Demystifying Birth Control Pills: 10 Key Insights

Categories: Hormonal Acne Hormones

For many young women, understanding birth control options is vital. Birth control pills, in particular, are probably the most popular and accessible option for women seeking contraception. However, there’s often a multitude of questions and concerns surrounding these tiny yet potent tablets that need to be considered.

In this article, we aim to demystify birth control pills and provide you with 10 essential insights that every young woman should know. From the manufacturers of these pills to their active ingredients, dosage, and administration, we’ll give you clear, concise answers.

You’ll learn about the common side effects and when to consider alternatives due to potential contraindications. We’ll delve into the way they work, their effectiveness, and potential interactions with other medications to ensure you’re able to make informed decisions about your reproductive health.

By the end of this article, you’ll be equipped with a basic understanding of birth control pills, helping you navigate this crucial aspect of your hormonal and reproductive well-being with confidence.


a chart of birth control pills


1. Who Makes Birth Control Pills?

Large pharmaceutical companies manufacture birth control pills. Yaz is a commonly prescribed birth control pill and is made by Bayer HealthCare Pharmaceuticals. They also produce other contraceptive options, such as the patch, the ring, and the IUD. When you’re given a script for a birth control pill, the pharmacist will sometimes offer you the generic version, which is often less expensive because it does not have a brand name attached. Typically, it contains the same combination of synthetic hormones as the branded one you’ve been prescribed.


2. What’s in Birth Control Pills?

There are two types of birth control pills: the combined pill, which contains synthetic forms of progesterone (Norethindrone acetate, Ethynodiol diacetate, Lynestrenol,  Norethynodrel, Levonorgestrel,dl-Norgestrel, Norgestimate, Gestodene, Desogestrel, Drospirenone or Cyproterone acetate) and estrogen (Estradiol, Ethinylestradiol, or Estetrol), and the ‘mini pill’, which only contains the synthetic progesterone. The amount of each synthetic hormone can vary from brand to brand.


3. How Do You Take Birth Control Pills?

You must take birth control pills daily at the same time for 21 days, followed by 4-7 days of inactive pills that contain no hormones. This creates a ‘fake’ cycle with a withdrawal bleed, similar to a period when you take the hormone-free pills commonly referred to as sugar pills. While it can appear that you are having a regular menstrual cycle, this is not the case because the birth control pills are suppressing your cycle. They stop you from ovulating, which is why they are contraceptives.


4. How Are Birth Control Pills Administered?

Birth control pills are taken orally, meaning you swallow them with water. It’s essential to take them simultaneously each day to maintain consistent effectiveness.



5. What Are the Common Side Effects?

The most common side effects are:

  • Nausea (usually mild and temporary).
  • Breast tenderness or swelling (usually temporary).
  • Headaches (often temporary).
  • Breakthrough bleeding
  • Increased vaginal discharge
  • Mood changes
  • Decreased libido
  • Acne
  • Hair loss

Rare side effects can include:

  • Venous thrombotic events (VTE), commonly known as blood clots
  • Stroke or myocardial infarction
  • Bone mineral density loss
  • Hyperkalemia – an imbalance of potassium levels, especially when combined with certain medications


Breast Feeding Mother


6. Who Should Avoid Birth Control Pills?

Contraindications/Situations include:

  • Pregnant or possibly pregnant women.
  • Breastfeeding mothers (due to potential effects on breast milk).
  • Individuals with a history of blood clots or a family history of blood clots (increased risk with birth control pills).
  • People with uncontrolled hypertension
  • Smokers over the age of 35 due to an increased risk of cardiovascular events and deep vein thrombosis
  • People with a history of VTE, stroke, breast or endometrial cancer or cardiovascular disease or who have two or more risk factors for cardiovascular disease
  • Anyone with undiagnosed abnormal uterine bleeding
  • Suspected or diagnosed breast cancer
  • Acute liver disease or severe cirrhosis
  • People who have had bariatric surgery
  • Anyone taking certain kinds of antiseizure medication


7. How Do Birth Control Pills Work?

Birth control pills prevent ovulation (the release of an egg from the ovary) by suppressing hormones that trigger this process.

If you aren’t ovulating, you can’t fertilise an egg and become pregnant.

However, this suppression of ovulation can create a potential future problem. Many women find that when they stop birth control pills, it leaves them with unbalanced hormones.

Their menstrual cycle may be irregular, or their period doesn’t return, they may break out in post-pill hormonal acne, or they may find it difficult to conceive.

These issues are not at all surprising given the fact that many women take the pill for an extended period of time, and such long hormone suppression is bound to cause problems.


Woman holding a chart of birth control pills


8. Are Birth Control Pills Effective?

When used correctly:

  • Combined birth control pills (with both estrogen and progestin) are up to 99% effective in preventing conception.
  • Progestin-only pills are up to 94% effective in preventing pregnancy.
  • Birth control pills are routinely used for acne control as well and are very effective. However, they are only effective while they are being used. Once stopped, hormonal acne often returns and is sometimes worse than before.


9. What Are the Interactions with Other Medications?

Interactions depend on the specific birth control pill and other medications, so it is essential to let the doctor know what you are taking.

Estrogen-containing medications can reduce the effectiveness of birth control pills, and some potassium-sparing diuretics, such as spironolactone, can increase the risk of hyperkalemia for people taking only progesteron pills.

Ensure you disclose all the medications, herbs and vitamins you take to your healthcare team to minimise the potential interactions.

St John’s Wort is a herb that speeds up the detoxification of birth control pills and can make it less effective.



10. How Should You Store Birth Control Pills?

Store most birth control pills at room temperature, away from direct sunlight, moisture, and heat. Keep them in a cool, dry place at temperatures between 59°F and 86°F (15°C and 30°C).


Empowering Your Reproductive Health: Navigating Birth Control Choices with Confidence

Navigating the realm of birth control pills is a vital aspect of reproductive health for young women. They are the most commonly used birth control option, but it’s critical to understand that they are not without downsides.

Their use can leave lingering hormone and fertility issues and trigger post-pill acne, so these need to be weighed up against the positives of taking birth control pills.

All of this can seem complex and overwhelming when you start to explore. Still, hopefully, this journey through “Demystifying Birth Control Pills: 10 Key Insights” has shed light on the essential facts and provided you with a tool for making an informed decision.

Understanding how these pills work and their effectiveness is fundamental knowledge, empowering you to make choices aligned with your needs.


Woman holding up a chart of birth control pills


Hopefully, you now feel equipped with the knowledge needed to make informed decisions about your reproductive health. Armed with these 10 key insights, you can navigate the world of birth control pills with confidence, ensuring your hormone and reproductive well-being.

Suppose you have any questions or need further guidance regarding using birth control pills to manage acne or menstrual problems (PMS, pain, heavy bleeding, irregular periods) or any other aspect of your reproductive health. In that case, our expert team is here to help.

Don’t hesitate to contact us for personalised advice and support. We are experts at fixing acne and menstrual issues naturally without the need for birth control pills.

Your well-being is our priority; book an initial consultation with one of our acne and female hormone specialist naturopaths.


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