The Pill

The Pill is a form of birth control used by millions of women all over the world. It is very safe for most women to use and, when used correctly, the risk of pregnancy is about 1%. However, most women do not use the pill perfectly which means that about 9% chance of women have a chance of getting pregnant.

The pill has hormones which prevent your body from ovulating. You must take one pill every day at the same time. There is usually one week of pills included which do not have hormones. This will be the week you have your period. The pill also thickens the mucus on your cervix which helps prevent sperm from reaching your eggs. If you do not take your pill on time or you miss your pill for any reason, use a back up contraceptive like condoms until you start your period.

For your birth control pills to work well, you will need to take them every day at the same time. It is best to set a reminder for yourself on your phone or place the pills near your sink where you will see them every morning or evening. It is important not to skip or delay taking your pill when it is time. If you miss a pill or are more than a couple of hours late taking it, use a back-up contraceptive like a condom until your next period. Otherwise, you may not be fully protected and may become pregnant.

Straight to the Facts: The Pill

  • 1% failure rate when used correctly

    • 9% failure rate for typical use

  • Works by preventing ovulation and making it hard for sperm to reach your eggs


  • Some antibiotics can interfere with the effectiveness

  • Most women have few side effects

  • Can help with heavy or painful periods and PMS

  • Smoking while on the pill increases the risk of stroke

While taking the pill, certain medicines and supplements may make the pill less effective. These include:

  •  Rifampin - antibiotic (other antibiotics do not make the pill less effective)

  •  Griseofulvin - antifungal (other antifungals do not make the pill less effective)

  •  Certain HIV medications

  •  Certain anti-seizure medications

  •  St. John's Wort

Vomiting and diarrhea may also keep the pill from working. Ask your health care provider for advice and use a backup method of birth control until your doctor says otherwise.


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The Pill will not protect you from STIs. To prevent STIs, use a barrier method like a condom every time you have sex.

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Are there any side effects of the Pill?


Like any medication, the Pill can have some side effects although most women find that the side effects go away after a while. You might have spotting between your periods, sore breasts, nausea, vomiting and headaches. Your birth control should not make you sick every month. If you've been taking the Pill as directed for a few months and your symptoms do not go away, talk to your healthcare provider. There are lots of birth control options and you should pick the one that is best for you!


For some women, there may be a small increased risk of ischemic stroke while using hormonal contraceptives. If you smoke cigarettes or are over 35, this risk is higher. You should talk to your healthcare provider about your risk of stroke.

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