Birth control FAQs

Birth control FAQs

How effective are birth control pills?

Birth control pills can be highly effective in preventing an unwanted pregnancy. The combination pill has up to 5% failure rate and the progestin-only pill has a 9% failure rate (with typical use).

Progestin pills must be taken within the same 3-hour time period on a daily basis. Combination pills offer more flexibility and can be taken at the same time every day (but with a 12-hour window).

Certain medications such as some antibiotics, HIV medications, anti-seizure drugs and St. John’s wort can make either pill less effective.

If you experience diarrhoea or vomiting, or have had a stomach illness while on a contraceptive pill, it may not be as effective in preventing a pregnancy. It is wise to use a backup method of contraception.

What are the different types of birth control pills?

Combination pills contain synthetic (or man-made) forms of the hormones oestrogen and progestin. Most of the pills in a monthly cycle are active (contain hormones) and the remaining pills inactive (do not contain hormones).

Combination pills come in different varieties. These include monophasic pills (one-month cycle pills where each pill provides the same dose of hormone), multiphasic pills (one-month cycles which provide different levels of hormones) and extended-cycle pills (typically used in 13-week cycles).

Progestin-only pills contain progestin without oestrogen. Also known as the ‘mini-pill’, these can be used by women who aren’t able to take oestrogen (for health or other reasons). In this type, all pills in the cycle are active. You may or may not have a menstrual period when taking progestin-only pills.

How old do you have to be to get your tubes tied?

From a legal standpoint, it is generally acceptable for you to do what you wish with your reproductive system as an adult. In some countries, a girl of any age can consent to using contraception methods of her choice.

Legally, a woman can receive a tubal ligation procedure (‘getting her tubes tied’) at the age of consent (18 to 21 years and above, depending on the country in which you reside). This age can vary from country to country and can also be influenced by what you doctor feels is best. The procedure is regarded as a minimally invasive one, but does come with risk factors and complications (thus requiring consent).

A man who is 18 years of age and above, and considered mentally sound, can have a vasectomy. Doctors are not legally required to perform any procedure if they feel uncomfortable doing so or deem unsafe for any reason. All doctors have a professional and ethical obligation to do what they feel is in the best interests of their patients.

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