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How's the Pill these days?

NoxyNoxy Registered User regular
edited August 2007 in Help / Advice Forum
Hey everyone, my girlfriend and I have been discussing the future of our sexlife and even though we were going to talk to a doctor or two about the subject I was wanting to get some information from the general masses on the subject. Hopefully some women or men with knowledge are around to give their two cents.

I know birth control methods have come a long way and I have not read anything on "The Pill" or its alternatives for a long time and I was wondering if anyone could help fill me in on the details. I am mostly concerned with the dangers involved with taking the pill, what are they and how bad is it? Is it really all that bad for that matter?

She was thinking about getting on the pill and I was personally willing to abstain if it meant risk to her health, she just does not trust only using a condom and I can't really blame her. However, she is not excited about abstaining and is pretty dead set on the issue and I just want to help her do what is best for her. Are there any resources anyone could point me towards or any personal experience any women have had on "The Pill" or its cousins that they could share?

Thanks. We're just trying to be as responsible and safe as possible without abstaining, so the "Don't have sex" answer is not needed.

Noxy on

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    mcdermottmcdermott Registered User regular
    edited August 2007
    Planned Parenthood might not be a bad place to start. A little googling will probably turn up quite a bit, too. On the linked page, the links to the right will bring up drop-downs with info on various forms. Not in-depth, but useful.

    One thing to note is that I'm pretty sure any health risks associated with the pill (or it's derivatives...the same basic drug is available in other forms such as the patch and ring) are generally less than the health risks associated with a pregnancy. Just to give you a starting point. I believe there are some specific risk factors that can alter this equation, but any doctor should go over those before prescribing.

    mcdermott on
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    JHunzJHunz Registered User regular
    edited August 2007
    Also, there are a lot of side effects which can be associated with birth control pills, but there are also lots of different kinds now. If the first kind she tries has any major adverse effect, go back to the doctor and get a prescription for a different one until you find one that doesn't cause any side effects worth noticing.

    JHunz on
    bunny.gif Gamertag: JHunz. R.I.P. Mygamercard.net bunny.gif
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    The CatThe Cat Registered User, ClubPA regular
    edited August 2007
    Yeah. Basically, pregnancy and childbirth carry a much higher risk of death and injury than any other reproductive outcome - however, that doesn't mean that the pill is totally risk-free, just that its wise to keep things in perspective.

    Firstly, the suggested link to breast cancer has been comprehensively debunked. Its non-existent. The research is recent and non-american (the major study was Danish, as I recall) so a lot of websites are not up to date on this. I'd actually advise against random googling for any repro health information, since anti-choice advocates are big on spreading misinformation about any contraception, even condoms (although they hate female-controlled methods the most). Stick to Planned Parenthood as your main resource, and I can also recommend The well-timed period as a decent blog authored by an OBGYN if you want additional info.

    The only real danger on the pill is if your gf is a smoker - combining smoking and hormonal contraception can raise the risk of blood clots, so if she does smoke something like the new IUDs might be better for her.

    Secondly, there's now a very wide variety of formulations and strengths available, so if she gets any of the more minor effects (weight gain, headaches, libido problems) its important to remember that she's likely just on the wrong formula for her body, not that all pills are therefore going to be bad for her. She may have to try a few types before finding one that suits her, although seeing a hormonal specialist rather than a GP beforehand may make that unnecessary - I saw a specialist, and he put me on a great one first go. However, there are statistically few women who can't take any pill at all - somewhere around 5% either have side-effects too severe, or decide that what side-effects they do get aren't worth it.

    Oh, and don't forget that antibiotics, alcohol, and GI tract upsets can screw with its effectiveness, so keep a backup method around for those occasions.

    The Cat on
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    mcdermottmcdermott Registered User regular
    edited August 2007
    The Cat wrote: »
    Oh, and don't forget that antibiotics, alcohol, and GI tract upsets can screw with its effectiveness, so keep a backup method around for those occasions.

    Seriously, this. If the doctor forgets to ask, and she forgets to mention, it's highly possible that she could end up on something else that more or less turns her birth control pills into really ineffective Tic-Tacs. I shudder to think how many people have gotten pregnant this way, but I suspect the number is large.

    Didn't know about alcohol or GI tract issues, but I did know about drug interactions. Any decent doctor should ask (and most when asking "any other medications" will specifically mention birth control), and any decent pharmacist should notice when filling (assuming you're going to him for both)...but it still happens.

    mcdermott on
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    NoxyNoxy Registered User regular
    edited August 2007
    Wow, that was quick. That was a lot of information and I just finished reading most of it. Overall I feel a lot better about the whole situation. I appreciate all of the help and that pretty much answered all of my questions. Thanks!

