We’ve all been there, I’m sure, in that moment when you realise that you’ve forgotten to take your pill the night before. You know, that pill. The anti-sprog one. So what the hell, you just pop two of those babies out and toss them back. But, that’s what you’re not supposed to do right? Double-up and forget that you’ve forgotten? Well, maybe not. Read further to find out more about the “Do’s and Don’ts” of contraception.
Don’t take your pills at different times of the day
The effectiveness of your contraceptive is only “ensured” when you take your pill at roughly the same time every day. In fact, if you’re on the progestin-only mini-pill, and you take it more than three hours late, there is a chance you could still fall pregnant.
Don’t panic if you accidentally miss a pill
So you’ve broken out in a cold sweat because you’ve realised you missed a pill. Inhale deeply and take the pill as soon as you realise you’ve forgotten to take it. Then continue on your regular schedule and take the next one at the same time you usually would. Be aware that your increased hormone levels may bring about a touch of nausea.
Do Skip the sugar pills if you want
Sugar pills are also known as placebo pills, and it is not necessary for you to take these. These pills do not cause the activation of menstruation, instead the cycle is induced by a lack of hormones. Depending on the brand, though, these sugar pills may contain vitamins and minerals like folic acid and iron. However, it’s still totally safe to skip these if you wish. The big thing about skipping placebo pills is about remembering to start the next full pack of pills. I’m speaking from experience here. The sheer panic when you try to think back to the last time you took your active pill is real.
Do Realise that you could still fall pregnant
Yes, contraception is supposed to prevent you from falling pregnant. But it’s not a fail-safe method of prevention. Contraceptive implants and intrauterine devices (IUD’s) are more than 99% effective, contraceptive injections are about 94% effective and the contraceptive patch and the vaginal ring are each about 91% effective. Both the combination pill and progestin-only pill are about 91% effective, and here comes the scary news: condoms are only about 82% effective, and diaphragms are only about 78% effective.
So yes, they are effective. But they are not 100% foolproof.
Don’t Deal with menstruation if you don’t want to
You know how I mentioned that you don’t have to take the sugar pills if you don’t want to? You actually don’t have to go through menstruation if you don’t wish to, either. We get it, it’s messy and uncomfortable and you have to deal with oversized emotions. There are no actual medical benefits to you actually having your period. So instead of taking the placebo pills and having the cycle commence, you can just continue with the active pills of the next pack. Voila. No period.
Don’t Think of contraception as a “one size fits all”
Apart from the varying dosages of birth control bills, there are also different types of pills, like those that have a combination of oestrogen and progesterone, and a mini-pill that contains only progestin. And if we move away from oral contraceptives, there are also the patches, the injections and the IUD like Mirena’s. What works for one woman does not necessarily work for another, because we all differ in our requirements, how we think about contraception, and how we process the hormones. You might be lucky and find a contraception that works for you, right off the bat, or like me, you might have to try a few before you find the right one.
Do use it for more than just contraception
We’ve heard the girls claiming that they’re taking oral contraceptives due to acne or skin problems, and they’re correct. Apart from making sure that you don’t have to buy a whole bunch of nappies in about nine-months time, oral contraceptives can also help with a couple of other things. For women suffering from endometriosis or PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome), oral contraceptives can help to keep their menstrual cycles in check.
Don’t blame weight gain on contraceptives
I will fully acknowledge that I have done this. It seems like everytime I get back on the pill, there is a corresponding rise in the number on the scale. So here’s the thing, science can’t actually prove that it’s the contraceptives making women put on weight. What medical studies have acknowledged, however, is that women on the pill retain a significant amount of water. And since one liter of water equals one kilogram of weight, I guess we know why that scale may not be looking too friendly.
Handy hint: If you struggle to remember taking your pill at the same time every day, try setting an alarm, or start a new habit where you take your pill with breakfast or dinner, or when you do something as part of a routine, like brushing your teeth. If this still doesn’t help, you could always consider a longer term contraceptive like the injection or patch, but check with your gynae first.