Abusing the Pill
Each month your body ovulates, ripening an egg that journeys down the fallopian tube until it reaches the uterus, where if fertilised, it would implant itself into the lining of the uterus.
When this does not happen, the lining of the uterus that had built up in preparation for the fertilised egg sheds, cleansing your system and preparing your body for a new month. However, many women
disrupt this normal cycle with the use of an 'oral contraceptive' - the Pill.
The Pill is used to prevent unwanted pregnancy and is
prescribed to address symptoms such as irregular, heavy and painful periods. It is also used to decrease the flow, decrease acne and hirsutism (hairy skin), and suppresses endometriosis.
Despite the many benefits of
taking the Pill, it also has its
drawbacks. According to gynaecologist Dr Keisha Buchanan, the Pill contains two female hormones - oestrogen and progesterone - which impose synthetic hormones on one's natural cycle.
Oral contraceptives come in packets of 21 or 28 tablets to take by mouth once a day, every day or almost every day of a regular cycle. To avoid nausea, take oral contraceptives with food or milk. It is important that you take your oral contraceptive at the same time every day, and take it no longer than prescribed by your doctor.
The Pill causes some physical and emotional changes which remain while the user stays on the Pill - weight gain or loss, slight nausea, irregular bleeding or spotting, breast tenderness, mood swings, reduction or increase in acne and, for some women, decrease in libido (sex drive).
According to Dr Buchanan, the Pill should be started during your period.
"The Pill should be taken during your period. This is the time when a woman is sure that she is not pregnant. If started any other time, it will not prevent pregnancy," Dr Buchanan explained.
While some women will take the Pill to prevent their period if they are planning for a special event like their wedding, Dr Buchannan cautions against women who abuse the Pill by taking it continuously, so as not to see their period.
"Unless a woman is diagnosed with endometriosis there is no need to take the pill continuously," Buchanan explained.
Dr Buchanan also noted that if a woman is continuously on the pill because of fear of experiencing heavy painful period. this might cause breakthrough bleeding - spotting or bleeding between periods - which can occur with any birth control pill, especially during the first few months of use.
Dr Horace Fletcher, head of the Department of Obstetrics at the University of the West Indies, noted that women should get advice from their doctor, pharmacist or nurse before taking the Pill, due to some underlining risk factors. He notes that the Pill should not be taken under the following circumstances:
• If a woman thinks she may be pregnant
• If there is a risk of breast or uterine cancer
• If a woman is at risk of thrombosis or embolism (clots forming in the legs that can migrate into the heart) this can happen if you lie down or sit for long periods. Older women who smoke are at a greater risk
• A woman who has liver disease. These women may need a higher-dose pill.
Birth control pills may improve your symptoms for a short time, but your body and its overall health is at risk when you consider the long run.
Dr Keisha Buchanan
Suite 9, Icon Medical Centre
34 Lady Musgrave Road
(876) 437-8492, (876) 833-3376
Opening hours: Mondays to Fridays from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Saturdays 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Dr Horace Fletcher
Head of the Department of
The University of the West Indies
Gynaecology and Child Health
1 Westminster Road, Kingston 10
Contact: (876) 926-6067