What is an OCP?
An OCP is a pill with both estrogen and progesterone. These are like the hormones made by your ovaries during a normal menstrual cycle.
The OCP prescribed for you has very low doses of these hormones. When taken daily, it prevents your body from making the hormones. This helps with cycle regulation and scheduling your treatment cycle.
How do I take OCPs?
You will start taking the pill the first day of your period (full flow). You may start as late as the third day of a full flow period.
If your period starts Friday evening, Saturday, or Sunday, start the pill and call the clinic Monday to schedule your next appointment.
Keep taking 1 pill each day until told to stop. Be sure to take it at the same time each day. If you forget to take the pill, take it as soon as you remember. If it is the next day, take 2 pills. If you miss 2 pills in a row, call the clinic.
Your prescription is written for two 21-day packs of pills. You may need to take the pills for more than 21 days. Do not skip any active pills. If you get a 28-day pack, do not take the last week of pills. They are a different color than the other 3 weeks. These are placebo pills. Start the next pack of pills instead.
What are the risks and side effects?
OCPs often do not have serious or unpleasant side effects.
People are at a higher risk for side effects if they:
- Are over age 35
- Have high blood pressure
- Have diabetes
- Have a clotting disorder
You may have irregular spotting or bleeding during the month you are taking the pills. This is because it has low doses of estrogen and progesterone. It builds up a thin, unstable lining in the uterus. This is common and does not mean anything is wrong.
You do not need to call the clinic if you have spotting or bleeding while on the pill. Keep taking your pills as you were told. You may have a light menstrual period or spotting after you stop the pill or you may have no bleeding at all if your uterine lining is very thin.
Most common side effects of the pill are:
- Nausea (may be reduced by taking the pill with your evening meal)
- Breast tenderness
- More of an appetite
- Fluid retention
Call the clinic right away if you have any of the rare but serious side effects below:
- Severe abdominal or leg pain
- Severe chest pain or shortness of breath
- Severe headache
- Weakness or numbness in an arm or leg
- Dizziness, fainting, or blurred vision