The lowdown on some very interesting facts about birth control that you need to know of.

A sexually active couple that is trying to avoid pregnancy would probably have searched Google a dozen times to understand what birth control is and how it works. Yet every time you read about it, a new question pops into your head – how effective are birth control pills? Does missing a period always mean pregnancy?

Approximately 45% of all pregnancies worldwide are unintended pregnancies. So, if you don’t want to join the bandwagon and be unintentionally hooked to the horrors of parenting or abortion, you need to know some stuff.

Here are 10 facts everyone taking birth control must know:

Younger women lag behind older women in using contraception

According to CDC, contraceptive use increased with age, from 38.7% among women aged 15–19 to 74.8% among women aged 40–49.

Surprisingly younger women are less likely to use contraception than older women even though they are more impacted by unwanted pregnancy which is concerning.

Taking birth control pills is one of the most preferred birth control methods among women as they are three times safer than condoms. Moreover, it can be easily terminated if a couple decides to get pregnant.

It is possible to even delay or prevent your period with extended or continuous use of any combined oestrogen-progestin birth control pill. Your doctor would be the best person to recommend the best pill schedule for your period delay.

What’s more, these pills are easily available in online pharmacies and can also ease PMS, difficult periods and acne according to Linda Rice, a certified nurse-midwife at Boston Medical Centre.

The increase in the use of IUD has tripled in recent years

An intrauterine device or IUD is a T-shaped object that can be inserted into your uterus by a doctor. It can be copper-based or hormone-based.

In developing countries, 14.5% of women of reproductive age use IUD to prevent pregnancy, while in the developed world, this percentage rose from 2.4% to 7.6% in the last few years. IUDs are great for long-term birth control and are 99% effective. However, they may carry a small risk of uterine infection.

Female sterilization, aka tying up the tubes, is used by 24% of women of reproductive age worldwide according to a United Nations report. This contraceptive method can permanently prevent pregnancy by blocking the fallopian tubes such that sperms cannot fertilize the eggs. It is the equivalent of vasectomy in men and requires surgery.

Hormonal patches and rings are easier to adhere to than pills

Vaginal rings and patches also contain a combination of oestrogen and progestin and match up to birth control pills’ effectiveness. While the former has to be worn inside the vagina and needs to be replaced once a month, the latter can be worn on your stomach, buttocks, or back and must be changed once a week. This makes them easy to adhere to than birth control pills that need to be taken at the same time every day.

You can take a chill pill if you missed a period on the pill

When women take birth control pills correctly and consistently each day, sometimes it is normal to miss a period. It is because the uterine wall becomes so thin over time that you don’t have anything to bleed from. However, neither is this permanent nor dangerous as once you stop the pill, the uterine wall start thickening again and you start getting periods normally again.

Missed periods after taking the pill incorrectly should be followed by a pregnancy test to eliminate any doubt.

Birth control pills work through two different mechanisms

How do birth control pills work? One is by the use of a single hormone – progestin. The other is by using a combination of two hormones – progestin and oestrogen. Both of them prevent ovulation and thicken the cervical mucus. This makes it difficult for sperms to travel inside and make contact with an egg if the ovulation is already in progress.

Sadly, lots of women take birth control pills inaccurately

Birth control pills are supposed to be 99% effective but only if taken at the same time every day. Sadly, in reality, they have a 6-9% failure rate as women find it difficult to adhere to, especially if they are leading a busy life.

There is only a sparse relation between hormonal birth control and antibiotics

According to research studies, the only antibiotic that has been proven to affect the working of birth control pills, rings, or patches is Rifampin which is used to treat tuberculosis and other bacterial infections. It does so by decreasing the hormone levels of the pill in your body. Hence, it is always better to use a backup birth control method when consuming antibiotics to be on the safer side.

The week 4 “sugar pills” might have active ingredients

The first 3 weeks of the pill packet are for preventing pregnancy while the week 4 pills are usually inactive. However, it turns out that the week 4 pills might have some active ingredients to either enhance the active pills’ efficiency or to aid women’s health. For example, they may contain low-dose oestrogen to reduce the chances of breakthrough bleeding or iron, folic acid, etc. to strengthen your system. Hence, it is advisable to not skip the week 4 pills.

Before you set your mind on any particular contraception method, it is important to have an honest medical consultation with a specialist to find out which form of birth control would work best for your body and your needs.

Krishma Patel is the co-founder and the Superintendent Pharmacist at MedsNow – UK online pharmacy. She is passionate about showcasing the integral function community pharmacies can play in supporting the healthcare system and the NHS by providing patients with high quality, safe and discreet access to healthcare at their convenience. Krishma is also the Director and the Superintendent Pharmacist of Enimed Ltd.

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