Know your contraceptives: Birth control pill

Save the withdrawal method, one of the commonest family planning methods is the birth control pill. They work with hormones and require you to take a pill each day.

This family planning method is common because it is affordable and effective but only if you are diligent in taking it on time.

Dr Robert Ssooka, a general practitioner, says there are two kinds of birth control pills:

  • Combination pills (combined oral contraceptives) – these have both oestrogen and progestin and they are the commonest birth control pill type.
  • Progestin-only pills (POPs or mini pills) – these only contain progestin.

How they work

The pill works by stopping sperm from joining with an egg, hence stopping fertilisation. They also stop ovulation, therefore, pregnancy cannot happen. Additionally, they thicken the cervical mucus which blocks sperms so they cannot swim to an egg.

However, there is a responsibility on your side such as taking your pills at the same time every day. You must also ensure that you refill your pills. Otherwise, chances of getting pregnant are increased.

Forgetting to take your pill is very easy but you can use a phone reminder as well as keep the tablets close to you so you do not have to get to the pill-taking time when they are far from reach.

  • You can also keep them close to something you use often say next to your toothbrush to ease remembrance.
  • You can also ask your spouse to remind you.

All in all, do whatever it takes to ensure you take your pills on time.

Lowering pill efficiency

Apart from forgetting to take your pills on time, there are other things that can lower the efficiency of the birth control pill. These include:

  • Vomiting as well as having diarrhoea for more than 2 days.
  • The antibiotic Rifampin. However, other antibiotics do not deter the effectiveness of the pill
  • The antifungal Griseofulvin. However, other antifungals do not deter the effectiveness of the pill
  • Certain HIV medicines

In such moments, you could abstain or use condoms to ensure that you avoid getting pregnant.

Period of effectiveness

The efficacy of the pill starts with the pill type and subsequently when you started taking the pill. While you can start taking the pill any day, you should ensure that you take that pill every other day at the same time.

Combination pills: There is forthright protection from conception if you start taking the pill five days after the first day of your menses. However, starting it any other day will take seven days before it will take full effect. In the interim, you can use another protection method such as condoms.

Progestin-only pills: These can be started any day of the month and the pill protection will kick in 2 days later.