The wonder that is birth control, specifically the pill, is something that usually ends up being taken for granted. While most would simply choose to ignore the science behind it rather than understand how it works, every woman who takes a birth control pill should understand that there could be consequences to using the drug. These consequences often lie deep in the heart of how the medication functions, in how your typical birth control medication actually achieves its stated goal of preventing pregnancy. Having an idea of how the typical birth control pill works can go a long way to helping a person understand the risks involved in the use of such drugs.
The story behind how birth control medication works starts in the 1930s, when it was discovered that injecting progesterone was effective in preventing the onset of pregnancy. Progesterone, a hormone naturally produced by the body, is generally more prevalent in females than in males. Synthesizing the hormone was conducted, with the synthetic version of the chemical proving to be just as effective as the real thing. Research was later conducted into finding out whether or not the body can be induced to produce more of the hormone via introducing external chemicals. Estrogen was later found to have similar effects to progesterone, leading to tests that mirrored the ones conducted for progesterone. Both hormones, and their effect on ovulation, formed the basis of the modern contraceptive pill.
The pills work by deceiving the body, forcing it to believe (thanks to hormonal signals induced by the pills) that the woman is already pregnant. Since the ovaries do not release egg cells if the female is already pregnant, this has the effect of preventing conception. Progesterone and estrogen levels are known to be at their highest during pregnancy, so an increase in one or the other would usually be enough to fool the body’s physiology into thinking it is pregnant. Other hormones may be substituted by some other medications, oestrogen is a prominent example, but the two aforementioned hormones are the most commonly cited ones.
Another effect produced by certain birth control pills is inhibiting Follicle-Stimulating Hormone (FSH) and Luteotrophic Hormone (LH). These two hormones are known to cause the ovaries to release the egg cell into the body and have a role in the ovulation cycle. By preventing the body from producing them, an effect similar to high levels of progesterone or estrogen is achieved. The effectiveness of the two tactics is essentially equivalent to one another, though there are some drawbacks to such tactics.