What are Contraceptive Pills?
The birth control pill, more commonly known as “the Pill”, is a hormonal contraceptive tablet that is taken daily to prevent pregnancy. There are two types of birth control pills, combination pills, and progestin-only pills. Both forms of the pill contain hormones that regulate ovulation to prevent pregnancy.
Combination pills contain the hormones estrogen and progestin which prevent the ovaries from releasing an egg. Without an egg to fertilize, the chance of experiencing pregnancy is greatly reduced. Combination pills are categorized by different mixtures of active and inactive tablets as well as the dosage of hormones in active pills. While progestin-only pills are capable of producing the same effects, they primarily work by triggering specific responses in the cervix and uterus. Progestin-only pills, or minipills, are responsible for thickening cervical mucus to keep the sperm from entering the uterus, while also thinning the lining of the uterus to prevent the attachment of a fertilized egg. Health care providers recommend the progestin-only pill for users who have a history of blood clots or are concerned about taking estrogen.
The birth control pill is 99% effective at preventing pregnancy when taken consistently each day and the contraceptive effect is immediately reversible when users stop taking the pill. The birth control pill is a convenient, non-invasive method that rarely interrupts sexual encounters. Additionally, some users take the birth control pill to manage other health issues such as regulating menstrual cramps and lightening menstruation. The pill has also been known to manage premenstrual syndrome and premenstrual dysmorphic disorder, treat endometriosis, and lower the risk of ovarian, uterine, and colon cancer.
The pill is one of the most popular methods of contraception among users of reproductive age. Between 2017 and 2019, 65.3% of women aged 15–49 in the United States were currently using contraception. Oral contraceptive pills were the most frequently used method behind female sterilization.
MCI is currently funding research and advocating for the development of a non-hormonal pill for sperm producers. MCI graduate fellow Md Abdullah Al Noman at the University of Minnesota has recently made progress in developing an oral contraceptive that inhibits sperm production. Noman and his colleagues were able to administer a small molecule to male mice and observe the different effects in animal models. They found that mice sperm counts were dramatically reduced and the molecular compound was 99% effective at preventing pregnancy. The contraceptive effect was also determined to be reversible 4-6 weeks after receiving the compound. Human tests are scheduled to take place in the fourth quarter of 2022. Contraceptive pills are useful tools that give egg producers the freedom to control their reproduction and manage different health issues. Having similar methods for sperm producers will contribute to protecting more people who are looking for the same level of control. For more information on male contraceptive development, please visit our website.
Nuts & Bolts: Contraceptive Pills
Daniels K, Abma JC. Current contraceptive status among women aged 15–49: United States, 2017–2019. NCHS Data Brief, no 388. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2020.
Parenthood, P. (n.d.). Birth control pills: The pill: Contraceptive Pills. Planned Parenthood. Retrieved April 8, 2022, from https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/birth-control/birth-control-pill
Birth control pill: Contraception, the Pill, effectiveness, types. Cleveland Clinic. (n.d.). Retrieved April 8, 2022, from https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/drugs/3977-birth-control-the-pill
Pruthi, S. (2022, January 29). Choosing A birth control pill. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved April 8, 2022, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/birth-control/in-depth/best-birth-control-pill/art-20044807
NHS. (2020, July 1). Combined Pill. NHS choices. Retrieved April 8, 2022, from https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/contraception/combined-contraceptive-pill/
For additional publications related to male contraception and the male reproductive system, please visit our publications page:
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