Safe Sex Guide for Couples Preventing Pregnancy: Does Birth Control Prevent Ovulation?
You take one pill. Every day. At the same time. This is what women know about birth control pills, one of the most commonly used contraception methods.
However, there are still unwanted pregnancies — even with the myriad of birth control options out there. 50% of pregnancies in the U.S. are unplanned.
This statistic can be reduced by taking the pill. When used correctly, the birth control pill is 99.9% effective.
Unfortunately, many women don’t know how birth control works. They forget to ask simple questions like, does birth control prevent ovulation? Continue reading to know everything about birth control pills and the way they work.
Does Birth Control Prevent Ovulation? The Simple Answer
The short answer is, yes, birth control prevents ovulation.
The long answer is, our system is very complex. A lot goes into the way birth control works. In addition, there are different types of birth control and all work differently to prevent ovulation. Here’s more information.
What Is Ovulation?
We all know the birds and the bees. But do you know the process between the sperm’s release and the egg fertilization? A woman needs to release an egg first. This process is called ovulation.
During this process, your ovary will release an egg. The egg travels through the fallopian tube where it’s met with the sperm and is fertilized.
In other words, this is when you’re the most fertile.
Your body goes into ovulation-mode because of the part of the brain called the hypothalamus. It signals the anterior lobe and pituitary glands to release the hormones luteinizing hormone and follicle-stimulating hormone.
Ovulation has three phases:
- The periovulatory or follicular phase — a layer of cells starts surrounding the egg, turning into a mucus-like substance. The uterus line also thickens.
- The ovulatory phase — the egg is released and travels to the fallopian tubes. This period lasts between 24 and 48 hours.
- The postovulatory or luteal phase — one of two things occurs: the fertilized egg moves to the womb, growing into a fetus. Or, the unfertilized egg slowly dissolves.
If fertilization doesn’t occur, the uterus lining breaks down. This is the start of menstruation.
How Birth Control Stops Ovulation
Remember how we mentioned ovulation occurs because of the release of hormones? Birth control prevents ovulation by stopping this process.
Your brain releases these hormones when it notices a lack of estrogen and progesterone. The pill provides enough estrogen and progesterone to prevent the stimulation of ovulation-releasing hormones.
When there are no ovulation-releasing hormones, ovulation doesn’t occur. You remain in the same phase of your menstrual cycle, which is why most women don’t experience a period or only experience a slight period.
The Different Types of Birth Control Pills
The process mentioned above is the result of combination hormonal birth control pills. In other words, the pills made with synthetic estrogen and progesterone. There are also Progestin-only birth control pills.
Progestin is an artificial form of progesterone.
This type of birth control doesn’t stop ovulation (though it can for some women). Instead, it keeps the cervical mucus stable, preventing the mucus from breaking down and releasing out of the vagina.
This mucus creates a layer between the vagina and the uterus, so sperm can’t enter and fertilize an egg.
Progestin-only birth control pills are mainly used by women who don’t believe in stopping ovulation. This decision is made for ethics, moral or religious reasons.
What the Pill Doesn’t Do
Many women successfully prevent pregnancy by taking the birth control pill. However, it’s not your one-stop-shop for protected sex. Here’s what the birth control pill doesn’t do.
Protect Against STDs
Unfortunately, the pill doesn’t protect you from STDs. If you’re in a monogamous relationship, get STD-tested to ensure you’re not spreading any infections. If you aren’t, condoms are the best way to protect against STDs while having sex.
In addition, always get STD-tested after each partner to ensure you didn’t get an infection.
Aren’t Available Over-the-Counter
Unfortunately, you need a doctor’s prescription in order to get birth control. There are many centers such as Planned Parenthood that will help you get birth control if you’re uninsured or can’t afford the pills.
If all else fails, condoms are available over-the-counter. These prevent sperm from entering your vagina, preventing both pregnancy and STDs.
Won’t Prevent Your Period
Most women get a period while on the pill, even though it’s light. However, don’t be alarmed if you skip your period.
As mentioned previously, the different hormones prevent the release of an egg and the thickening lining of the uterus. If you don’t get your period one month, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re pregnant.
How to Take Birth Control Pills
Every birth control pill is different. Always follow the instructions on your medication and ask your doctor for advice.
Most birth control pills work by taking the pill every day, ideally at the same time.
You take the active pills every day for three weeks and the fourth week you take placebos (or you can just opt to skip this step). The fourth week is when you get your period. You likely start your pill regimen on the following Sunday.
What to Do If You Miss a Day
Don’t get scared if you miss a day on the pill. Just take two the following day.
If you miss the second day, take three pills that day. If you miss three days in a row, call your doctor and have a backup contraceptive plan (most couples use condoms).
Vaginal Sex Isn’t the Only Sex
Does birth control prevent ovulation? Yes, it does — and is a very effective way of preventing pregnancy.
But is birth control the best way to prevent pregnancy? No. So it has to be condoms, right? Again, no. As much as we hate to admit grade school was correct, not engaging in vaginal sex is the best way to prevent pregnancy.
But who said you can’t have fun without a penis entering the vagina?