasons it has remained the contraception method of choice for women, not the least of which is a 99.9% rate of effectiveness when used correctly. But in addition to the benefits and advantages associated with the pill, there are also a few disadvantages.
The pill is classified as a hormonal contraception method because it relies on synthetic forms of the hormones estrogen and progesterone to prevent pregnancy. In addition to birth control pills, there are several other hormonal contraception options as well, including the patch, the vaginal ring (e.g., Nuva-Ring), and even hormone injections like Depo-Provera. Some of these prevent ovulation completely, while others make it difficult for fertilization of the egg to occur.
Among the many advantages of using the pill, the most obvious is protection against unplanned pregnancy. As mentioned, it has a 99.9% rate of success when used properly making it one of the most reliable contraception methods available. The pill also regulates the menstrual cycle and many women even notice lighter periods with less severe cramps or other discomfort. Additionally, research suggests long term use of the pill reduces a woman’s risk of developing ovarian or uterine cancer. It has also been shown to protect against anemia and endometriosis (American Pregnancy Association). In addition to its reliability and associated health benefits, birth control pills are easy to use and fairly affordable.
On the flip side, there are some drawbacks to taking birth control pills. One of the biggest negatives about the pill is that it doesn’t protect against sexually transmitted diseases. So while it is perhaps the best method for preventing pregnancy, it does not provide any protection from STDs. And the pill becomes far less reliable at preventing pregnancy if you forget to take it. It is extremely important that it be taken every day, and most doctors recommend taking it at the same time each day. Forgetting to take the pill can happen easily, which is why many women opt for alternatives like the Nuva-Ring or Depo-Provera. Additionally, a prescription is needed to get birth control pills, which some women find to be a drawback.
There are also some unpleasant side effects associated with birth control pills. Side effects can include weight gain, nausea, tenderness in the breasts, changes in mood, headaches, irregular spotting between periods, and even acne (WebMD). Fortunately, not every woman experiences these unwanted side effects. But even if you manage to avoid any of them, there are still some health risks like developing blood clots. Your risk is increased if you smoke regularly while on the pill. Finally, the pill is not an option for women with a history of breast or uterine cancer, heart disease, liver disease, strokes or clotting.
There are several pros and cons associated with birth control pills. Most women who take them have very few problems, which is why the pill is still such a popular choice. It is convenient, affordable, and effective. But it is always important to consider the potential side effects and health risks. If you are considering birth control pills as your method of contraception, be sure to speak with your doctor about all the pros and cons before making your decision.
American Pregnancy Association. Oral Contraceptives: Birth Control Pills. Online: http://www.americanpregnancy.org/preventingpregnancy/birthcontrolpills.html.
Watson, Stephanie. Comparing Birth Control Pill Types: Combination, Mini-pills, and More. Online: http://women.webmd.com/features/comparing-birth-control-pill-types-combination-minipills-more.
WebMD. Birth Control Pills – Your Guide. Online: http://www.webmd.com/sex/birth-control/birth-control-pill.