Getting Started with Birth Control Pills
What you need to know about using birth control pills as hormonal therapy or birth control
How does the pill work?
- Birth control pills (commonly called the pill) contain the same hormones that are made by the female body: estrogen and progesterone.
- The hormones in the pill prevent an egg from being produced and keep the lining of the uterus thin – this is what reduces or eliminates the problems that are being caused by periods.
What are the benefits of using the pill as hormonal therapy?
- The pill stops ovulation.
- The pill lessens pelvic pain, cramping and bleeding.
- The pill helps prevent acne.
- The pill helps reduced unwanted hair on the face or body.
- The pill can be used to regulate the menstrual cycle or, when used in a certain way, to have periods less often.
- The pill does not cause weight gain.
- The pill does not harm fertility (the ability to become pregnant later in life).
- The pill reduces the risk of getting certain types of cancer (uterine, ovarian). The pill does not cause cancer.
When should I start the pill?
- You can start the pill today or as soon as you get it from the pharmacy.
- You should take one pill at the same time each day. We recommend setting an alarm on your cell phone to remind you to take it.
What are the side effects?
Common side effects do not mean that the pill is harmful or dangerous. These can include:
- Bleeding between periods (most common)
- Breast tenderness
If these effects occur, they are generally mild and tolerable and will go away after two to six months or much sooner. If you have questions about side effects, you are welcome to call us at .
Call the clinic immediately if you experience any of the following:
- Chest pain or shortness of breath
- New visual problems like seeing spots or blurry vision
- Severe leg or arm pain or numbness
- Severe headache
If I’m using the pill for birth control – when is it safe to have sex?
- Wait one week to have sex before relying on the pill for birth control.
- The pill does not protect against STDs (sexually transmitted diseases). If you are sexually active, get tested for STDs regularly and use condoms every time you have sex to prevent STDs, including HIV.
What about refills, starting late or missing pills?
- Your prescription is good for at least one year’s supply of pills. Make sure you plan ahead and get refill pack(s) as soon as you start the last week of pills.
- If you are missing more than two pills on most months, please contact use to talk about other options for hormonal therapy that don’t require you to take a pill each day.