208 Family Planning
Side effects of hormonal methods
Because hormonal methods contain the same chemicals that a woman’s body
makes when she is pregnant, these things may happen during the first few months:
Side effects often get better after the first 2 or 3 weeks or months. If
they do not, and they are annoying or worrying you, see a health worker.
She may be able to help you change the amount of the hormones in your
method or to change methods. For more information about the specific side
effects that are common with each hormonal method, see pages 209 to 215.
➤ The pills will not
during the first 7 days
on pills, use condoms
or some other backup
method to avoid
common brands of oral
➤ If you must change
to a lower dose pill,
use a barrier method
of family planning
or do not have sex
during the first month.
Birth control pills with estrogen and progestin
If you take birth control pills every day, they will protect you
from pregnancy for your entire monthly cycle. These pills are usually
available at family planning clinics, health posts, pharmacies, and
through health workers.
There are many different brands of pills. The pill you get should
be what is called a ‘low-dose’ pill. This means it has 30 or 35
micrograms (mcg or µcg) of the estrogen called ‘ethynil estradiol’
or 50 mcg of the estrogen called ‘mestranol’, and 1milligram (mg)
or less of progestin. (Mini-pills and low-dose pills are different—
low-dose pills have both estrogen and progestin, while the mini pill
has only progestin.) Never use a method with more than 50 mcg
Once you start taking pills, you should try to stick with one
brand (and if you can, buy several packets at once). If you must
change brands, try to get another with the same hormone names
and strength. You will have fewer side effects and better protection.
Who should not take combined pills:
Some women have health problems that make it
dangerous for them to use the pill. NEVER take the pill if you
have any of the conditions listed on page 207, or if you:
• have liver disease, hepatitis, or yellow skin and eyes.
• have ever had signs of a stroke, paralysis, or heart disease.
• have ever had a blood clot in the veins of your legs, or in your
lungs or brain. Varicose veins are usually not a problem, unless
the veins are red and sore.
Where Women Have No Doctor 2012