The birth control pill has been around for a really long time — almost sixty years, to be exact. (And it’s come a long way — there’s even an app for accessing the Pill and other forms of birth control!)
“Women have been enjoying the benefits and advantages of the birth control pill since it’s FDA-approval on May 9, 1960,” says Dr. Dawn Stacey, LMHC, a birth control expert (and former Planned Parenthood employee) based in Florida. Since activist Margaret Sanger first became the driving force behind creating an oral contraceptive, the effects, benefits, and risks of taking the pill have been examined closely. “The Pill is actually one of the most researched and studied of all medications,” Dr. Stacey explains. We’ve learned that besides being an effective form of preventing pregnancy, the Pill can also help ease extra-hellish menstrual periods and provides other, unexpected health benefits, too. Here are nine things you really need to know about the birth control pill.
1.The Pill is actually very effective.
“There is actually only a 0.3 percent chance [of becoming pregnant], meaning that of every 100 women who use the pill for a year, less than 1 will become pregnant, when a woman uses the pill correctly,” says Dr. Stacey, adding that “‘perfect use’ usually applies to women in research studies and doesn’t really reflect everyday pill use. Which brings us to…
2. You absolutely positively must use the Pill correctly.
“If you get pregnant while using the pill, chances are you didn’t use it properly,” Dr. Stacey explains. “You either did not take the pill at the same exact time, every single day, or maybe you popped one pill later than usual or forgot to take one altogether.” Explore ways that will help you be consistent, such as setting a daily alert on your phone or taking the pill alongside an existing routine (like your morning multivitamin).
3. Your weight may affect how the Pill works.
No one wants to feel body-shamed by their birth control pill, but your weight can potentially reduce the Pill’s ability to protect you against pregnancy. “The Pill may be less effective the more you weigh,” says Dr. Stacey, explaining that “To be effective, the estrogen and progestin hormones in the Pill need to be able to circulate throughout your bloodstream.” In addition, “If you have a larger body mass, circulation becomes more difficult. Also, heavier women tend to have a higher metabolism, so the hormones from one pill may be metabolised before the next day’s pill is absorbed into your system.” Make sure to talk to your doctor about your weight and body mass index; if you’re considered overweight, a higher-dose pill may do the trick.