Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Contraceptive Pills: The easy way to avoid surprises

Chioma and Steve are getting married in 1(one) months' time and they don't want to get pregnant until at least 3 months after their wedding but do not want to use condoms... Titi wants to stop taking emergency contraceptives frequently and is asking her pharmacist if she can get a more regular method that she can easily start and stop whenever she wishes..., James wants his wife to stop asking him to withdraw, he tells his doctor that he wants to get the full package without impregnating her again...

Dear reader, the contraceptive pill a.k.a 'the pill' is a low dose contraceptive pill that you take daily to prevent pregnancy. Contraceptive pills work by preventing your body from ovulating (ie. releasing an egg from the ovary), as a result, even the most active sperm in the world will not find any free eggs to interact with, so no pregnancy. 

Did U Know that?
-The pills are  tiny and easy to swallow- you pop one tiny, sugar coated tab at a convenient time for you (maybe early in the morning, or late at night)
-Highly effective-if you take one daily, they can give you over 99% guarantee of contraception, which is far better than the 0% guarantee you had while using 'withdrawal' or nothing
-The pill stops working within a few days after you stop using them, so you can still get pregnant quickly.
-Does not stop your menstrual flow and can even make your irregular cycle to become regular-every 28 days
-It can provide some relief for women with very painful menstrual period.

How to use pills:
It's actually not as difficult as you may have heard or imagined. It involves taking just one TINY tablet daily at around (not exactly) the same time
Inside most of the popular brands of pills in Nigeria, you will find 28 pills in a pack (eg. Levofem) while some brands have 21 pills. The first 21 tablets contain very low doses of two female hormones-an estrogen and progestogen that work together to prevent pregnancy, while the remaining 7 tablets usually contain iron (and always have a different color from the first 21 pills). The iron pills are not contraceptives but are there to help with blood building during your menses and to make it easy for you to count 7 days before you start your next pack. Your period will come during these 7 days and you should start another pack of pills the day after you take the last tablet in the pack as your body has 'rested' for 7 days, so no need to delay.

When Can You Start? There are two ways
1. You can either start on the first day of your period or any time during your menstrual period so it protects you immediately. 
2. You can start any other day you wish, but you should use a condom or do not have sex during the first 7 days after taking your pill.

'See, it's very simple-a pill a day can keep unplanned pregnancy away'.

What should you do if you forget to take one pill or two or more pills in a row?
It's not unusual to forget or miss pills when you start using this method. If the day is not over you can still take your pill but if that day(s) has passed and:
  1. If you missed just one pill, you should take two pills at the usual time (or take the missed one when you remember and the other one at the usual time)
  2. But if you missed two or more pills (i.e. two or more days in a row), you should take two pills as soon as you remember and then continue taking one pill daily the next day. In addition, you must use a condom or abstain from sex or u may use an emergency contraceptive to also protect you within the next seven days. Finally when you finish your 21 tablets, you should throw away the 7 iron tablets and start a new pack immediately.
  3. if you miss one or more out of the 7 iron tablets, don't worry, you can throw them away and start a new pack at your normal time
Taking your pills every day is very important for you to get the desired result. Check out this link for easy ways to remember to take your pills: 

When can you stop?
You can stop taking pills anytime you wish. Once you stop you may get pregnant almost immediately. Contraceptive pills do not cause delay in getting pregnant when you stop using them so you should not be surprised if you find out you're pregnant soon after.

Are contraceptive pills Safe?
Yes it is safe for ALL healthy women. However, Ladies who should avoid this method are those who have: severe hypertension, diabetes, migraines, blood clots in their veins, or past or existing breast cancer, liver disease, heart disease, severe depression. The pill does not cause these diseases, but women who have such health conditions know they should not be taking many different types of medicines including 'the pill' and should choose either a method called the IUD (which has no hormones), or use a condom. You can read my articles on hypertension and migraines to learn more about two of these conditions. 

Are there side effects to look out for?
Yes, for some women, they may experience side effects which I'll mention below, but the good news is that these side effects tend to reduce, then disappear completely after 1-2 months as your body adjusts to the low dose pills. Side effects to expect include: spotting between periods, nausea, vomitingimpaired appetite, bigger breasts, tender breasts, mild headache, slight weight loss or gain. For women who experience nausea or vomiting, taking your pills after eating and before bedtime, helps you overcome this side effect, while taking simple analgesics like paracetamol can help with headache. 

Are they expensive?
NO they're not. These contraceptive pills can be bought for about N50 (depending on the brand- I recommend Levofem). Check a trusted pharmacy near you.

What type of woman will benefit from/enjoy using this method? 
Women who will benefit from/enjoy using this method are: 
1. Ladies who frequently take a lot of emergency contraceptives (eg. Postpill) and want to start using regular contraceptives other than condoms, or 
2. Newly weds who want to wait a few months before conceiving, or 
3. Women who have sex periodically (two weeks off, two weeks on)
4. Couples who have had one child and want to wait a year+ before making a new baby...

On the other hand, for women who want to wait for two years or more before having any or more children, I recommend you go for longer acting contraceptives like contraceptive injections  (eg. Sayana Press that lasts for 3 months) or Implants (lasts for 3-5years) or IUDs (lasts for 5-10 years). 

So what's stopping you? Go see your nearest health provider and get yours today. 
You can send an email to: pharmacistreny@gmail.com or via the contact form if you've got any private questions to ask.

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