Contraception
 
The Pill
 
What is it?
•    The Pill is a hormonal contraceptive method.
•    The Pill is an oral contraceptive containing two synthetic female hormones (estrogen and progesterone). These hormones resemble those secreted by women.
•    The Pill is prescribed following a medical exam by a physician. In Québec, it may be prescribed by a nurse for a period of six months in accordance with a collective prescription for hormonal contraception.

 
How does it work?
•    By blocking the hormonal activity of the pituitary gland (part of the brain), it prevents the ovaries from releasing eggs. If no egg is available for fertilization, pregnancy is not possible.
•    The Pill thins the lining of the uterus to prevent a fertilized egg from attaching or developing.
•    The Pill also thickens the cervical mucous (sticky substance at the entrance to the uterus), making it harder for sperm to enter the uterus.

 
How is it used?
•    The Pill must always be taken according to the directions on the package and at the same time of day to keep the hormone level stable. The Pill’s reliability depends on its regularity of use.
•    Most Pills on the market are offered in 21- or 28-day formats. If you use a 21-day format, you must stop for 7 days between pill packages. With a 28-day format, there is no break between packages. The seven additional pills are “placebo pills” that contain no hormones and simply serve to remind you to start a new package.
•    When taking your first package of pills, you should use an additional birth control method (e.g. condom).

 
Forgot to take your pill?
•    If you forget to take one or several pills, contact your physician, pharmacist, Info-Santé, school nurse or the CLSC; they will be able to tell you what to do and advise you of the risks.
•    Given the wide selection of Pills (with different hormone levels) available on the market, it’s important to tell any health professional you deal with what kind of Pill you are on.

 
Advantages

•    Intercourse is possible at all times with no risk of pregnancy, which allows for spontaneity. However, the Pill must be taken regularly to be effective, and it does not protect against the transmission of STIs or HIV.
•    The Pill may alleviate premenstrual pain, reduce menstrual flow, regulate periods and reduce acne.
•    Recent studies have shown that current or past use of the Pill reduces the risk of benign breast tumours, ovarian cancer, endometrial cancer and ectopic pregnancy (pregnancy in the fallopian tubes).

 
Disadvantages
•    You may forget to take the Pill (a watch with an alarm device or an alarm on your mobile phone could easily eliminate this risk).
•    The Pill does not protect against STIs or HIV.
•    You must have the money to pay for the Pill each month.
•    The Pill can have certain side effects: hypertension, depression, migraine, nausea, breast sensitivity. However, the milder-dose pills now available lessen these side effects. If you exhibit symptoms, consult your doctor.
•    The Pill is contraindicated for women with cardiovascular or circulation problems, asthma, epilepsy or certain liver diseases, among other things.
•    The Pill may be less effective when taken in conjunction with certain medications (e.g. antibiotics). Consult your physician or pharmacist for further information.
•    Beware of cigarettes: cigarettes and the Pill don’t mix (health risk).

 
Cost and effectiveness
•    Cost: $15 to $20 per month (may be covered by insurance)
•    Effectiveness: 99.5 to 99.8% when properly used and taken regularly. Effectiveness may be affected by certain illnesses or ailments (e.g. gastroenteritis) or by taking medications, including certain anticonvulsants, antibiotics, antacids or tranquilizers, or by forgetting to take the Pill. Be sure to consult your physician.

 
Precautions
•    Read the directions carefully.
•    While taking your first package of Pills, be sure to use another birth control method at the same time (e.g. a condom).
•    Never take the Pill if you think you are pregnant.
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