Alternative Names birth control pills, the pill, BCP, birth control pill
Definition Oral contraceptives or birth control pills (BCP)are pills which are taken by mouth everyday to prevent pregnancy. They are the most widely used method of reversible birth control. Oral contraceptives work by preventing the ovaries from ovulating, or releasing eggs.
What is the information for this topic? Most BCP's use a combination of oestrogen and progesterone. The BCP is taken for 21 to 25 days, followed by the use of placebo pills until day 28. The brain no longer signals the ovaries to produce and release an egg. The most common reasons for failure are:
forgetting to take the pill at the same time every day
poor absorption of the pill, which can be caused by diarrhoea, vomiting, and the use of some antibiotics
using oral contraceptives which have expired dates
Other conditions such as smoking, uncontrolled high blood pressure or diabetes, and obesity may make the pill unsafe for a woman over 35. Prior to beginning the pill, a woman will have a physical examination. This examination includes a pelvic examination, a PAP smear screening, blood pressure measurement and blood tests to check blood glucose and cholesterol levels.
Oral contraceptives are effective in preventing pregnancy, but woman need to be aware that they do not prevent sexually transmitted diseases(STDs). Safer sex practices such as using condoms along with the pill can help prevent STDs.
Author: Eva Martin, MD Reviewer: HealthAnswers Australia Medical Review Panel Editor: Dr David Taylor, Chief Medical Officer HealthAnswers Australia Last Updated: 1/10/2001 Contributors Potential conflict of interest information for reviewers available on request
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