TL;DR: if you're on the pill, make sure you clear it with a gynecologist. Especially if you are a smoker, and/or have a history of hypertension, diabetes, heart attacks, or varicose veins in the family.
We here at Cosmo are always game to help you spice up your sex life—from sex toys and sexy time positions, to all things 50 Shades. Remember, safe sex is great sex! So Cosmo.ph asked Dr. Rebecca Singson, M.D. to discuss one of the most common types of birth control used in the Philippines—the Pill.
As with all forms of medication, there are side effects to taking the Pill. From the good (clearer skin, regular periods) to the bad (nausea, headaches, bloating), the Pill affects each woman differently.
"Usually, when they first take the Pill, we tell them to take it when they’re about to sleep. Because [patients] complain of dizziness, headaches, etc. Some gain weight because they have gastric irritation so they’re eating all the time. Some lose weight [beacuse] it makes them nauseous, so they don’t want to eat," says Dr. Singson.
But aside from the usual side effects, patients are at risk of developing venous thromboembolism (VTE). VTE is a condition where a blood clot forms in a vein. When a clot forms in a deep vein, usually in the leg, this is known as deep vein thrombosis (DVT). If that clot breaks loose and travels to the lungs, it is called a pulmonary embolism (PE). In severe cases, a pulmonary embolism can be fatal. A blood clot could also form in the vessels of the heart (causing a heart attack) or the brain (causing a stroke). All oral contraceptive pills carry that risk, including hormonal IUDs.
If you have really bad varicose veins, you’re more at risk of developing VTE. If you’re hypertensive or diabetic, recently had a stroke or a heart attack, or have a hard time controlling your blood pressure, then the hormonal types of pills might not be ideal for you. If you’re a smoker, the combination pill increases your risk of a stroke, especially in patients 40 years old and above. So if you’re a smoker, you’re better off being on the progestin-only pill. The risk is not excluded, but it’s lower than the combination pill.
According to Dr. Singson, the previous generation of pills had about 50 micrograms of ethinyl estradiol—that produced more side effects, which they were able to taper down when they made the dose smaller. Nowadays, pills usually carry 35 micrograms of ethinyl estradiol; some even possess only 25 micrograms. The problem is, if a patient is just a little bit off with her timing, or if she didn’t take it exactly 24 hours later, or even if she took the Pill on time but the dose of ethinyl estradiol was too low, it might remove the suppression of her ovulation and she could end up releasing an egg. So despite taking the Pill regularly, the pill is only about 91% effective—9 out of 100 pill users get pregnant each year.
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