Combined Oral Contraceptives
When it comes to contraceptives and family planning, a lot of women are looking for more information than their health-care providers give them. In this serialised article, we will look at each of the available family planning methods in-depth; touching on the pros, the cons and exploring how each method works. This information is courtesy of the Centre for Reproductive Health at the College of Medicine.
What Are Combined Oral Contraceptives?
- Pills that contain low doses of 2 hormonesÃ¢â‚¬â€a progestin and an estrogenÃ¢â‚¬â€like the natural hormones progesterone and estrogen in a womanÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s body.
- Combined oral contraceptives (COCs) are also called Ã¢â‚¬Å“the Pill,Ã¢â‚¬Â low-dose combined pills, OCPs, and OCs.
- Work primarily by preventing the release of eggs from the ovaries (ovulation).
How Effective are they?
Effectiveness depends on the user: Risk of pregnancy is greatest when a woman starts a new pill pack 3 or more days late, or misses 3 or more pills near the beginning or end of a pill pack.Ã‚Â When no pill-taking mistakes are made, there will be less than 1 pregnancy per 100 women using COCs over the first year (3 per 1 000 women).
Return of fertility after COCs are stopped: No delay
Protection against sexually transmitted infections (STIs): None
Some users report the following: Changes in bleeding patterns including; lighter bleeding and fewer days of bleeding , irregular bleeding, infrequent bleeding, no monthly bleeding. Other effects are; headaches, dizziness, nausea, breast tenderness, weight change, mood changes, acne (can improve or worsen, but usually improves).
Other possible physical changes are: Blood pressure increases a few points. When increase is due to COCs, blood pressure declines quickly after use of COCs stops.
Known Health BenefitsÃ‚Â Ã‚Â Ã‚Â Ã‚Â Ã‚Â Ã‚Â Ã‚Â Ã‚Â
Help protect against: Risks of pregnancy, cancer of the lining of the uterus (endometrial cancer), cancer of the ovary, symptomatic pelvic inflammatory disease. May help protect against: Ovarian cysts, iron-deficiency anaemia.
Reduce: Menstrual cramps, menstrual bleeding problems , ovulation pain, excess hair on face or body, symptoms of polycystic ovarian syndrome (irregular bleeding, acne, excess hair on face or body), symptoms of endometriosis (pelvic pain, irregular bleeding).
Known Health RisksÃ‚Â Ã‚Â Ã‚Â
Very rare health risks are; blood clot in deep veins of legs or lungs (deep vein thrombosis or pulmonary embolism). Extremely rare health risks are stroke.
Facts About Combined Oral Contraceptives and Cancer
Ovarian and endometrial cancer
Use of COCs helps protect users from 2 kinds of cancerÃ¢â‚¬â€cancer of the ovaries and cancer of the lining of the uterus (endometrial cancer).
This protection continues for 15 or more years after stopping use. Ã‚Â Ã‚Â Ã‚Â Ã‚Â Ã‚Â
Combined oral contraceptives: Do not build up in a womanÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s body. They do not collect in the stomach. Instead, the pill dissolves each day. Women do not need a Ã¢â‚¬Å“restÃ¢â‚¬Â from taking COCs. They must be taken every day, whether or not a woman has sex that day. They do not make women infertile; do not cause birth defects or multiple births. COCs do not change womenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s sexual behaviour. They do not disrupt an existing pregnancy.