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Weight Gain | Period Cycles | Timing and Consistency | STIs | Mental Health | Acne | When You’re Not Sexually Active | Telehealth for Birth Control Pills
With a 91% effectiveness, birth control pills are a top consideration for sexually active individuals looking to prevent any unwanted pregnancies. But with the shroud of myths that surround it, a lot of people might be deterred from going on it in order to not let some of the perceived downsides affect them (ie: gaining weight, worsening moods — who even wants these??)
Therefore, we’re here today to debunk some of the most common myths, so that we can all enjoy some steamy bedroom action without the crippling fear of whether or not that action might leave you 🤰🤰
How do birth control pills affect weight?
Although weight gain is a common immediate side effect of birth control, it’s usually just water weight that flushes out with your next cycle. Birth control pills make you retain fluid differently, but it does not permanently change your appetite or how you store fat, which are the main determinants of weight gain. Overall, there is no link between birth control pills and sustained weight gain. And in fact — as we all know, sex can be a rather high intensity activity, so if you’re looking to maintain or lose the weight you gained while initially starting the pill……
How will birth control pills impact my period?
This will depend on the type of pill you choose to take. Some birth control pill packets contain 28 pills, while others contain 21. Out of the 28, only 21 are “active” — meaning that they contain the hormones (estrogen and progesterone), while the other 7 are placebo pills that are usually made of inactive substances such as starch or sugar.
Normally, the placebo pills are taken during the fourth week to allow the person taking it to have her period as per normal, while also maintaining the habit of taking the pill on a regular basis. Therefore in this case, periods will not be affected.
However, for those who choose to skip the placebo pills altogether, or purchase 21-day packs of birth control pills, they might experience some spotting or very light bleeding instead of a full period.
Must I take the pill at the exact same time everyday?
No, you don’t have to, but there are different window periods of effectiveness for different types of pills. Birth control pills are split into combination pills (progesterone and estrogen) and progestin-only pills (progestin is the name for synthetic progesterone).
For combination pills, you can take the pills within a 24-hour window, meaning you can take it today at 8pm, tomorrow at 4pm, and at anytime before 4pm on the third day.
For progestin-only pills, your period of effectiveness is reduced to 3 hours, so you have to take it within the same 3-hour window everyday, ie: 5-8pm. Once ingested outside of the time frame, the possibility of pregnancy increases.
A good practice would just be to take it at the same time everyday to build a habit, and you could also set phone alarm reminders to ensure that you don’t forget!
Am I allowed to take a make-up dose? So if I forget to take my pill today, can I take two tomorrow?
Birth control pills work best if taken according to schedule and at the same time each day. If you miss one or more pills, you increase your chances of releasing an egg that could be fertilized and lead to a pregnancy. Incorrect use of birth control pills is one of the most common ways of unintended pregnancies, so here’s what to do if you happened to miss your dose:
If you missed one pill, take it as soon as you remember.
In this case, you would be taking one pill at the time you remember, and another at your regular timing.
If you missed two or more pills,
you would not be protected against pregnancy until you take your pill every day for 7 days in a row. During this time, it is crucial to use a back-up form of protection, such as condoms or abstaining. If necessary, you should also use emergency contraception during this time, such as Morning After pills or inserting a copper IUD.
Must condoms still be worn if I’m on birth control pills?
Birth control pills work in a way that: (1) prevents an egg from being released; (2) prevents sperm from reaching the egg; (3) prevents a fertilised egg from getting implanted, so in that sense, there should not be serious consequences if he ejaculates in her, but also do remember that the pill only has a 91% effectiveness rate, so you still would not want to be the 9 out of 100 that end up getting pregnant from the pill!! Safe >> sorry!!
However, the pill does not protect you from any Sexually Transmitted Illnesses, so wearing a condom is still highly recommended so that you both do not come into contact with any bodily fluids that can cause STIs. Therefore, dual protection (condom + another form of contraception) is your best bet against pregnancies and STIs!
How will my mental health be affected if I’m on birth control pills?
A lot of research and discussion has been done on this topic, and yet, the results are still inconclusive. A 2016 study of more than one million women in Denmark analyzed nationwide health records and showed that hormonal birth control users were more likely to be diagnosed with or treated for depression. However, studies in America and Finland showed the opposite, with respondents stating that their mood ended up becoming better regulated.
But the fact of the matter is, your hormones will definitely be changed once you start consuming birth control pills, and it is dependent on how well your body can respond to these changes. During a normal cycle, the levels of estrogen are the highest when ovulation happens, around day 14 of the cycle. This is also usually when a female would feel her best — emotionally and physically.
Birth control pills work to smooth this mountain-shaped hormonal cycle into an even line for the first 21 days. Then, the levels of estrogen and progestin plunge during the final 7 days (which is when a period would be taking place). Studies have shown that those with lower levels of estrogen are met with a reduced mood. Estrogen plays a big role in your mood because it has a very strong effect on the brain chemical of serotonin, ie: the happiness hormone. Serotonin is a mood-balancing chemical and estrogen promotes its production. That means when your estrogen level is low, your serotonin level will decrease as well.
That’s why, before starting on the pill, it is important to speak to your providers or doctors about any history of mental health issues or concerns relating to it, so that you can work out which is the best birth control option for you!
Will birth control pills cause my skin conditions to worsen?
Actually, it’s the opposite! By this point in the article, you would probably know that birth control has something to do with estrogen and progesterone. Other than preventing ovulation, these 2 hormones can also work to reduce the testosterone levels in a female’s body. Testosterone is responsible for the oil production in the body (which leads to bacteria, and then breakouts), so having less testosterone can also cause acne to decrease.
So why is it that I’ve heard of people having a flare-up of acne when they start the pill?
In a typical menstrual cycle, acne or breakouts can happen either before or during a period, so the changes in hormone levels from the pill might cause an initial flare, because some pills' progestin can have a pseudo-testosterone effect, causing the surge in breakouts. A good guideline would be to wait for about 90 days or 3 months to see if your skin condition improves before completely giving up on birth control pills.
Are there any benefits of being on the pill if I’m not sexually active?
Yes, there are! Here are some of them:
1. Regulated periods
Since birth control pills follow a strict date routine (ie: having the 28 pills in a pack), the hormones in the “active” pills bring about your menstrual cycle during the 7 days when the pills would be “inactive”. In a way, this can also allow you to “control” your period, and you could take the pills during events where you do not want to get a period, such as vacations or sports events.
2. Having a lighter period with birth control pills means a reduction in cramps, or anemia
By preventing ovulation and making your uterine lining thinner, birth control pills can reduce your risk of having a heavy flow. Hence, your risk of iron-deficiency from anemia is lessened since you are “losing less blood”. When you don’t ovulate, your uterus will not experience the contractions during ovulation, which is what is causing you to have painful cramps.
3. Managing migraines
Sometimes, you might experience intense headaches just before a period, and this also has to do with the decrease in estrogen levels in the body. Birth control pills can prevent these headaches by keeping your estrogen levels constant throughout.
Overall, we hope that this has made your decision on whether or not to start the pill a little simpler, by fact-checking some of the myths that have proliferated through society. If you have decided that you want to start taking birth control pills, do check out these telehealth options for where to obtain the pills: