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How Birth Control Pills Work

It is quite common today for sexually active men and women to use birth control methods or contraceptives for protection and pregnancy prevention purposes.

Indeed, contraceptives really paved the way to a more responsible and convenient way of family and pregnancy planning. This article concentrates on the oral contraceptive method, commonly called "The Pill"

The pill is something that usually ends up being taken for granted.

While most would simply choose to ignore the science behind it rather than understand how it works, every woman who takes a birth control pill should understand that there could be consequences to using the drug. These consequences often lie deep in the heart of how the medication functions, in how your typical birth control medication actually achieves its stated goal of preventing pregnancy. Having an idea of how the typical birth control pill works can go a long way to helping a person understand the risks involved in the use of such drugs.

The story behind how birth control medication works starts in the 1930s, when it was discovered that injecting progesterone was effective in preventing the onset of pregnancy. Progesterone, a hormone naturally produced by the body, is generally more prevalent in females than in males. Synthesizing the hormone was conducted, with the synthetic version of the chemical proving to be just as effective as the real thing. Research was later conducted into finding out whether or not the body can be induced to produce more of the hormone via introducing external chemicals. Estrogen was later found to have similar effects to progesterone, leading to tests that mirrored the ones conducted for progesterone. Both hormones, and their effect on ovulation, formed the basis of the modern contraceptive pill.

The pills work by deceiving the body, forcing it to believe (thanks to hormonal signals induced by the pills) that the woman is already pregnant. Since the ovaries do not release egg cells if the female is already pregnant, this has the effect of preventing conception. Progesterone and estrogen levels are known to be at their highest during pregnancy, so an increase in one or the other would usually be enough to fool the body's physiology into thinking it is pregnant. Other hormones may be substituted by some other medications, oestrogen is a prominent example, but the two aforementioned hormones are the most commonly cited ones.

Another effect produced by certain birth control pills is inhibiting Follicle-Stimulating Hormone (FSH) and Luteotrophic Hormone (LH). These two hormones are known to cause the ovaries to release the egg cell into the body and have a role in the ovulation cycle. By preventing the body from producing them, an effect similar to high levels of progesterone or estrogen is achieved. The effectiveness of the two tactics is essentially equivalent to one another, though there are some drawbacks to such tactics.

For one thing, these two hormones need to be heavily introduced into the body. The human body is built with the ability to compensate for a number of problems, one of which is delayed ovulation. There is a very good chance that delaying the cycle by taking a pill can prevent pregnancy, but only if it is maintained. The moment a woman takes herself off the drug, the hormonal effects begin to wear off and the body generally attempts to pick up where it left off.

Some side effects of the pill include:

mood changes
blood clots
bleeding between periods
breast tenderness
weight gain

Some other common side effects of taking the pill are vaginitis and vaginal discharge, headaches, depression, change in intensity of sexual desire and response, urinary tract infection, breast changes, skin problems, gum inflammation, aggravated asthma, and can increase your incidence of contracting viral illnesses.

Some of these side effects improve over the first 3 months on the Pill.

People who use birth control can generally be categorized into two different types.

There are the ones that are using because they don't want a child at the moment for a variety of reasons, and the ones that don't want children at all. Permanent birth control options are available for the latter group of people, but the former group has a significantly wider range of methods to choose from. Among these methods would be the ever-popular use of the birth control pill, though this poses a mild problem should the women ever want to actually have children.

In essence, the pill works by altering hormone levels in the woman's body to make it believe that the woman is already pregnant. This has the effect of interrupting the typical menstrual cycle and preventing the ovaries from releasing the egg cell, which in turn prevents conception. There are a few side effects that can be linked to these hormonal alterations, but in general, the consensus is that they work fine. However, what exactly happens to the body once a woman stops using birth control pills? Most women are aware of what the pill does and have some vague notion of how it works, but generally lack any concrete idea of what happens when they stop taking it.

Even if a woman wants to have children and has quit from the pill, there are still a few things that need to be checked and kept in mind. First and foremost, using pills really changes a woman's hormonal make-up. These hormonal changes delay the completion of the woman's ovulation cycle. Each pill taken increases the duration of the delay, naturally. The body is basically forced to adjust by the effect of synthetic hormones that the pills trigger, putting off the risk of pregnancy by fooling the body into believing it already is pregnant. If a woman stops taking the pill, the body will need time to readjust to the situation and, basically, pick the ovulation cycle up where it left off. After pregnancy, hormone levels drop off and the body returns to normal, with the same principle applying when a woman stops using birth control.

Usually, it takes three months for the body to get back to its natural rhythm and fully recover from the pill.

However, there are some cases where this does not happen and the body remains, for lack of a better word, sterile. Some companies have developed hormonal treatments to correct this, which are meant to kick start the process of ovulation that contraceptive pills have stalled. In this case, it really boils down to little more than hormone levels and knowing which hormones to tweak (and how much) to achieve the desired effect in the body. It should be noted, though, that these hormone medications do not always work.

In cases where it has taken more than three months for the body to get back to normal hormone production, it may be prudent to consult a medical professional. While considered unlikely, it is possible that long-term use of birth control pills can disrupt the natural hormone-production process for women, even after the drug is no longer used. As stated, there are hormonal pharmaceuticals that can help the body start correcting this problem, but these should only be taken if advised by a doctor.

Other forms of birth control include:

Male condom - Regarded as the most typical type of barrier contraception method, is basically made from latex rubber material that is inserted into an erect penis before the intercourse.

Female condom - A six to seven-inch long polyurethane pouch that has two flexible rings. It covers the vaginal canal and the cervix. The condom is inserted in the vagina before the intercourse.

Cervical cap - A small cup that is made from plastic or latex rubber. This is filled with a spermicidal jelly or cream that is then inserted and placed over the vagina's cervix.

Lunelle and Depo-Provera - An injection performed by medical specialists, which prevents pregnancy for only a couple of months. Lunelle, on the other hand, is also an injection treatment that prevents conception for only a month.

Birth control patch - The patch is placed on the buttocks, upper arm, and hip of a person to release the hormones that are sticked on the patch's edges. About four weeks of using the product, menstruation resumes.

Withdrawal - The man is expected to remove his erect penis from the vagina before he ejaculates. The withdrawal method is probably the least efficient type of birth control method.

Male Sterilization - The sterilization procedure for the male is called vasectomy, wherein it involves the surgical closing of tubes carrying the sperm.

Female Sterilization - Involves the surgical closing of the fallopian tubes.

Natural Family Planning - Natural family planning is a method used to help a couple determine when sexual intercourse can and cannot result in pregnancy. During the menstrual cycle, a number of changes occur in a woman's body. By keeping track of these changes, couples can plan when to have intercourse and when to avoid intercourse, depending on whether they are trying to achieve or avoid pregnancy. When used to avoid pregnancy, NFP limits sexual intercourse to naturally infertile periods; portions of the menstrual cycle, during pregnancy, and after menopause. There are three main types of NFP: the symptoms-based methods, the calendar-based methods, and the breastfeeding or lactational amenorrhea method. Symptoms-based methods rely on biological signs of fertility, while calendar-based methods estimate the likelihood of fertility based on the length of past menstrual cycles.

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