The Pill

  • The pill, also called “oral contraception,” is a tablet that needs to be taken once a day, every day. The pill works by releasing hormones that prevent ovulation (the release of eggs from ovaries). They also make the cervical mucus thicker, which makes it hard for sperm to get to the eggs.
  • There are two types of pills:
    • Combination pills: These pills contain both estrogen and progestin hormones, and are the most common type of birth control pill in the US.
    • Progestin-only pills: Sometimes called the “mini-pill,” do not have any estrogen. Progestin-only pills are less common in the US; however, they are the most popular method in some countries in Europe.
  • Both types of the pill are highly effective at preventing unplanned pregnancies. In fact, the pill is one of the most effective birth control methods available. It is 91% effective with typical use, meaning that it is usually, but not always, used exactly as directed. It is 99% effective when used exactly as directed.
  • The pill has been around for over 50 years, and is one of the safest and best-studied medications on the market. For most women, the pill does not cause any health problems. While some women experience side effects like bleeding between periods, sore breasts, or nausea and vomiting, these usually go away after 2-3 months. For a very small number of women with certain health conditions (“contraindications”), there are rare risks of more serious side effects, and other birth control methods may be a better choice. You can learn more about who can take the pill here.
  • It also has many other health benefits. In addition to pregnancy prevention, the pill can help reduce pain and heavy bleeding with periods, prevent acne and anemia, reduce the risk of certain cancers, and more. A study in the medical journal The Lancet showed that over the last 50 years the pill has prevented 100,000 deaths from ovarian cancer, and is estimated to prevent at least 30,000 new diagnoses every year worldwide.