You’ve probably heard of the Oral Contraceptive Pill – usually just called ‘The Pill.’ Depending on the type you use, it’s a combination of the hormones estrogen and progesterone, or just progesterone.
You need to get a prescription for the Pill from your health care provider’s office or clinic. There you’ll decide which kind to use (there are two main types, and also different strengths, programs, and brands). A prescription for the Pill can be filled at any pharmacy.
How to use it
You’ll take one pill a day for either 21 or 28 days. The first 21 pills in both types of packs contain hormones. If you have a 21 pack, start a new pack after 7 days off. In the 28 pack, the last 7 pills don’t contain hormones. They are only there to help you to remember to take a pill every day. When the last day of your package is finished, you start a new pack. It’s important to take your pill around the same time every day to ensure that your hormones are kept steady. Pick a time that fits into your schedule so that it becomes an easy habit to keep.
How it works
The hormones in the Pill prevent pregnancy by doing three things: 1) making cervical mucus thicker to stop sperm from entering the uterus, 2) stopping the ovaries from producing eggs (ovulation), and 3) thinning the wall of the uterus so that a fertilized egg won’t be able to implant.
Over 97-99% effective when used correctly. It’s less effective if you don’t take the Pill at the same time every day or if you have vomiting or diarrhea. Talk to your health care provider if you’re on any other medication, because some of these can interfere with your birth control. Some of the ones that might affect your pills the most are:anticonvulsants (phenobarbital, carbamazepine, ethosuximide, phenytoin, primidone); antibiotics (ampicillin, penicillin, griseofulvin, chloramphenicol, metronidazole, neomycin, nitrofurantoin, tetracycline, rifampicin);antacids; sedatives, hypnotics, and tranquilizers (benzodiazepines, barbiturates, chloral hydrate, glutethimide, meprobamate); and certain other drugs (phenylbutazone, antihistamines, analgesics, antimigraine products). Your doctor, nurse, or pharmacist will be able to tell you for sure.
Besides preventing pregnancy, the Pill will keep your menstrual cycle regular and may reduce your menstrual flow, cramps, acne, and dark body hair. It may also help prevent osteoporosis (weakening of your bones). The Pill is also reversible – shortly after you stop taking it (or in rare cases up to a year) ovulation will occur and you should get your period in four to six weeks.
The Pill doesn’t protect against HIV or STIs. You could experience side effects in the first few months, such as bleeding between periods (spotting), tender breasts, headache, nausea, weight gain, or decreased sex drive. If any of these symptoms persist after the first three months or you’re concerned about something, speak to a healthcare professional. Due to serious cardiovascular side effects, people on the Pill are highly advised not to smoke. Those who have certain health disorders or a history of blood clots will not be prescribed the Pill.
Cost and coverage
The Pill is covered by most private health insurance plans, but you should know that if you use your parent’s drug plan, they may be able to see that information. The Pill is also covered by:
- EIA/social assistance
- FNIHB (First Nations status) – You can call 204-983-8886 to make sure no one else can see your prescriptions.
- Manitoba Pharmacare – If you have a Manitoba Health card and have no other coverage, there’s a good chance you can apply for Pharmacare to cover a good portion of your drug costs. Click here for more information.
If you don’t have any coverage, you may be able to get the Pill for free from your health care provider’s office or clinic, or you can call Women’s Health Clinic (204-947-1517) for information on their free/low-cost birth control program. Otherwise, the cost to just purchase the Pill is generally between $11 and $27/month in Winnipeg (depending on the brand, etc.).*
* This information is up-to-date as of 2019.