The contraceptive pill is one of the most prescribed tablets in Barbados and is taken with little thought.
Despite its popularity, and despite the fact that it has been around since the 1960s, many women worldwide still do not know much about it beyond what they learn in the few minutes they get with their doctor before he or she writes a prescription, and that they have to take it every day.
I have put together a listing of little known facts about the pill:
1. They are cheap, well in most cases, cheaper than pampers and doctors bill. In fact, they start from as little as $6 to $20 monthly. I suspect that they can be obtained free of charge or for a very nominal fee in our polyclinics or the Barbados Family Planning Association.
2. They have to be taken on a consistent basis. Taking the pill only when you remember, regardless of what the leaflet in the box says, can lead to an unplanned pregnancy. Consistent means same time every day. Doing this ensures the almost 100 per cent efficacy rate they are known for.
3. Most pills are written by your doctor, based on which brand they are familiar with or which samples they have in their sample cupboard. So the responsibility lays with you the user to let your doctor know when you are experiencing side effects with your prescribed pill. Chart any new feelings you have on your calendar and see if they are related to when you take the pill.
4. The pill you are on did not cause you to gain weight; something else is to blame, maybe the soft drinks or the extra cake, but not the pill. Well to be honest the older brands of pill could have been liable as they had in higher doses which could have caused weight gain.
5. Other medicines can stop the pill from working as well as it is supposed to, with point two becoming the result. Some antibiotics and herbal medicines are culprits. Green tea also affects the pill. Ask your pharmacist which combinations are problematic.
6. The pill is not only used to prevent pregnancy, but can be used to prevent period pains, by regulating your period. It can be used to prevent certain types of cancer. It can be used to clear up acne, prevent PMS (Pre-Menstrual Syndrome), abd can also be given to control perimenopausal symptoms, such as skipping periods, or hot flashes even though your periods haven’t ended yet. So if you are on the pill, please let your pharmacist know, so that point five can be addressed.
7. The pill can be used for as long as you, your partner and your doctor decide. The new class of pills can allow women to use the pill till menopause. This is only applicable once you do not smoke or drink though.
8. You can get pregnant immediately after stopping the pill. You no longer have to wait three to four months for your body to “catch” itself. The doses of estrogen and progesterone are a lot smaller than before.
9. Overweight women are poor candidates for the pill, as they can develop cardiac issues, even with the smaller doses used nowadays. If you drink regularly, seek some other form of birth control, if you smoke ditto. A lot of the horror stories about the pill came from studies, but careful analysis would suggest that the side effects seen were when the women in the study were drinkers or smokers (more than onepack a day).
10. When your brand of pill is unavailable, let your doctor know, as he or she can prescribe an alternative brand quite easily. Your doctor will try to match the levels of estrogen in your brand with the alternative brand.
11. If you unfortunately have a bout of gastro and have the typical diarrhea and vomiting associated, it is possible that your pill would have been expelled from your body. If after having taken your pill you are overcome with vomiting or the other thing, it would be wise to take another pill.
12. Just remembered in point 10, if you have to switch from one brand to another, use another form of birth control during the first five days of using the new brand, but then again with the new brands that may not be necessary. Still make sure is better than… I better not go there, my pastor reads these articles.