Birth control pills contain a combination of hormones that is used to prevent ovulation (the release of an egg from an ovary). The pills contain a form of estrogen and a form of progesterone, which are both female hormones involved in conception. Birth control pills also have other effects that inhibit pregnancy. They cause the cervical mucous to thicken, which makes it harder for sperm to move toward the uterus, and they prevent the attachment of an egg to the uterus. Birth control pills are used to prevent pregnancy.
Take your birth control pills exactly as directed by your doctor. If you do not understand these directions, ask your pharmacist, nurse, or doctor to explain them to you. Take the first pill in a package on the first Sunday after your period begins (unless otherwise directed by your doctor). Take one pill every day, no more than 24 hours after your last dose. Try to take the pills at a time that you will remember every day--for example just before bed, with a meal, or first thing in the morning. Taking your pill at night may help to reduce any nausea or headache that you may experience because of the hormones. If you are on a 28-day cycle, take one pill every day. When the pack runs out, throw it away. Begin a new pack the following day. The 28-day cycle contains seven pills that are either placebos (with no active ingredients) or iron supplements. These are "reminder" pills to keep you on your regular cycle. They are taken while you are menstruating. If you are on a 21-day cycle, take one pill every day for 21 days, then do not take any pills for 7 days. You should have your period during the 7 days with no pills. Resume your pills on the 8th day with a new package. Follow your doctor's instructions about using a second form of birth control when you first start taking birth control pills, when you are taking antibiotics, or if you miss a pill. If you are unsure what to do in any of these cases, talk to your pharmacist, nurse, or doctor about how to ensure that you will not become pregnant.
If you experience any of the following serious side effects, stop taking your birth control pills and seek emergency medical attention: an allergic reaction (difficulty breathing; closing of your throat; swelling of your lips, tongue, or face; or hives); a blood clot in the lung (shortness of breath or pain in the chest); a blood clot in an arm or leg (pain, redness, swelling, or numbness of an arm or leg); high blood pressure (severe headache, flushing, blurred vision); or liver damage (yellowing of the skin or eyes, nausea, abdominal pain or discomfort, unusual bleeding or bruising, severe fatigue). Other, less serious side effects may be more likely to occur. Continue to take your birth control pills and talk to your doctor if you experience headache or dizziness; nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea; breakthrough bleeding; or breast tenderness. These side effects may disappear or be less noticeable after 3 to 6 months of birth control use. Ask your doctor or pharmacist for advice if you find any side effect very bothersome. The side effects listed below generally occur very rarely and are not considered serious. If you experience any of the following, talk to your doctor: depression, changes in weight or appetite, vaginal yeast infection, changes in your menstrual cycle, oily skin or acné, changes in your sex drive, lethargy or fatigue, bloating, changes in your skin color, or changes in your blood sugar.
Avoid smoking. Smoking greatly increases your risk of a heart attack, stroke, or blood clot formation. Birth control pills do not protect you from sexually transmitted diseases--including HIV and AIDS. Using a condom is the only way to protect yourself from these diseases.
Some drugs may decrease the effectiveness of birth control pills, which may result in pregnancy. Use a second form of birth control if you are takinga penicillin antibiotic such as amoxicillin (Amoxil, Polymox, Trimox, Wymox, Utimox, A-Cillin, Larotid, Augmentin, others), ampicillin (Principen, Omnipen, Penamp, Polycillin, Amplin, Amcill, Totacillin, others), bacampicillin (Spectrobid), carbenicillin (Geocillin), cloxacillin (Cloxapen, Tegopen), dicloxacillin (Dynapen, Dycill, Pathocil), nafcillin (Nafcil, Nallpen, Unipen), oxacillin (Bactocill, Prostphlin), or penicillin (Veetids, Pen Vee K, Bicillin, Permapen, others);a tetracycline antibiotic such as demeclocycline (Declomycin), doxycycline (Doryx, Doxy, Vibramycin, Vibra-Tabs, others), minocycline (Minocin), or tetracycline (Sumycin, Teracyn, Achromycin, Robitet, Panmycin, others);a barbiturate such as amobarbital (Amytal), butabarbital (Butisol), mephobarbital (Mebaral), secobarbital (Seconal), or phenobarbital (Luminal, Solfoton);rifampin (Rifadin);phenytoin (Dilantin);carbamazepine (Tegretol); orgriseofulvin (Grisactin, Grifulvin V, Fulvicin PG).
If you take too much:
Death is not likely to occur from an overdose of birth control pills. Consult a doctor, an emergency room, or a poison control left for advice. Symptoms of an overdose include nausea, vomiting, and menstrual bleeding.
Missing a pill increases the risk of becoming pregnant. Follow the exact directions on your package information insert concerning missed doses. If you do not have a package information insert, call your pharmacist, doctor, or nurse to find out what to do. In general: If you miss one dose, take it as soon as you remember or take two pills at the time of your next regularly scheduled dose. There is little likelihood that ovulation will occur. You may, however, want to use a second method of birth control such as a condom or a spermicidal cream, jelly, or foam for at least seven consecutive days following the missed tablet to ensure protection from pregnancy. If you miss two tablets in a row, take the two missed tablets as soon as you remember or with your next regularly scheduled dose (three total). Or, you may take two tablets each for the next two regularly scheduled doses (one missed tablet plus one regularly scheduled tablet for 2 days in a row). Chances are much greater that you may ovulate so you must use another form of birth control for at least 7 days following the missed tablets. It is even better to use a second method of birth control until your next period. If you miss three tablets in a row, throw away the package and start a new package on the 7th day after the last day you took a pill. Use another method of birth control until you have taken a pill for 7 days in a row. Your period should occur during the 7 days without pills. If it doesn't, have a pregnancy test before beginning a new package of pills.
Store birth control pills at room temperature away from moisture and heat.