What you may not know is how, exactly. In a nutshell, combination pills use the hormones progestin and estrogen to stop your ovaries from releasing an egg each month. Progestin-only pills , on the other hand, thicken your cervical mucus, making it harder for sperm to get into your uterus. Interesting, right?
If youre shaking your head yes, youre in luck! There are a ton of other seriously interesting facts you probably didn't know about the contraceptive-from unexpected benefits to the weird things that might make it less effective.
Here are six surprising nuggets of info that are definitely worth getting on your radar.
1. They can make your periods more comfortable
The hormones in oral contraceptives work to prevent pregnancy. (Duh.) But they have the added perk of moderating miserable period symptoms, says , MD, FACOG, the director of perinatal services at NYC Health + Hospitals/Lincoln.
In addition to easing heavy bleeding, the pill can help keep period cramps at bay, fight acne, and even work to stave off menstrual migraines. (#winning)
2. Some meds might make your pills less effective
Experts know that antibiotics like griseofulvin (an antifungal used to treat things like ringworm and athlete's foot) and rifampicin (an antibiotic used to treat various infections) can keep BC pills from working properly, and other types of antibiotics might do the same.
Why? Antibiotics can increase the activity of liver enzymes that metabolize certain pills, including birth control pills, explains , MD, FACOG, Associate Medical Director of Neway Fertility in Manhattan. The pills can get broken down faster than normal. As a result, it could cause a lapse in protection.
That said, if you have to take antibiotics while on the pill, play it safe by using condoms or another form of backup contraception.
3. They can lower your risk for some diseases
Oral contraceptives seem to play a role in helping to prevent some cancers. Women whove taken the pill are up to 50 percent less likely to get ovarian cancer; at least 30 percent less likely to get endometrial cancer; and up to 20 percent less likely to get colorectal cancer, according to the .
And thats not all. Taking the pill seems to lower the risk for rheumatoid arthritis by as much as 19 percent, a found. And because the pill reduces blood loss caused by heavy periods, it can help prevent iron deficiency anemia, too.
4. If you have insurance, they're probably free
The Affordable Care Act requires health insurance plans to cover the cost of contraceptives like birth control pills, so theres no co-pay. And if you dont have insurance? You might still be able to get free or low-cost pills from family planning clinics, according to the .
5. You dont have to take a break from them
Ever hear that thing about long-term pill use being bad for you? Some natural health influencers warn that taking oral contraceptives for years on end could wreak havoc on your fertility. Except its not true.
One doesnt need to take a break from oral contraceptive use unless one wants to, Dr. Gaither says. If and when you decide youre ready to try getting pregnant, talk with your doctor about when you should stop taking your pills.
6. You can take them strategically to skip your period altogether
Yup, you read that right. Most monthly pill packs contain 21 active pills with hormones and seven placebo ones. Users get their period during the week of placebo pills-but if you skip those pills and move right onto the next pack, youll skip your period .
this is totally safe, btw, and it can deliver a dose of relief for women with endometriosis or painful periods. The only downside is that you might be more prone to spotting in between periods, Dr. Gaither says.