With it being one of the most popular ways for girls to protect themselves, it can be surprisingly hard to get your head around the contraceptive pill. Erin Lindsay looks at what you need to know to stay protected.
The pill is one of the most popular choices of contraception for girls these days, with most girls and guys having heard of it. Girls tend to know the basics, but with the amount of different types available on the market and the abundance of information thrown at us, it’s hard to know where to begin and which pill is right for you.
 
First off though, is the pill even right for you at all? Taking a tablet once a day is a fairly simple way to avoid pregnancy but for those who think they might forget about it each day, it may not be the best option. For the pill to work, it’s best to take it at the same time every day. The more erratic your dosage, the less it’ll work. Setting an alarm on your phone is a good solution or you can sign up for a text alert. Many girls take it first thing in the morning as they incorporate into their daily routine.
 
Around 8% of girls on the pill get pregnant unintentionally, but most of these cases are due to it not being taken properly. When taken correctly, only 1% of girls get pregnant whilst on the pill. If it isn’t for you, there are plenty of other options that don’t require a daily reminder like an IUD implant (the bar). Talk to your doctor or your college health centre about which option would work best.
 
If you do decide to go on the pill, the first step is to go to the doctor and figure out which one is best. With the amount of different brands available, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and girls tend to want to go with the pill their friends are on, or avoid the ones they’ve heard bad things about. How the pill affects your body varies from girl to girl and you won’t experience the exact same things your friends do. A pill brand that works for you might not suit them and vice versa. When you get to the doctor, they’ll weigh you, take your blood pressure and ask questions to determine what suits.
 
There are two types of pill – the combination pill, which contains both estrogen and progestin, and the progestin only pill, or ‘mini-pill’. The mini-pill is really only used for women over 35 or who have conditions preventing them from taking estrogen, and most girls will be on the combination pill like Ovranette, Microlite, Yasmin etc. There are different doses of each hormone in each and different pills will affect you differently. For example, Ovranette contains a higher progestin dosage than Microlite, and so if the Ovranette dosage is a bit too much for your system you can switch down.
 
Combination pills can help with acne, heavy or painful periods and even lower your risks of ovarian and uterine cancers so they do have their benefits, but of course they come with side effects too. The most common ones are nausea, weight gain, and spot bleeding between periods (this normally occurs with pills with higher estrogen doses). But most side effects don't last beyond a few months and are just a result of your body getting used to the pill, so doctors recommend giving at least two months before switching pills.
 
The price of the pill varies from brand to brand and also from pharmacy to pharmacy. If you have the time once you have started on a pill that suits you, try checking around different pharmacies to compare prices. There also tends to be cheaper rates when you buy your packs in bulk.
 
One hugely important thing to remember is that the pill will protect you against getting pregnant but won't protect against STDs. It's really important to wear condoms to protect against any infections and diseases and to protect yourself. Unwanted pregnancy isn't the only outcome of unprotected sex.

Photo: Surija / Flickr