Birth Control Pills :: Nationwide Children's Hospital

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Birth Control Pills

Taking birth control pills is a good way to keep from getting pregnant. The birth control pill has hormones in it that control the ovaries and uterus (womb). Hormones are chemical substances that control how the body’s organs work. The hormones in the pill, estrogen and progestin, keep the ovaries from releasing an egg each month (ovulation). If no egg is released, even if sperm enters the womb, you do not get pregnant. The mucus around the cervix becomes thicker, making it harder for sperm to enter the womb.
Sometimes the lining of the womb is affected and a fertilized egg cannot attach to its wall. Birth control pills are a reversible form of contraception. This means if you stop taking the pills, you could get pregnant. To make the birth control pills work, you must take one at the same time every day (see Picture 1).

Added Protection

Image of birth control pills

Picture 1: Take a pill at the same time every day along
with some food.

Birth control pills take a while to start working. Just to be safe, you should use an extra form of birth control at least for the first month. Birth control pills will not keep you from getting a sexually transmitted infection or the virus that causes AIDS. Always use a condom and some form of spermicide (contraceptive foam, cream or jelly) whenever you have intimate (close) sexual contact.

How to Take the Pills

  1. Wait until the start of your menstrual period before beginning to take your first package of birth control pills.
  2. Take your first pill on the first day that your menstrual period starts. For example, if your period begins on Tuesday, you would take your first pill that day.
  3. Take one pill every day along with some food.
  4. When you have taken all 28 pills in your package, begin a new package the next day. Make sure you always have enough pills so you do not run out. If you start your new pack of pills late, you may not be protected from getting pregnant. Do not stop taking the pills during your monthly period.
  5. You must take one pill every day to keep from getting pregnant. Try to take the pills at about the same time every day (Picture 1). It helps if you make it part of your daily routine; for example, put your pills next to your toothbrush.
  6. If you forget to take one pill, take it as soon as you remember. This means that you may need to take two pills in one day. For example, if you forget to take a pill the day before, take one as soon as you remember and one at your regular time on the same day. If you miss two or more pills in a row, you may not be protected from getting pregnant. Call the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Adolescent Health Center at (614) 722-2450. They will tell you what to do.

Common Side Effects

It takes about 3 months for your body to adjust to the pills. During the first few months on the pill, you may feel some breast tenderness, nausea, upset stomach, mild headaches or slight weight gain. You may notice a small amount of "breakthrough bleeding" (spotting) between your periods as your body adjusts to the new hormone level in the pill. You can also have spotting if you change (by 2 hours or more) the time of day you take your pill. If these side effects concern you, call the clinic, but do not stop taking your pills. Most side effects go away as your body gets used to the birth control pills.

When to Call the Doctor

Call the Adolescent Health Center at (614) 722-2450 or your doctor at immediately if any of the following occurs:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of Breath
  • Headaches (severe)
  • Eye problems (double or blurred vision)
  • Severe leg pain or leg cramps

Other Uses of Birth Control Pills

Birth control pills are also used to treat menstrual cramps, and heavy bleeding or irregular cycles linked to PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome). Some other benefits are:

  • Less anemia
  • Less acne
  • Less chance of developing cancer in some female organs.

Storage and Safety

  • Store all medicine out of children's reach.
  • Tell your doctor or the clinic if you are taking any medicines besides birth control pills.
  • Get this prescription refilled at least 2 days before you take the last pill. This is very important.
  • If you take too much of this medicine or if someone else takes this medicine, first call the Central Ohio Poison Center at (614) 228-1323 or 1-800-682-7625 (TDD 614-228-2272). They will tell you what to do.

If you are not sure how to take your pills or if you have any other questions, be sure to call the Adolescent Health Center at (614) 722-2450.

Birth Control Pills (PDF)

HH-IV-3 10/77, Revised 2/15 Copyright 1977 Nationwide Children’s Hospital 

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