The Birth Control Pill (oral contraception, COC or “the pill”) is one of the most popular types of birth control. Other combined hormonal contraceptives include the Contraceptive Vaginal Ring and the Transdermal Contraceptive Patch. All of these methods contain both an estrogen and a progestin.
Most birth control pills contain 21 active pills for three weeks then one week of “sugar” pills when menses occurs. Products vary in their dose as well as length of cycle. Currently, most birth control pills are low dose and have few side effects. Women who take “The Pill” generally have lighter periods with less cramping. There is a lower incidence of cancer of the uterus in women who take the pill. If the pill is taken consistently on a daily basis, it prevents pregnancy 99% of the time. Unfortunately, if a woman forgets to take the pill, the chance of pregnancy goes up. The Pill must be prescribed by a Clinician. There may be some contraindications to the Pill that the Clinician will be able to evaluate, including migraine type headaches, undiagnosed vaginal bleeding and undiagnosed breast mass. The Pill does not protect against reproductive tract infections, including HIV/AIDS.
The Contraceptive Vaginal Ring is sometimes labelled Nuva Ring. It is easily inserted in the vagina and left for 21 days and then removed for seven days for menses to occur. A new ring is inserted on the same day of the week as it was first inserted after a one-week break. The Ring is not removed for sexual intercourse.
The Nuva Ring should be used within 4 months of being dispensed or by the expiration date on the pouch, whichever comes first. The Nuva Ring has similar properties to the Pill, although it may be more effective, achieving a first year failure rate of less than 1 %. Primary side effects include headache, leukorrhea and vaginitis.
The Transdermal Contraceptive Patch is a combination patch containing progestin and estrogen, similar to the Pill. The Ortho Evra Patch is supplied in cartons of one cycle (3 patches) and each week a new patch is applied to the abdomen, buttock, upper outer arm, or upper torso (excluding the breast), followed by a one-week patch-free period.The failure rate of the patch in clinical trials is 1%. Break-through bleeding and spotting occur at about the same rate as the Pill. 9-22% of women using Ortho Evra Patch in clinical trials complained of breast symptoms, headache, application site reaction, nausea.