Do I have to take birth control pills every day?

birth control pills

Birth control pills are a reliable option of contraception. These are pills that contain hormones that work in specific ways to prevent pregnancy. There are different types of birth control pills but one thing common for all these pills is that they are to be taken daily. 

To know the various types of birth control pills read at: I Pills and Birth Control Pills are the same?

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Using birth control pills:

COCP (Combined Oral Contraceptive Pills) is a type of birth control pill which are manufactured in three categories of monthly packs viz 21 days, 24 days and 28 days cycles. What this means is that in a strip of birth control pills you will have either 21 pills or 24 pills or 28 pills. In addition to these packs, there are also extended cycle pills for 91 days cycle.

POP (Progestin Only Pills) is another leading type of birth control and is different from COCP in not having the Estrogen hormone. POP comes only in packs of 28 pills. That is, these pills are for a 28 days cycle.

Using 28 days pack of COCP

This pack will have a mix of active and inactive tablets. The active tablets are those with the combination hormones estrogen and progestin. The inactive tablets do not have any hormones in them and are also called placebo pills or reminder pills. 

Using the 28 days pack is simple: you need to take one pill every day for 28 days straight. You cannot miss the tablet on any day. It is advised to take the tablet at the same time every day. However, a few hours variations do not matter as long as you take the pills every day. The same-time advice is given in order to facilitate the habit of taking the pill and minimize the possibilities of forgetting to take the pill. 

For most 28 days packs, the first 21 tablets are the active pills and the last 7 tablets are the inactive ones. However, there are variations depending on the brand of the pills. Some brands have lesser inactive pills.

The inactive pills play no role in preventing pregnancy. They are in the pack to help you calculate the end of the cycle and start a new pack on the 29th day. Thus they more or less act as reminders to start a new pack. In terms of ingredients, these pills have supplements that do no harm to your body. 

You will start having your periods on the week you take the inactive pills. However, the periods are not due to the inactive pills but due to the stoppage of taking all the active pills. Even if you don’t take the inactive pills you will have your periods. As for protection against pregnancy during the periods, you are safe because all the hormonal pills/ active pills course that you have completed will continue to do their job and prevent the pregnancy.

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Using 21 days pack of COCP

21 days pack will have only active pills. There are no inactive pills in these packs. You need to take one pill every day for straight 21 days. Once you finish the 21 pills, then for the next 7 days you are pill-free. What this means is that for the duration of those 7 days you don’t have to take any pill. You have completed the 21 days pack. Once this 7 days period ends you need to start again with the new 21 days pack. 

You will be getting your periods during those 7 days where you don’t take any pills. Even though you are not taking any pills during this time, you will not get pregnant because the entire 21 days course of hormonal pills will continue to exert its influence on your reproductive system.

The tricky thing about 21 days pack is that, with no inactive pills, many people are not on the schedule to start their new 21 days pack soon after the no-pills 7 days time period ends. Thus it is always advised to use some reminder system such as an alarm or calendar as soon as your 21 days pack ends.

Using 91 days pack of COCP

These are extended-cycle pills. In one go you will get the pill pack that will last you for three months. 

You need to take one pill every day for the next 84 days (12 weeks). These pills are active pills. Once the active pills are done, you need to take the inactive pills for the next 7 days (1 week).

When using the 91 days pack, you will have your periods only during the week where you take the inactive pills. Thus, if you are to use the 91 days pack continuously for a year, you will have your periods once every three months, that is up to four times a year.

Even during the days of periods, you are protected from getting pregnant, as long as you have been regular with your active pills

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Using 28 days pack of POP

POP comes only in a 28 days pack. There are no other options available. 

Each 28 days pack has only active pills. There are no inactive pills whatsoever in POP packs.

You need to take a pill every day for the next 28 days. An important thing about POP is the timeliness of the pills. You must always take the pills within the same 3 hours duration every day. What this means is that if you take the pill at 10 am one day, then the next days you must take the pill before 1 pm. If you take the pills without taking into consideration this three-hours timeliness, there are high chances of the pills being ineffective and you can get pregnant. Setting phone alarms or reminders in period tracker/ birth control tracker apps can help you stay on schedule.

When on POP, some women do not have periods at all. However, there are women who do get periods during the last week of the 28 days course. For many women, the POP results only in spotting. Different bodies respond differently to POP when it comes to bleeding.

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