Video Q & A:

The Pill & EC


How does the pill work?

Expert:   Isabel Blumberg, MD, Board Certified Obstetrician/Gynecologist »

The birth control pill prevents pregnancy, but how does the pill actually work? Watch this to learn about how it enables you to have safe sex and avoid pregnancy.

Transcript: The pill is a hormonal form of birth control. There are TWO types of pills—one uses a synthetic combination of the hormones estrogen and progestin, while others ONLY contain synthetic progestin. The combination pills are the MOST popular and also SLIGHTLY more effective. The pill works in several ways, mostly by SUPPRESSING ovulation. It does this by telling the pituitary gland to STOP making certain hormones that would OTHERWISE signal the ovaries to START the cycle. The pill also makes the uterine lining unwelcoming to a fertilized egg, AND it thickens cervical mucus to slow down a sperm’s movement. If you’re on the pill, you take an ACTIVE HORMONE pill, every day for a few weeks, followed by a series of INACTIVE—or “reminder”-- pills. You’ll take the inactive pills when you’re having your period. Some pill types require that you take NO pills during the inactive period, which also results in a period. There are other pill types formulated so your period occurs only a few times a year. With all these pill options available, a conversation with your doctor is the BEST way to figure out which birth control pill is best for you. No matter which variety you pick, oral contraceptives must be taken EVERY day, and are most effective if taken around the same TIME every day. If you miss a dose or take the pill at different times of the day, the contraceptive effectiveness may be reduced. The pill is a top-notch choice for preventing pregnancy— about 99 PERCENT effective when taken as directed. But the Pill does not prevent STi transmission, so coupling the pill with a condom is a good way to prevent against both STIs and unwanted pregnancies. [On-screen text: Condoms do not fully prevent against herpes and HPV] More »

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