The oral contraceptive or birth control pill was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration in 1960. The pill came as a quantum leap in the liberation of women who were now in a position to practice and enjoy sex, confident in the knowledge that they were in control of their ability to inhibit an unwanted pregnancy.
To know when do oral contraceptives become effective, let us review the menstrual cycle.
The menstrual cycle is a 28 day cycle that goes on repeating itself throughout the period of a woman’s fertile life and ends only at menopause. The hormone estrogen is released into the bloodstream which causes the lining of the uterus to thicken and initiates a change in the cervical mucus. At a particular point, a mature follicle bursts open and releases an egg, a process called ovulation. The egg finds its way down the Fallopian tube towards the uterus. If sperm is present at the time and comes in contact with the egg, fertilization takes place.
At the time, the body produces another hormone called progesterone which causes the glands within the lining of the uterus to release a mucus that covers the surface. If implantation and fertilization has not occurred, the blood supply to the surface of the lining is stopped. The accumulation of blood causes a rupture which along with the endometrial lining of the uterus forms the menstrual flow or period which lasts between 4 and 8 days.
Most birth control pills are a combination of both estrogen and progesterone hormones to prevent ovulation or the release of the egg during the monthly cycle. The pill also thickens the mucus around the cervix creating a barrier for the sperm to enter and reach the eggs. Birth control pills normally come in a pack of 28 to coincide with a cycle. 21 of the 28 contain hormones which are effective in the control process. The other 7 are placebos and are taken after the period of ovulation when the menstrual process is in progress.
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