If you currently take birth control pills or are interested in taking them, you might have many questions about the pill. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the birth control pill is the most common method of contraception for women ages 29 and younger. Many women use the birth control pill to prevent pregnancy or have a more regulated period. Jennifer R. Miller, Vice President of Community Services for Planned Parenthood Association of the Mercer Area, answered some common questions for our Collegiettes.
Q: How do birth control pills work?
A: Birth control pills work by suppressing ovulation. When you’re taking a pill or other hormonal birth control methods like the IUD or the NuvaRing, you’re not releasing an egg.
Q: Is it safe to take the birth control pill continuously for a long period of time? Can the pill cause breast cancer?
A: Yes, it is safe to take the birth control pill for years at a time. Birth control pills provide some protection against certain cancers. There is no link or concern associated with birth control pills and breast cancer.
Q: Will I gain weight on the pill?
A: The pill does not cause direct weight gain. Like anything hormonal, it can change your appetite. One size does not fit all for birth control methods. Talk to your clinician and they can recommend another pill or method for you. There are tons of other methods out there like the NuvaRing, the IUD, and the Patch.
Q: What are the major risks of taking the pill?
A: There really are none. For some women, it may not be the best option for you. For most women, there are no serious side effects. The pill has been around for decades and tested up and down. It depends on your health history.
Q: What do the different hormone levels associated with different pills mean? Do lower hormone levels offer less protection against pregnancy?
A: There is no efficacy difference. It really is the same across the hormone level spectrum.
Q: Do I have to take the pill at the same exact time every day for it to be most effective?
A: Yes. We recommend that you take it within a 2 hour window. This is very important to efficacy. That can be challenging for some women. There are other options out there.
Q: Can I get a prescription for the pill at TCNJ Health Services if I have SHIP (the student health insurance plan through TCNJ)? What if I don’t have SHIP?
A: We provide GYN care on campus. Go to our heath services center on campus. It should cover pills or any contraceptive method. We could potentially offer you sliding scale fees (a reduced rate) based on family size and income.
Q: Is a prescription through TCNJ free?
A: Most insurance companies cover the cost or part of the cost. The best thing to do would be to call your insurance company and ask.
Q: What happens if I get a prescription here and want to continue taking it over the summer?
A: If you come to Planned Parenthood on campus, we would give you a prescription, enough to get you through the summer. We try to give people at least a year of prescription. We try to give people the method that they need so they are covered through the summer.
Q: Do I have to have an initial appointment before getting a prescription or have regular appointments while I’m on the pill?
A: No, depending on your health history, you should be able to leave that day with a prescription or pills in your hand. You don’t have to have a pelvic exam; we can delay that for six months. Eventually, you would need to come back for an exam.
Q: Will my parents find out about it?
A: If you’re using their insurance, they might receive notification. If it’s through the TCNJ insurance and that’s in the student’s name, they should not find out about it. Talk to your insurance provider.
Q: If I forget to take the pill one night and have unprotected sex, can I still use an emergency contraceptive (like Plan B)?
A: Yes, you can definitely take Plan B if you are taking the birth control pill. Plan B is available on campus. It is available to men and women 17 and older. It’s around $30 at Planned Parenthood in TCNJ Health Services.
To make an appointment at Planned Parenthood on campus, call 609-771-2110 on Tuesdays and Wednesday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. or go online for more options.
You can also make an appointment online.
For more information about birth control pills and other forms of contraception visit Planned Parenthood’s website.