    Noxy on
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    The CatThe Cat Registered User, ClubPA regular
    edited August 2007
    mcdermott wrote: »
    The Cat wrote: »
    Oh, and don't forget that antibiotics, alcohol, and GI tract upsets can screw with its effectiveness, so keep a backup method around for those occasions.

    Seriously, this. If the doctor forgets to ask, and she forgets to mention, it's highly possible that she could end up on something else that more or less turns her birth control pills into really ineffective Tic-Tacs. I shudder to think how many people have gotten pregnant this way, but I suspect the number is large.

    Didn't know about alcohol or GI tract issues, but I did know about drug interactions. Any decent doctor should ask (and most when asking "any other medications" will specifically mention birth control), and any decent pharmacist should notice when filling (assuming you're going to him for both)...but it still happens.

    You have to be binge-drinking to mess with it (something about the digestive system and absorptive capacity), but the GI thing is basically because if you puke or get the runs, the pill may not be absorbed completely before being expelled. That's true of pretty much any oral medication.

    I can't emphasise enough the need to read the info sheet that comes with the pill packet. Any doctor who doesn't tell you about the stuff listed on it is negligent, but its still there in case they miss some or all of it or you forget what they said.

    Oh, and before I forget, the morning-after pill is nothing more than a high dose of the same stuff as is in normal BC. It is not, repeat not, an abortifacient. Don't confuse it with RU-486, they are completely different. Its also a good idea to get a prescription of it filled and kept in your house, because a large number of pharmacists won't hand it out, and some doctors will give the run-around to avoid prescribing it to people they don't approve of (young, unamrried, etc). You don't want to be running around town in a panic looking for someone who's actually willing to do their damn job, because it has to be taken within 72 hours of the suspect encounter, and the sooner the better.

    The Cat on
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    Cowboy-BebopCowboy-Bebop Registered User regular
    edited August 2007
    My best friend and girlfriend both were on the pill at some point. The girlfriend said that her breast size noticeably increased while on the pill, and went down during the week where she took placebos. Other than that, I can't recall any dramatic changes that she mentioned. My best friend had no such effects, but she was taking a different brand of the pill. I'm not sure if that's the cause of different side effects, though.

    Cowboy-Bebop on
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    korrianderkorriander Registered User regular
    edited August 2007
    Another possibility is a Depo-Provera shot. One injection covers three months, so its much easier than taking pills. Also, it is much more effective than taking pills, at least according to Planned Parenthood and Wiki. However, there are side effects, just like with the pill, and it may be better or worse, depending on the girl.

    korriander on
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    DiscGraceDiscGrace Registered User regular
    edited August 2007
    I'm a big fan of the vaginal ring (NuvaRing) method. It's a continuous release hormonal doo-dad that you put in for three weeks, take out for one week, etc. It's nice because you don't have to worry about the GI problems affecting absorption, not to mention the fact that there is no way I could remember to take a pill at the same time every day. I find that my periods are much shorter and lighter while I'm on the BC too, which is awesome. I also have a friend who had problems with the Pill but was able to use the NuvaRing with no ill effects, so that's nice too. As long as your lady is comfortable enough with her own body to stick a finger "up there" twice a month, it's a pretty good option.

    DiscGrace on
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    FloofyFloofy Registered User regular
    edited August 2007
    My expeiriences with the pill have been fairly mixed. The first few I tried caused a few problems- weight gain, and sudden mood swings/depression. However, having gone to the doctor and switched a few times I've finally settled with one that's fantastic. A few things for your girlfriend to know about:

    Get in a routine of WHEN you take it. Tape it to the mirror in the morning, something so you don't forget. A lot of pills are effective if you take them within 24 hours of your usual time every day, but others (the mini pill in particular) require taking within a 3-hour window.

    Remember to go for health checks every six months when you're on the pill- in particular to moniter blood pressure.

    Like Cat said, keeping a dose of Plan B around is a good idea just in case. I had to get it once (condom issues) and it was a pain in the arse. If your G/friend DOES end up having to take it, be prepared for having a day or so when she is knocked out pretty much. It left me feeling weak and nauseous, as well as extremely tired, but still...better than an unplanned kidlet.

