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How the Pill Affects Your Body

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How the Pill Affects Your Body

Every night at 11 p.m., the alarm clock in 21-year-old Natacha’s* one-bedroom apartment goes off. It isn’t a signal to wake her up from a quick nap to write a paper or do some reading, but a reminder that it is time to take her birth control. As soon as it goes off her live-in boyfriend of three years, Julian, brings her a pill and a glass of water.

“In the beginning Julian used to call me at 11 to remind me to take my pill,” said Natacha, who had a long distance relationship with him during the first two years they were dating. “Now he just brings it to me.”

Natacha is just one of the many female students at Northeastern University who is currently taking the birth control pill. In a survey of 30 students, 56 percent indicated that they take the pill.

“Oral contraception is the most common [contraceptive] among students,” said Leah McKinnon-Howe, a health care practitioner at Lane Health Center. “I write more prescriptions for the pill.”

The birth control pill, which is used by over 16 million women nationwide, was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 1960 and is available in 41 brands on the market. The pill comes in two different forms, combination pills and progestin-only pills. Although both are made form hormones that are naturally found in women’s bodies, the combination pill also contains estrogen, which is not found in the progestin-only pills. Combination pills prevent ovulation and thicken the cervical mucus that surrounds the egg, preventing the fusion of the egg and the sperm. Progestin-only pill also thicken the cervical mucus but usually don’t prevent ovulation. Estrogen and progestin are both steroids that are produced in the female body. Estrogen, the female sex hormone, is created by the ovaries, corpus luteum, and the placenta. It is responsible for the development of breasts and also controls the menstrual cycle. Progestin is also involved in the menstrual cycle. Produced from granulose cells, it is secreted during the second half of the menstrual cycle and assists in developing embryos if pregnancy occurs.

According to McKinnon-Howe, there are many reasons why students choose to take the pill.

“They usually take it for contraception, but some are not sexually active. They take it for dysmenorrheal, some for cycle regulation, or the improvement of acne” said McKinnon-Howe.

The advantages that are linked to taking the birth control pill are numerous.
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