The Pill

photograph of a hand holding birth control pill packages

The Birth Control Pill is most commonly known as “the pill.” The pill is a very common birth control method and highly effective if taken at the same time every day. There are many different brands of birth control pills. A doctor or nurse will help you decide which is right for you.


  • regulates periods
  • reliable (99% effective when taken correctly)
  • convenient (easy to carry with you in a bag/purse)
  • reduces risk of ovarian cysts, benign breast disease, endometriosis, ectopic pregnancy, ovarian and endometrial cancer


  • Can be difficult to remember to take at the same time every day
  • Doesn’t provide any protection against STIs

How effective is the pill?

The pill is 92-99% effective at preventing pregnancy. It is more effective when used perfectly which means taking it as near to the same time every day – within 2-3 hours is ideal.

How does the birth control pill work?

Most birth control pills contain 2 different hormones (estrogen and progesterone) similar to the ones produced in your body. They are called combine oral contraceptives or COCs. There is a progesterone only pill available for those not able to use estrogen.

The birth control pill:

  • prevents the ovaries from releasing an egg each month (ovulation).
  • thickens the cervical mucus, which makes it difficult for sperm to travel through the cervix to uterus.
  • thins the lining of the uterus which makes it difficult for a fertilized egg to implant itself into the wall of the uterus.

The pill does not protect against sexually transmitted infections. Using a condom with the pill will help to reduce the risk of STIs and will provide extra pregnancy protection.

How do I get birth control pills?

Birth control pills are only available by prescription from a doctor or a nurse. The pill varies in cost depending on where you have your prescription filled. You don’t need a pelvic exam to get a birth control pill prescription.

How do I use the pill correctly?

  • Take your pill as close to the same time as you can every day, for it to be most effective. Set the alarm on your phone or download a pill reminder app to keep you on track. They’re free and easy to use.
  • The last week of your package contains placebo pills or sugar pills which are inactive (they contain no hormones). This placebo week is when you will get your period. You are still protected from pregnancy even during this placebo week provided you have taken your pills correctly during the cycle and begin again on schedule.
  • Be sure to start your new pack immediately after finishing your last, without missing a day, even if you still have bleeding.
  • You will always start your new package on the same day of the week.
  • A period or bleed outside this week is not uncommon especially in the first few months after you begin. If midcycle bleeding persists, speak to a physician.

What do I do if I miss a pill?

The Missed Pills Guide will help you figure out how best to deal with a missed birth control pill.

It is important to take your pill everyday at approximately the same time in order for it to be effective.  There is evidence that ovulation and pregnancy risk can occur if birth control pills are missed for as little as 12 hours.

If you have unprotected sex after missing any pills contact the clinic at (250) 592-3479 to discuss taking the “Emergency Contraceptive Pill (ECP)”.
You can also get Emergency Contraception from pharmacies in BC without a prescription.  The sooner you take the ECP the more effective it is at preventing pregnancy.

Danger signals for birth control pill users

Call your doctor or go to the nearest medical treatment centre immediately if you have any of the following symptoms while taking birth control pills:

  • A – Abdominal pain, severe
  • C – Chest pain (severe), cough, or shortness of breath
  • H – Headache (severe) or increased frequency or intensity of headache, dizziness, weakness, or numbness
  • E – Eye problems: vision loss or blurring, speech problems
  • S – Severe leg pain in calf or thigh