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Different types of birth control pills can have different side effects. In general, the lower the amount of estrogen, the fewer side effects you can expect.

Hormonal Methods

Birth control pills are considered to be a safe and effective method of birth control. If you decide to begin using birth control pills, make sure you know what to expect in the first few months. Along with this program, your health care provider can answer many questions that you may have. Finally, make sure you read the package insert that comes with each package of pills. This insert provides complete information about the product’s benefits and risks.

If the pills are used consistently and correctly, just 1 in 1,000 women will become pregnant. But among typical women who use combined birth control pills, about 3 in 100 will experience an accidental pregnancy in the first year. The two most common mistakes that lead to this higher risk of accidental pregnancy are missing pills, and starting a new pack late. Check out the chart above to see how this method compares against other methods.

You need a prescription for birth control pills, which you can get from your doctor, nurse practitioner, nurse midwife, health department or family planning clinic. You can get the pills from your pharmacy or family planning clinic. A prescription usually lasts for 1 year’s supply of pills.

Before you can begin using birth control pills, your health care provider will make sure that this method is safe for you. You will receive a physical exam and your blood pressure will be checked. After you have been using the pills for three months, you may be asked to come back for a follow-up exam. You may also receive a blood pressure test to make sure that your blood pressure has not increased. After that, you usually need one exam per year.

All combined oral contraceptives require 21 days in a row of active ingredients. The next 7 days are rest days, with no active ingredients.
If you have 28 pills in your pack, then the first 21 pills in your pack contain active ingredients. The last 7 pills in your pack do not contain active ingredients, and are provided as "reminder" pills. With this schedule, you take one pill a day for 28 days. At the end of the pack, begin a new pack the very next day.
If you have 21 pills in your pack, then all 21 pills in your pack contain active ingredients. With this schedule, you take one pill a day for 21 days. Then, you take no pill for 7 days. At the end of 7 days you start a new pack. Make sure you keep track of these 7 days, so that you do not go longer than 7 days without starting a new pack.

Different pill colors mean that the pills contain different ingredients. Always take pills in the order they appear in the pack. For example, if you have 28 days worth of pills, then the first 21 pills contain active ingredients, and the last 7 pills contain inactive ingredients. These different types may be different colors.

A low-dose oral contraceptive provides the least amount of estrogen that your body needs to prevent pregnancy. With fewer hormones, you experience fewer side effects. But the low estrogen also means that the accidental rate of pregnancy may be slightly higher. Ask your health care provider for more information.

Your health care provider will recommend how you should start your first pack. In general, there are three options. One option is called "Sunday Start". You start these pills the first Sunday after the first day of your period. If your period begins on a Sunday, then start the pills on that day. A second option is called "Day 1 Start". You start these pills on the first day of your period. A third option, which is not as common, is to start the pills at any time during your cycle, as long as you are sure that you are not pregnant.

If you start within five days of the beginning of your menstrual cycle, you are protected against pregnancy during that month. However, many health care providers suggest that you use a back-up method during the first month. This helps you get used to taking a pill every day.

It is VERY important to take your pill at the same time every day. This ensures that the level of hormones in your body remains steady. If the level of hormones falls, then you may spot or bleed between periods. Your risk of pregnancy may also increase. Taking the pill at the same time also helps you remember to take your pill every day.
Take your pills in the order they are placed in the package. Do not skip pills, even if you feel nauseous, or you are not having sex very often. Skipping pills increases your chance of becoming pregnant.

Barrier Method

Condoms and spermicide are considered to be a safe and effective method of birth control. This method is also considered to be an excellent method to prevent transmission of sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS. This method is more effective when used correctly and used with every act of intercourse. The method is more effective with practice. Along with this program, your health care provider can answer many questions that you may have.

Among typical couples who use latex condoms for men, about 12 in 100 will experience an accidental pregnancy in the first year. But if the latex condoms are used consistently and correctly, about 3 in 100 will become pregnant. If you are very careful, only 1 to 2 in 100 will become pregnant. Condoms made from animal membranes offer less protection than condoms made from latex.

Practice Putting It On Correctly
You may find it helpful to practice by putting a condom on two fingers. Tear the package at the edge to avoid damaging the condom. If the man is not circumcised, roll back the foreskin. Place the open end of the unrolled condom over the erect penis. The rolled rim should be facing away from the penis. Leave 1/2 inch to 1 inch at the tip of the condom to provide a place for the semen. If there is not enough room at the tip, the semen could break the condom. Unroll the condom along the length of the penis, toward the body. If it does not unroll easily, it may be backwards. Throw it away and try another. Do not unroll it before putting it on the penis. Be very careful when putting the condom on the penis. Avoid tearing the condom or putting a hole in it with fingernails, a ring or anything sharp.

Surgical Method

Vasectomy is a very effective method of birth control. It requires a surgical procedure that is considered to be very safe. Vasectomy does not affect the man’s ability to have sex or feelings during sex. This method of birth control is permanent. You should choose this method only if you are sure that you do not want more children. Complete information about this surgical procedure is available through your doctor or other health care provider. Make sure you speak with your doctor or other health care provider to answer any questions you may have about this method.

Sperm is created in the testicles. The sperm travels through this tube, called the vas deferens. The sperm mix with other fluids and are carried to the penis and outside the body where they can reach the egg and lead to a pregnancy. Vasectomy is an operation that blocks the tubes that carry the sperm. As a result, when the man ejaculates, no sperm is in the semen. This operation should be considered permanent. You must be certain you do not want more children and will not change your mind.

Vasectomy is very effective. In the first year of sterilization, less than 1 in 1,000 couples will experience accidental pregnancy if they take the proper precautions. A man must realize that he is still fertile for some time immediately after a vasectomy. The couple should continue to use another birth control method for the first three months or 20 ejaculations after the surgery, whichever comes first.