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Combined Oral Congraceptive ("The Pill" and "The Minipill") Print E-mail

Dr. Kennedy A combined oral contraceptive is commonly called "the pill." Combined oral contraceptives are the most commonly used form of reversible birth control in the United States. This form of birth control suppresses ovulation by the combined actions of synthetic versions of the hormones estrogen and progesterone (called "progestins"). If a woman remembers to take the pill every day as directed, she has an extremely low chance of becoming pregnant. The pill's effectiveness may be reduced if the woman is taking some medications, such as certain antibiotics. Besides preventing pregnancy, the pill can make periods more regular. It also has a protective effect against pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), an infection of the fallopian tubes or uterus that is a major cause of infertility in women, and against ovarian and endometrial cancers. Current low-dose pills have fewer risks associated with them than earlier versions. But women who smoke, especially those over 35, and women with certain medical conditions such as a history of blood clots or breast or endometrial cancer, may be advised against taking the pill. The pill may also contribute to cardiovascular disease, including high blood pressure, blood clots, and blockage of the arteries. The side effects of the pill include nausea, headache, breast tenderness, weight gain, irregular bleeding, and depression. These side effects often subside after a few months' use of the pill. This author does not recommend the use of oral contraception due to the possible ill effects. There are other methods of birth control and they are effective and safe if performed correctly. Along with abortion on demand "the pill" sparked a sexual revolution in the 60s and 70s which was only reined in with the advent of AIDS in the 80s. The psychological and moral consequences of this revolution are still being observed and debated.

The minipill os also a form of oral contraceptive taken daily, like combined oral contraceptives (the "pill"), but containing only the hormone progestin (synthetic, not natural) and no estrogen. The minipill reduces and thickens cervical mucus to prevent sperm from reaching the egg. It also keeps the uterine lining from thickening, which prevents a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus. The minipill is slightly less effective in preventing conception than the pill. The minipill can decrease menstrual bleeding and cramps as well. Because the minipill contains no estrogen, it does not present the risk of blood clots associated with estrogen in combined pills. The minipill is a useful option for women who cannot take estrogen because they are breast-feeding or because estrogen-containing products cause them to have severe headaches or high blood pressure. The side effects of the minipill include menstrual cycle changes, weight gain, and breast tenderness.

The information in this article is not meant to be medical advice.�Treatment for a medical condition should come at the recommendation of your personal physician.

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