    Floofy on
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    ddahcmaiddahcmai Registered User regular
    edited August 2007
    Hey, I'm not trying to threadjack here, but my question is along the same lines. To keep this as short as possible, my girlfriend is on the pill, and I'm wondering how necessary using a condom still is. What do all of you think/doctors recommend? Obviously its good to be as safe as possible, but what are the risks with not using one when she is in fact on birth control already?

    ddahcmai on
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    HeliosphanHeliosphan Registered User regular
    edited August 2007
    ddahcmai wrote: »
    Hey, I'm not trying to threadjack here, but my question is along the same lines. To keep this as short as possible, my girlfriend is on the pill, and I'm wondering how necessary using a condom still is. What do all of you think/doctors recommend? Obviously its good to be as safe as possible, but what are the risks with not using one when she is in fact on birth control already?

    My ex-girl friend of a year and a half was on the pill for pretty much the whole of our realationship and we (i don't condone this but) never used a condom. there weren't any problems arisen with this although she had to take the pill every single day appart from the week she menstrated (you should already know that). i know everyone is different but we had a good sex life with it, even when drinking alcohol.
    but i would advise to wear a rubber just in case.

    Heliosphan on
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    Seattle ThreadSeattle Thread Registered User regular
    edited August 2007
    ddahcmai wrote: »
    Hey, I'm not trying to threadjack here, but my question is along the same lines. To keep this as short as possible, my girlfriend is on the pill, and I'm wondering how necessary using a condom still is. What do all of you think/doctors recommend? Obviously its good to be as safe as possible, but what are the risks with not using one when she is in fact on birth control already?
    The pill is 99.9% effective when taken properly--meaning, at the same time every day without fail. If done so, condoms are just for protection against STI's at that point.

    Seattle Thread on
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    Sharp10rSharp10r Registered User regular
    edited August 2007
    There is one other issue to be aware of. The pill works in several ways, one of which is to produce "changes in the endometrium, which reduce the likelihood of implantation." (Physicians Desk Reference 1995, 1775.)
    So if you believe, or suspect, that human life begins at conception, than there is an ethical consideration you must weigh with your girlfriend.

    Sharp10r on
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    Seattle ThreadSeattle Thread Registered User regular
    edited August 2007
    Sharp10r wrote: »
    There is one other issue to be aware of. The pill works in several ways, one of which is to produce "changes in the endometrium, which reduce the likelihood of implantation." (Physicians Desk Reference 1995, 1775.)
    So if you believe, or suspect, that human life begins at conception, than there is an ethical consideration you must weigh with your girlfriend.
    You'd have the same question with condoms or an IUD or a diaphram or the (not recommended) pull-out method, since all prevent conception.

    Seattle Thread on
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    Sharp10rSharp10r Registered User regular
    edited August 2007
    Makershot wrote: »
    Sharp10r wrote: »
    There is one other issue to be aware of. The pill works in several ways, one of which is to produce "changes in the endometrium, which reduce the likelihood of implantation." (Physicians Desk Reference 1995, 1775.)
    So if you believe, or suspect, that human life begins at conception, than there is an ethical consideration you must weigh with your girlfriend.
    You'd have the same question with condoms or an IUD or a diaphram or the (not recommended) pull-out method, since all prevent conception.
    Hmm...maybe I was unclear, the issue I bring up is contra-implantive (that is AFTER conception has occured) not contra-CEPTIVE (before conception.) The pill works in 3 ways, two of them are contraceptive but the third contra-implantive. If this is an issue for the OP you and your girlfriend can talk it through. Best wishes.

    Sharp10r on
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    Seattle ThreadSeattle Thread Registered User regular
    edited August 2007
    Sharp10r wrote: »
    Makershot wrote: »
    Sharp10r wrote: »
    There is one other issue to be aware of. The pill works in several ways, one of which is to produce "changes in the endometrium, which reduce the likelihood of implantation." (Physicians Desk Reference 1995, 1775.)
    So if you believe, or suspect, that human life begins at conception, than there is an ethical consideration you must weigh with your girlfriend.
    You'd have the same question with condoms or an IUD or a diaphram or the (not recommended) pull-out method, since all prevent conception.
    Hmm...maybe I was unclear, the issue I bring up is contra-implantive (that is AFTER conception has occured) not contra-CEPTIVE (before conception.) The pill works in 3 ways, two of them are contraceptive but the third contra-implantive. If this is an issue for the OP you and your girlfriend can talk it through. Best wishes.
    That contra-implantive thing you're talking about is the morning-after pill. It's an emergency contraceptive and not to be taken regularly or as a primary birth control method.

    If all goes right, the pill (in all its various forms--there are over 65 different medications last time I checked) prevents pregnancy by tricking the body into believing that it's already pregnant. No egg then drops from the ovaries, so there's nothing for sperm to fertalize. Completely before conception.

