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The birth control pill has given an immense amount of freedom to an immense number of women. The pill enables you to plan when to have children, and how many. Unless it fails, of course. C

Can you rely on your birth control pill to serve you well? Just how likely are you to experience an "oops" pregnancy? 

Pill fact sheet

What is the pill, exactly, and how many people use it? The pill is officially called the combined oral contraceptive pill, and it uses two different hormones to prevent pregnancy estrogen (estradiol), progestogen (progestin). A progestogen-only "mini pill" is also used, with popularity varying per country. The pill works by preventing ovulation, but also offers two other safety precautions on the off chance that ovulation does occur. The uterine lining is thinner with pill use, so that no fertilized egg can implant. A pill-using woman's cervical mucus also becomes thicker, making it extremely hard for sperm to get through. Around a 100 million women are currently using the birth control pill on a worldwide scale. Some women use the pill to regulate problems with their menstrual cycle, or even to attempt to treat acne. If you are using the birth control pill to prevent pregnancy, you will probably want to know how likely it is that you will get pregnant anyway.

Pill failure rates

The pill works best if you follow the instructions given on your package insert. That means taking the pill every day at the same time, and taking a break in accordance with the instructions. Following the instructions that come with your pill to the letter is called perfect use. The combined oral contraceptive pill's failure rate is only 0.3 percent per year with perfect use. That is so little that it hardly makes sense to worry about it.

Even condoms have a similar potential to fail. The term "typical use" describes something else, namely the actual way in women use the pill. This will include women who take the pill at a different time each day (when they remember), women who forget to take a pill every now and then, and those who do not take a break from the pill (the stop week). Then, there are those who do not commence a new cycle of the pill on time after the stop week. What do you think the "failure rate" of the pill is with typical use? Obviously, it is quite significantly higher at two to eight percent. What this means for you as an individual potential or actual pill user is that you have a lot of influence on how effective your contraceptive method is. You cannot rely on your pill to prevent you from getting pregnant, if you forget to take it. Yes, it is possible to get pregnant while you are on the pill, even with perfect use. Since this is highly unlikely, it is fair to say that you can stop worrying. After all, you can ensure that you use the pill perfectly.

The only contraceptive method that has a success rate of 100 percent is abstinence. Your chances of getting pregnant after pill use may also concern you. Many healthcare professionals will advise women who have just stopped taking the pill to wait for a few months before they actively start trying to conceive. They may suggest that you use condoms in the interim period. This advice is given in order to offer your body a chance to return to its regular hormonal cycle. Once your menstrual cycle are regular again, you will be able to find out when you ovulate more easily. This allows you to plan more effectively. Having regular menstrual cycles has one other benefit. That is being able to determine your estimated due date more easily when you do conceive. Women who conceive within their first few cycle after quitting the pill may not know when they ovulated, or even when their last period was. This makes it harder for your doctor to calculate when your baby may be born. Besides these few points of convenience, there are no reasons to worry about conceiving after quitting the pill. The pill does not effect your fertility in the long term, and there are no dangers associated with getting pregnant immediately after stopping the pill.

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