Oral Contraceptives

by Katelyn Schwanke
(last updated January 28, 2009)

When you go speak to your doctor about oral contraceptives you may be unclear on what the distinction is between each type available. There are two basic categories of oral contraceptives that all other types fall into. The first category is characterized by release of two hormones, estrogen and progesterone. The second category is characterized by the release of just progesterone. Both categories work under the pretence of "tricking" your body into thinking it is already pregnant. In the presence of both or one of these hormones your body will not be able to conceive because they prevent ovulation. The first three weeks of the month you will take decreasing amounts of hormones so that during your last week your body will be ready to menstruate.

Beyond practicing abstinence from sex and surgical methods, oral contraceptives have the highest rate of effectiveness over intrauterine devices, condoms, diaphragms, foams, jellies or use of the rhythm method. The effectiveness is substantial enough that despite some side effects, most women will use this type of contraceptive at least once in their lives (if not used primarily). Side effects of oral contraceptives include weight gain, potentially decreased desire for sex, and decrease of lubrication, depression, vomiting, breast tenderness and change in blood pressure. Positive side effects include improvement in skin condition and sometimes increased sexual functioning or desire.

Many women wonder how taking the "pill" will affect their chances of getting pregnant once they are ready. Most women will begin to ovulate within two weeks of stopping the pill, so theoretically you can get pregnant within two weeks. Many women may miss their period after going off the pill because the body is not use to the new fluctuation in natural hormones. Speak to your doctor is your period does not resume within six weeks.

If you have further questions or concerns speak to a nurse practitioner, midwife or doctor concerning which type of oral contraceptive would be best for you.

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