Sexy Time: What You Should Know About Your Birth Control Pill

[cchealthguru zone=’atf’]

Occasionally, despite my generally laissez-faire, non-judgmental attitude towards sex, there are a few things that perturb me. Rape, of course. Slut shaming. Abstinence-only sex education. And ignorance about contraception. One of the most disturbing manifestations of this that I’ve encountered are ladies who take the pill and have absolutely no idea what they’re putting into their bodies and how it works. Maybe it’s because the pill has become so normalized and routine, like popping Advil, so the complexity of it isn’t apparent, but I definitely feel that once you start playing with the hormones in your body, you need to know what’s up.

1. The pill tries to keep you free of pregnancy in four different ways.

It tries to stop an egg from leaving your ovary. Then, it makes your cervix produce more mucus so neither an egg or sperm can stick. The hormones also prevent the lining of your uterus (or potential womb) from getting thick enough for a fertilized egg to be viable. Finally, the pill manipulates the movement in your Fallopian tubes to prevent an egg from meeting a sperm in the first place. So, it’s a pretty complicated process, and every once in awhile, the pill fails to execute it properly, which is why most of us know, or know of, someone who has gotten pregnant while on the pill.

2. It loses effectiveness if you don’t take it at the same time every day.

One of the reasons the Pill is so popular is because it doesn’t affect your fertility in the long run, which means that if you’re not diligent about taking your pill daily, it does start losing its pregnancy protection magic. So pick a time that is most convenient for you, set an alarm on your cell, and pop it on the regular. If you do miss a pill, here are the guidelines for how to get back on track.

3. Your side effects aren’t going to be the same as your friend’s side effects.

Everyone’s body reacts differently to changes in the hormonal structure. Your skin may clear up while your friend’s looks like she just went back in time to 7th grade, or you may experience consistent spotting while someone else’s periods become non-existent. It’s perfectly normal to have to go through multiple pills to find one that best suits your body and your needs.

4. The pill does not protect against STDs. 

I would never deny that the pill has been a major game changer for women, especially in the way that we are able to have agency over our reproductive choices, and we don’t have to rely on men using condoms in order to stay baby-free. However, if you are getting it in with someone new, and you have no idea what their STD status is, please use a condom (correctly).

5. Your birth control shouldn’t make you miserable. 

Whether your appetite has been out of control and you’ve been gaining a bunch of weight, or your cramps are unbearable, or you’re spotting a lot in between periods, you don’t have to endure it. If your body hasn’t adjusted after 3 months, it’s time to look into a different option. Whether it’s another pill or an IUD or a Nuvaring, your contraception should not make your daily life uncomfortable at all.

[Image via Calek/Shutterstock]



    1. Kristy says:

      Really great post! So many girls have no idea!

    2. Ashley- GWU says:

      #5 Is spot-on. Birth control is there to help you not make you feel horrible!

    3. Katie Garrity - North Central College says:

      I love this post. Birth control pills are no joke, and women should be EXTREMELY informed before they begin taking them. I am all for safe sex, but I do think that education is an important part of that concept. Bravo!

    4. paulidin says:

      I think men should learn about BC, too, so they can understand what their partners are talking about. Especially if something unexpected happens or something goes awry or even if she just needs her prescription picked up. I, personally, am conceptually a fan of the nuvaring and the IUD because they don't need daily attention, but I'm always curious to learn more about how these hormone manipulators work.

      Also, there may soon (few years) be cheap men's birth control pills and it's good for us to know about the concepts before taking them, too. Obviously a lot is different for these reproductive systems, but hormone manipulation still seems the core concept.

      1. Joyce says:

        Yes! I think it must be mandatory for any men that starts to have sex to know exactly how pills work and the whole side effects problem.

        When I stopped using the ring last year due to breast lumps, my husband was insisting that the ring didn't cause them yet the lumps disappeared as soon as the ring was off. He kept insisting that the ring wasn't the problem because none of the other girls he dated b4 me had problems with hormonal BC (I had been the girl he had been living with the longest; silly man!).

    5. leit says:

      As an alternative: I've been on depo provera for about three years (the injection). It's great! Not for everyone, but you only need it every 3 months. As a convert, I highly reccommend looking into it – especially if your forgetful, busy or in a long term relationship. Like the pill, no std protection though. Also, haven't had to deal with my period for 3 years! A side effect is that fertility won't return until up to 8 months after you stop (as a 22 year old, I see this as a bonus tbh..), but it doesn't have long term effects on your fertility.

    6. Garnet – Columbia University says:

      A new one I learned this year: don't take any other pills at the same time as your birth control. That includes vitamins! Taking other bills with your birth control can cause funny side effects and decrease its effectiveness.

      1. Bre says:

        Actually this isn't true. You can take your birth control at the same time as other medications and it won't decrease the effectiveness of it. Antibiotics are one type of medication that you want to be careful with. Antibiotics can decrease the effectiveness of birth control, so if you are on antibiotics for a short period of time you want to make sure you use back up protection. As far as taking birth control at the same time as other medications, you should be alright.

      2. addy says:

        According to Planned Parenthood, only ONE type of antibiotic will make your pill less effective:

    7. clooless says:

      Can somebody please write about the effects on mood/depression/libido? Ever since I switched pills I've been on a landslide in terms of emotional health and libido. Went from happily banging my boyfriend of two years to not even having the desire to get myself off. Not to mention, the up-and-down moodswings, the constant crying for no reason, and even a couple of anxiety attacks from being so down and worried all the time.

      1. Bellerose. says:

        Try using a hormone free birth control option. You should discuss it with your doctor. You could also just be depressed. I would switch my method and see if anything changes.

        Maybe it's time for you to try an IUD.

    8. Alicia says:

      Still, IMHO, the safest and most affordable birth control out there is the male condom.

    9. […] course, women often blow off condoms when they go on the pill or another form of birth control, but preventing pregnancy isn’t the only aspect of safe sex […]

    10. edward says:

      intelligent women……I loooove 'em. They make men smarter…(well the ones that can open their mind and retain what they have been exposed to,it's not easy to recoginze BS but it can be achieved)
      here's a chuckle: remember when safe sex meant not falling off the fender? or remember when the air was clean and sex was dirty? Ya gotta find humor in those….on the serious side, birthcontrol and disease prevention requires both partners awareness! Multiple relations? find an inexpensive test and use it regulary.
      Oh did I mention intelligence is sexy,

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