Birth Control Pills: Facts to Know

Birth Control Pills: Facts to Know

Birth Control Pills: Facts to Know

Birth control pills are extremely effective at preventing pregnancy. If used correctly and consistently (that is, no pills are missed and instructions are followed exactly), only one in 1,000 women is likely to get pregnant in the first year of use. With typical use, however, approximately 60 to 80 women in 1,000 are likely to get pregnant in the first year of use.

How Birth Control Pills Work

The pill works mainly by preventing ovulation (about 90 to 95 percent of the time). It also works by thickening the mucus surrounding the cervix, which helps block sperm, reduces risk of PID, and thin the lining of the uterus so that if an egg was fertilized it would have trouble implanting.

The pill is the most common form of reversible birth control used by women of childbearing age (ages 15 to 44). According to the National Center for Health Statistics, 10.4 million American women used the pill for pregnancy prevention in 1995. Over 18 million women in the U.S. are currently using BCP's according to a the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health.

The Risks Of Birth Control

According to the National Cancer Institute, the most serious side effect of the pill continues to be an increased risk of cardiovascular disease in certain groups. Cardiovascular disease risks associated with pill use are highly dependent on your age. A recent analysis for the World Health Organization determined these facts:

  • Among 1 million pill users under age 35, 20 percent of whom are smokers, fewer than 20 deaths per year could be attributed to pill use (less than 20 out of 1 million).
  • Among 1 million pill users over age 35, 20 percent of whom are smokers, 24 to 96 deaths per year could be attributed to OC use (less than 100 out of 1 million).

The Many Benefits Of Birth Control

Many women are unaware of the pill's protective effects. Birth control pills can improve menstrual problems like heavy bleeding, dysmenorrhea (pelvic cramps and pain), premenstrual syndrome and irregular cycles. They can prevent loss of bone density and reduce the risk of ovarian cysts. Pill use can also protect women from uterine and ovarian cancer.

In 2002, results from the Women's Contraceptive and Reproductive Experience (Women's CARE) study indicated that present or past use among both Caucasian and African-American women ages 36 to 64 did not significantly increase the risk of breast cancer.

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