    Seattle Thread on
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    TrowizillaTrowizilla Registered User regular
    edited August 2007
    Completely personal experience here, but I have some mood disorders (depression and such) and I absolutely, ABSOLUTELY cannot be on a tri-cyclic pill. Tri-cyclic birth control is where the dosage changes every week, and the combination of changing hormones and my own issues made me hard-core suicidal.

    However, monocyclic pills have treated me beautifully over the years. Never a pregnancy scare, my periods went from 3 weeks of excruciating cramps and heavy bleeding to a far more reasonable 4-5 days, and my skin is much nicer. Oh, and sex is much better because I don't have to worry about getting knocked up. I've been on birth control (mostly Ortho-Novum) for the past 9 years and, so far, it's only done good things for me health-wise. She should definitely talk to her doctor, keep up to date with pap smears, and find the pill combination that's right for her.

    (It's nice to be able to skip periods, too. Just go straight to the next pack instead of taking the placebo pills. I've talked to many doctors about this and researched it myself, and it's perfectly fine.)

    Trowizilla on
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    ddahcmaiddahcmai Registered User regular
    edited August 2007
    Alright, thanks everyone. So just as a summary, no, condoms are not necessary, and aside from moral issues involving a morning after pill which will not exist, I'm pretty much free to do it all the damn time?

    ddahcmai on
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    precisionkprecisionk Registered User regular
    edited August 2007
    Girlfriend and I use the pill. It is condom-free bliss. Girlfriend has had no health problems with and enjoys the sensation of the orgasm on the inside.

    precisionk on
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    The CatThe Cat Registered User, ClubPA regular
    edited August 2007
    Trowizilla wrote: »
    (It's nice to be able to skip periods, too. Just go straight to the next pack instead of taking the placebo pills. I've talked to many doctors about this and researched it myself, and it's perfectly fine.)

    Yeah, I do that, its fantastic.

    Oh, and anyone who thinks a fertilised egg pre-implantation is "life" is an ignorant moron. Just sayin'. Also, there's plenty of research showing that the poor-lonely-blastocyst-with-nowhere-to-go scenario doesn't actually happen on account of, you know, ovulation prevention. In particular, the morning-after pill's job is to trick the body into thinking its already pregnant - thus, the uterine lining also thickens while ovulation is blocked - so if the egg is already fertilised (highly unlikely, since that usually takes a day or so after sex to happen) its actually more likely to implant.

    The Cat on
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    Steve BennettSteve Bennett Registered User regular
    edited August 2007
    ddahcmai wrote: »
    Hey, I'm not trying to threadjack here, but my question is along the same lines. To keep this as short as possible, my girlfriend is on the pill, and I'm wondering how necessary using a condom still is. What do all of you think/doctors recommend? Obviously its good to be as safe as possible, but what are the risks with not using one when she is in fact on birth control already?

    If you're, say, in high-school and an unexpected pregnancy would cause serious problems in your lives, I'd highly recommend the extra protection of condoms. Otherwise, yeah - the pill is extremely effective when taken properly, so condoms generally aren't necessary except for STI/STD protection.

    As for the OP's question - just remember that women have significant hormonal changes throughout their cycles, and the pill makes changes to that. The first prescription might have a bad amount of hormone, which can result in all sorts of emotional and physiological problems (depression, skin problems, mood swings, etc). Of course, the pill can also be good at fixing these very same problems (helping skin problems is very common). So anyway - it's not uncommon for the prescription to have to be reviewed and modified at least once.

    Steve Bennett on
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    electricitylikesmeelectricitylikesme Registered User regular
    edited August 2007
    Bear in mind that STDs are unpleasant, messy, and sometimes hilariously incurable (herpes lol) so condoms are still a good idea for a while.

    electricitylikesme on
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    DaedalusDaedalus Registered User regular
    edited August 2007
    Bear in mind that STDs are unpleasant, messy, and sometimes hilariously incurable (herpes lol) so condoms are still a good idea for a while.

    Well, if you and your partner are both clean, and you're not fucking other people, and you're (very) confident that your partner isn't fucking other people, then you should be fine.

    Daedalus on
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    ddahcmaiddahcmai Registered User regular
    edited August 2007
    Yep, both tested for diseases, both definitely not in high school, both most definitely not fucking other people. Thanks everybody! I guess I'm done with distracting you all from the original question now.

    ddahcmai on
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    NightDragonNightDragon 6th Grade Username Registered User regular
    edited August 2007
    If she ends up taking the pill and feels nauseous afterwards, suggest to her that she take it at night, right before or an hour or two before bed. I do this and it's much, much better, as I never end up feeling the nauseous effect that comes with the initial surge of hormones.

    NightDragon on
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