How do birth control pills work?

birth control pills

Birth control pills are a hormonal method of contraception. The pills are nothing but synthetically made compounds of hormones. You need to orally take these pills every day to prevent pregnancy. You might wonder, isn’t taking such pills everyday harmful to the body? But these pills have only a very few milligrams of hormones in them and taking them daily will not upset the hormonal balance of your body.

There are different types of birth control pills. 

To know more about them read: I Pills and Birth Control Pills are the same?

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How do birth control pills prevent pregnancy?

When a sperm fuses with an egg, it is called fertilization. A fertilized egg will implant itself on the walls of the uterus and pregnancy will start to progress. 

Every month, an egg is released from the ovary. This is called ovulation. The released egg travels up to the fallopian tube and it is usually in the fallopian tube that the sperm fuses with the egg. The fertilized egg then moves from the fallopian tube to the uterus whose walls are very conducive for the implantation of the fertilized egg.

When sexual intercourse happens and a man ejaculates inside a woman, the sperm needs to move up the cervix to enter the uterus and further travel up to the fallopian tube to fertilize the egg, if it is present there. 

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Birth control pills prevent pregnancy by bringing about changes to an otherwise clockwork reproductive cycle. 

One way for the birth control pill to function is to prevent ovulation from happening. Thus no egg is released from the ovary. Without an egg, pregnancy cannot occur as the sperm has nothing to fuse with.

Another way the birth control pill works is by causing the cervix to secret thicker mucus than usual. Mucus is a gooey fluid that makes it easier for the sperm to swim up the cervix and enter the uterus. When the mucus is thicker, then it becomes increasingly difficult for the sperm to travel up the cervix. Thus the sperm does not reach the uterus. 

It is not just on the ovaries and cervix that the birth control pills exert their influence. Pills that contain only the Progestin hormone can bring changes in the uterus too. 

The innermost lining of the uterus wall is called Endometrium. The endometrium plays an important role in pregnancy. Every month endometrium gets thickened and is rich with a good supply of blood vessels. This is the uterus preparing for a pregnancy. However, when there is no pregnancy, as in sperm has not fertilized the egg, then the endometrium will shed from the uterus and is expelled out through the vagina through the monthly periods. 

However, if an egg is fertilized by the sperm, then the fertilized egg will implant into the endometrium.

Progestin-only birth control pills will cause the endometrium to be very thin. A fertilized egg cannot implant into a thin endometrium and get nourishment to grow further. Thus the pregnancy is prevented from progressing.

 The birth control pills pack

For birth control pills to give you complete control to prevent pregnancy you must take these pills every day. However, there are variations in the total number of days for different birth control pills. There are 21 days pack, 28 days pack, and even 91 days pack. It is the Combined Oral Contraceptive Pills, also commonly known as COCPs, which come as these packs. COCPs contain two hormones viz estrogen and progestin. Not all can take COCPs due to pre-existing medical conditions, age, breastfeeding a baby, etc. In such cases, there is the option of taking Progestin-Only Pills, also known as POPs. As the name indicates POP contains only the Progestin hormone. And POPs come in 28 days pack alone. 

To know more about using these birth control pills read: Do I have to take birth control pills every day

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