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Oral Contraceptive Pill

Oral Contraceptive Pill

by Alison Mitchell

What is the Pill?

The OCP, commonly known as ‘The Pill’ is a hormonal contraceptive that is taken orally. Apart from contraceptive reasons it is commonly prescribed by doctors for conditions such as period pain, heavy menstrual bleeding and as a prevention for certain conditions. The Pill can contain different amounts of the artificial hormones, and some Pills contain androgen-blocking agents. The hormones in the Pill make the body believe that it is pregnant and so the bleed which occurs during the pill free interval is not a menstrual bleed, rather it is related to a hormone withdrawal.

There are two types of Pill:

It ContainsIt Contains
A combination of ethynyloestradial (an oestrogen hormone) and drospirenone (a progestogen hormone). Levonorgestrel or norethisterine (only progestogen).
It works byIt works by
Inhibiting ovarian activity, thus inhibiting the egg release.Altering the cervical mucous consistency making it difficult for the sperm to reach the egg
Altering the cervical mucous consistency making it difficult for the sperm to reach the egg.Altering the womb’s lining to make it unsuitable for implantation
Altering the womb’s lining to make it unsuitable for implantation

When taken correctly (without missing tablets) the Pill is an effective contraceptive but it does not prevent against sexually transmitted diseases and it also has several contra-indications and side effects.

When you shouldn’t be prescribed the Pill.

The Pill may interact with other medicines and stop them from working properly. These include antibiotics and medicines for the treatment of epilepsy.

If you have been prescribed the Pill previously for a health complaint and it did not help you, or it made your condition worse, then you should not be on the Pill.

If you have a personal or family history of any of these conditions you should tell your doctor because you should not be on the Pill:
• Diabetes
• Blood clots
• Heart of kidney disease
• Epilepsy
• Known or suspected pregnancy
• Unusual vaginal bleeding
• Angina pectoris
• Very irregular menstrual cycles or late menarche
• Known or suspected cancer of the breast or reproductive organs
• Breast nodules or fibrocystic disease of the breast
• Multiple sclerosis
• High blood pressure
• High cholesterol and triglycerides
• Large, swollen, tender varicose veins
• Cigarette smoking
• Obesity
• Migraines or recurrent headaches
• Fibroids
• Diseases trigger by pregnancy
• Gall-bladder disease or gallstones
• Liver tumours
• Recurrent or active hepatitis
• Depression
• Women who are currently breast feeding
• Women over 35, especially if they smoke or suffer from poor circulation

Possible side effects from taking the Pill.

Although the Pill can be useful as a contraceptive device, it is associated with several health implications. Higher incidents of breast and cervical cancer have also been found in women using the Pill, and there has also been shown to be an increase in incidents of gallstones, blood sugar disturbances, and liver disease. There is also an increased risk of hardening of the arteries, high blood pressure, heart attacks, ectopic pregnancy and osteoporosis.

The most well known serious side effects of the Pill are thrombosis, stroke, and heart attack, however the risk for these is small except for users who also smoke.

More common side effects include:
• Weight gain
• Acne
• Skin discolouration
• Migraines
• Breakthrough bleeding
• Psychological and emotions disorders
• Reduced libido
• Vaginal discharges
• Nausea
• Varicose veins
• Eye disorders
• Lumpy or tender breasts
• Liver function disturbances
• Increased allergic reactions
• Eczema
• Mouth ulcers
• Hair loss
• Facial and body hair growth
• Lower immune system and disturbed intestinal micro flora resulting in an increased tendency to:

  • Fungal infections
  • Systemic or vaginal candida infections
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Venereal warts

How to Optimise Your Health While on the Pill

Taking the Pill causes deficiencies in a large number of nutrients and affects vitamin metabolism. Because of this several side effects can result and if it is necessary that you remain on the Pill you should supplement with vitamins accordingly.

Deficiencies can occur in: Vitamin B2, B3, B6, Folic Acid, B12, C, E, and the mineral Zinc. The need for iron is decreased because of the reduced bleed, calcium is retained more in the bones and serum copper levels increase. It is believed these may be responsible for some of the side effects associated with the Pill.

It takes 4-6 months for the residue of the pill to be removed from your system.

Contact your health care practitioner Alison Mitchell for more information or to discuss your options.

Health Dimensions ©2004