What are birth control pills?

-Birth control pills are medications people with uteruses can take daily to prevent pregnancy. Birth control pills are also called “ The Pill” or “Oral Contraception.

Most “pills” contain both estrogen and progestin and are called combination pills because they have both hormones. There is also another type of pill, called the “mini-pill” which only has one hormone (Progestin) for women who have certain medical problems like migraine headaches.

How does it work?

The Menstrual Cycle

Before we talk about how the birth control pill works, let’s make sure you understand how your body’s menstrual cycle normally works. Check out this video!

How The Pill Works

Now that you understand the normal menstrual cycle, let’s talk about fertilization & pregnancy!

Birth control pills work in two ways. First, they temporarily put ovulation on pause. Ovulation means that your ovaries will release an egg each month. No egg leaving the ovary? No Pregnancy!

Second, these pills cause your body to thicken your cervical mucus. This mucus is a thin fluid in your cervix that makes it easier for sperm travel so it can fertilize an egg. If the mucus is thick, it makes it difficult for the sperm to get to the egg. Kinda like a roadblock. So, you have double pregnancy prevention!

How effective is it?

The pill is 99% effective in preventing a pregnancy from happening IF you use it the right way. This means taking it every day and being consistent! If you do that, then out of 100 women using the pill, maybe 1 person would get pregnant. But in the real world, stuff happens, people slip up and forget. So the actual effectiveness may be more like 90%, which means that 9 out of 100 women on the pill will get pregnant each year.

Combination pills work best when taken every day. Try to take them at the same time when you are doing another regular activity. We recommend taking them at night after you brush your teeth, or before you watch your favorite TV show. But, if you are a morning person and want to take your pills in the morning, that’s cool, just be consistent. If you are off by an hour or so, no big deal, just take it as soon as you remember.

If you forget to take a pill, take one the next day as soon as you remember and then take your regular pill at the usual time. If you skip a couple of days in a row, call your health provider for advice, Your protection may not be good for the rest of the month, so it may not be good idea to have sex, or if you do, make sure you use a condom.

Certain medicines and supplements may make the pill less effective. Talk to your health care provider about ANY medications you are taking when you go to discuss the birth control pill, or if you start taking any new medications after you begin taking the pill.

1 of 100

If taken properly, only one person out of 100 people on the pill might get pregnant.


If used correctly (taken every day), the pill is 99% effective in preventing pregnancy. 

one week!

It takes one week for the pill to kick in, but it’s a good idea to use extra protection just in case.


Use condoms in combination with the pill to prevent pregnancy and protect against STIs!

What are the benefits?

  • Birth control pills are easy to use, safe, convenient and VERY effective.
  • You don’t have to think about birth control each time you have sex. Not worrying may make you more comfortable in enjoying sex
  • Most periods become lighter and have less cramps when using the pill.
  • There are also other health benefits to using the pill such as:

   >> clearing up acne

   >> protection against certain types of cancers

   >> reducing chance of getting anemia

   >> less PMS symptoms

   >> less period related migraine headaches

  • For folx who want to get pregnant, it is easy to do as soon as you stop the pill.
  • You are in control! You can take them for years, so you can deal with all the other important things in your life like school, your job, family, and relationships.

What are the downsides?

  • Birth control pills do not protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
  • You need a prescription to get birth control pills which means you have to meet with a health care provider first
  • It can be easy to forget to take a pill everyday for a long period of time. Make sure to contact your health care provider if you forget to take a pill.
  • There are some side effects that some women get when they first start the pill like breast tenderness or nausea. Most symptoms go away within the first few months. Talk to your health care provider if you are uncomfortable when you start the pill. They can reassure you and answer any questions.
  • Women with certain health conditions may not be able to use the combination pill, but may be able to use progestin only pill (“mini” pill). Your health care provider will talk with you about your health history and help you decide if the pill is right for you.

How can I get it & how much does it cost?

A prescription for the pill is provided to you by your healthcare provider. You can fill the prescription at any drugstore. Some clinics or health centers can provide the Pill at their site after you’ve seen a provider.

Usually birth control pills cost between $0 to $50 a month, depending on health-insurance coverage and type of pill. If you need help finding insurance, log onto SingleStop to find a site near where you live or work to get assistance with getting medical insurance.

Also, at Project STAY, we will give you the first 3 months of pills for free, if you don’t have medicaid or insurance. After that, we will work it out so you can get them at other clinics we work with or continue with Project STAY if you have other sexual health needs as well.