Very broadly, birth control is anything that aids in preventing pregnancy, ranging from condoms to sponges to contraceptive gels. One very popular form of birth control is the hormonal contraception referred to as “the pill”, which women take orally. When taken correctly, the pill is 99.9% effective in preventing pregnancy.
The standard birth control pill typically contains a combination of synthetic estrogen and progestin hormones. These products work together to inhibit the actions of the body’s natural cyclical hormones by stopping the body from ovulating, changing the cervical mucus to make it more difficult for a sperm to reach the egg, and by making the lining of the womb inhospitable for the implantation of a fertilized egg.
The mini pill works slightly differently. First, it contains just one hormone, progestin. The lack of estrogen makes the mini pill ideal for breastfeeding mothers and those who react poorly to estrogen therapy. The main function of the mini pill is to thicken the cervical mucus so that sperm cannot reach the egg. It also changes the uterine lining to make implantation unlikely to occur. In some women, the mini pill will actually prevent the release of an egg altogether.
The downside is that it is less reliable than other types of birth control pills. When used correctly, it is only 95% effective. Further, while the health risks are less than the actual pill, women who have certain conditions should consult a doctor or stay away from it entirely. Those with undiagnosed vaginal bleeding, severe artery disease, liver tumors, porphyria, those with a history of breast cancer and those who have had an ectopic pregnancy should definitely take caution.