Birth control pill

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When taken daily, the pill is a contraceptive that efficiently prevents pregnancy. However, it is not without its inconveniences. Keep reading to learn all about it, from how it works to the different types that are available.

What is it?

The birth control pill is a hormonal contraceptive that is taken orally. It uses a blend of hormones to prevent you from ovulating, and therefore, from becoming pregnant.


The birth control pill contains the synthetic forms of the hormones estrogen and progesterone. The pill works in three ways. First, it prevents your ovaries from releasing an egg. Second, it thickens the cervical mucus (a viscous substance secreted by the cervix), which prevents sperm from entering the uterus. Third, it thins the uterine lining, so even if an egg is fertilized it cannot attach to the wall of the uterus to develop.


Your doctor can prescribe the pill. In Quebec, a specialized nurse 👩‍⚕️ can also prescribe it for up to six months.


How do I use birth control?

The pill needs to be taken at the same time every day (within a three-hour window), as per the instructions on the box. The pill is only effective if you take it regularly. To help you remember you can set an alarm on your phone and make sure you always have the pills with you by keeping them in your bag.


One pack contains 28 pills: 21 active pills (with hormones) and seven placebo pills (without hormones). You’ll have your period during the seven days you are taking the placebos. The placebos are included because by taking a pill every day you keep up the routine of taking your pill, and because once you’ve taken the last one, you will know it’s time to start a new pack.


You can also buy packs with a 21-day format (which doesn’t include placebos). With this pack, you simply stop taking them for seven days at the end of your pack, and then start a new one. Some companies also offer a 24-day format (with 24 pills with hormones, and four placebo pills). The pause between pills with hormones is therefore four days instead of seven.


Some people prefer to take continuous birth control, which means they start a new pack after they finish the active pills. Since there is no pause, you won’t have your period. Your period will resume when you stop taking birth control. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not dangerous for your body.


What if I forget to take it?

The consequences of forgetting vary depending on the kind of birth control pill, the time in your cycle when you forgot, and the gap between the time you took your last pill and when you had sex. It’s complicated, eh?


Briefly, if you forgot to take one or more pills, call Info-Santé (811). The nurse will help you figure things out by evaluating the situation and its risks with you, based on your answers. You can also consult your pharmacist or the nurse at your school or CLSC for support. But don’t wait: the faster you react, the better! Of course, if you feel comfortable doing so, talk about it with your parents or friends… or contact us!


👍 Advantages


  • Birth control can relieve menstrual pain, make your flow lighter, regulate your cycle, and reduce acne.
  • The cost is covered by the Québec Health Insurance Plan.


👎 Disadvantages


  • You might forget to take it, which increases your risk of undesired pregnancy.
  • It may be less effective if you take it with other drugs, or if you throw up or have diarrhea.
  • It does not protect you against sexually transmitted and blood-borne infections (STBBIs).


Some birth control pills can also have a strong effect on your mood because of the hormones they contain. Talk to your doctor and explain your situation so that you can find the best contraceptive method for your personal situation.


Can I stop using condoms if I’m on the pill?

The pill protects against unwanted pregnancy, but not against STBBIs. That’s why condoms are best if you have more than one sexual partner. If you and your partner have both taken STBBI tests and you’re exclusive, you can think about not using condoms anymore.


Condoms are 97% effective, while the pill is somewhere between 99.5% and 99.8% effective. In both cases, the failure rate is largely due to misuse, like broken condoms or forgetting to take the pill. Both you and your partner need to be aware of the risks and be able to respond if something goes wrong. 


Sources: FQPN; S.O.S Grossesse [French only]

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