Dr. Nicole Sparks answers all your pressing questions about birth control

Dr. Nicole Sparks is an obstetrician-gynecologist (OB-GYN) by day and a blogger by night. She uses her TikTok platform to advocate for women and teach them about their bodies. 

Dr. Sparks sat down to answer all of In The Know’s questions about birth control, like how it works and where to get it (even without insurance).

It’s more important as ever to learn the truth about birth control.

What is the difference between hormonal and non-hormonal birth control?

“You either have hormonal or non-hormonal contraception,” Dr. Sparks explained to In The Know. “Hormonal contraception includes things such as the pill, the patch, the ring.” 

These work by suppressing the hormones that cause ovulation. If ovulation isn’t completed, then you can’t get pregnant. 

The pill, how do I use it? 

“You’ll notice on a standard pack of pills, it will have a Sunday start date,” Dr. Sparks told In The Know. “But you don’t have to start on Sunday, you can start on any day you choose. And most pills will have what we call a 21-7, meaning you have 21 days of an active pill and seven days of an inactive pill. Or they’ll be more like 24 and 4.” 

Dr. Sparks said the inactive days are when you’ll have a period cycle, afterward, you’ll have to start the next pack of pills immediately. 

Protip: It’s OK if you miss one pill because you can take two the following day. However, if you miss more than two, consult your physician. 

How effective is it?

The efficacy of the pill is actually dependent on the user, according to Dr. Sparks. 

“With typical use, it kind of has a 7 percent failure rate and that’s pretty high,” Dr. Sparks told In The Know. “That’s because people will forget to take their birth control pill every day.” 

For those who manage to consistently take it, the failure rate is closer to 1 to 2 percent.

Where can I get it and how much does it cost? 

Birth control pills are more accessible than ever. If you can’t snag a prescription from your doctor, there are tons of companies that sell affordable birth control to the uninsured like Pill Club and Hers.

“Companies like Bedsider and Simple Health, who will actually let you talk to a physician over TeleVisit and they can mail the pills directly to your house or you can go to the store and get them at any pharmacy,” Dr. Sparks said.

The cost of birth control pills is contingent on your insurance but can be as cheap as $4.

Are there any side effects? 

Side effects for first-time users include nausea, vomiting, breast tenderness, headaches and irregular periods. 

“The good news is that after about three months, once your body gets used to this new pill, a lot of those symptoms will resolve,” Dr. Sparks told In The Know.

What if I’m experiencing side effects for more than a few months? 

Dr. Sparks recommended switching to another brand of birth control that is more compatible if your current one isn’t working for you. For those who don’t want the pill, they can try other forms of contraceptive like the female condom, spermicide or a diaphragm. 

If you liked this article, check out this revamped model of the antiquated “baseball” sex metaphor.

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