More on the Pill
Back in the 1960's the Birth Control Pill revolutionised women's lives, sexual behaviour and society. Women now had the choice and could exercise greater control over when or if they wanted to have children. The BCP is a very popular choice of contraceptive for millions of women.
How does the BCP work?
The combined oral contraceptive pill ( which is what most women use ) contains hormones similar to estrogen and progesterone (which are naturally produced by your ovaries, for a quick refresher on how hormones run the menstrual cycle go here http://www.menstruation.com.au/periodpages/menstrualcycles.html )
When you take the Pill, these artificial hormones effectively trick your body into thinking it is already pregnant. At mid-cycle when you would normally ovulate, nothing happens. No egg is released from the ovaries and pregnancy cannot occur.
The glands that normally run your menstrual cycle are temporarily shut down when you take the Pill - they do not function in the same way as they would naturally. When a woman takes the Pill her normal natural menstrual cycle stops. She still has a period of sorts - the correct term is "hormone withdrawal bleeds" - because when the input of artificial hormones stops (that is, when you take the sugar pills) the uterine lining is shed. This lining is thinner than normal, resulting in lighter bleeding. Most BCP are a four week cycle, but other types can be 7, 10 or 13 week cycles.
The effectiveness of the Pill
The BCP has a practical success rate of between 95 - 99.5%. Most failures are due to incorrect usage. The following site has information on taking the Pill correctly which includes, taking the pill every day at roughly the same time.
The Pill for regulating cycles
I don't believe that the Pill actually helps to fix irregular cycles. It may appear to, by overriding your natural hormonal system and providing you with regular bleeds, but when you stop taking the Pill your periods are still irregular if not worse. The Pill actually does nothing to support your natural hormonal system. You are far better off looking for natural alternatives like herbs, homeopathics etc.
Does it affect long term Fertility
This is a difficult question to answer as there are so many variables. How long you take it for, what type you take, your medical history, age etc. When you come off the Pill, it does take some time to resume a natural menstrual cycle. Your body has to start doing the menstrual cycle again, and it can take time (up to 6 months) to get the hang of it again. For some women it happens quickly with no hassles, and other experience difficulty.
I think if you have a really healthy regular cycle to start with and you are healthy then the Pill may not affect you too badly. If you have a history of irregularity then it may contribute to further problems down the track when you decide you do want a baby.
Is the Pill for you?
If you are healthy, in a monogamous relationship where STD's are not an issue then the Pill may be the best choice for you or your lifestyle. But then again, a diaphragm may work just as well.
If you don't have a regular partner, not being on the Pill ensures that you think about contraception and therefore are thinking about condoms and STD's. STD's are a reality and sometimes being on the Pill makes it easy to take risks. You should always, always use condoms with new partners regardless of whether you are on the Pill or not.
I think good health rules for using the Pill are
- Take is responsibly - don't miss bleeds too often or use it extensively without bleeding.
- Use it for as long as you need to, take breaks when you don' t have a sexual partner (e.g. for months and years)
- Don't use it solely to regulate your cycle.
This is only a brief introduction to the Birth Control Pill - See links for more information. Ultimately it is up to the you - make an informed choice.
More links and information on The Pill
The Pill and other forms of hormonal contraception (The Facts) By John Guillebaud.
The Pill - Are you Sure its for you? By Jane Bennett and Alexandra Pope