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The facts about birth control pills in Canada

July 23, 2020 • read

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The facts about birth control pills in Canada

Birth control pills are a form of round-the-clock contraception. You only need to take one pill once a day to be protected from unwanted pregnancy. Birth control pills can also help with certain health conditions. 

As with any birth control, it’s important to remember that the pill is not always 100% effective. The pill is 91-99% effective when taken perfectly. That means you’re taking your pill at the same time every day, not skipping days, and using alternative forms of birth control such as barriers in case a pill is missed. 

Whatever your reasons for wanting to try the pill, a doctor can help guide you in the right direction. Here’s some helpful information on birth control pills in Canada, so you can prepare for a conversation with a physician or Nurse Practitioner. 

What are birth control pills?

The birth control pill is an example of hormonal contraception. Usually, people refer to it as just “the pill.” 

Pregnancy relies on a series of biological and hormonal mechanisms. In a nutshell, hormonal contraception interrupts these mechanisms. The pill, along with other forms of hormonal contraception, either prevent ovulation or prevent an embryo from being fertilized. 

What kinds of birth control pills are there?

There are two main categories of birth control pills. 

Combination pills 

These contain synthetic versions of the hormones estrogen and progestin. The majority of pills you receive in a package contain active hormones, while a small number of pills are inactive. You don’t have to take these inactive pills as they’re only placebos. However, many women find it helpful to take the inactive pills to keep up their daily routine.

There are a few types of combination pills:

  • Monophasic — each package of pills covers a one month cycle, and each active pill contains the same amount of hormones. 
  • Multiphasic — each package covers a one month cycle, but active pills contain different levels of hormones.
  • Extended-cycle — these pills are typically used in 13 week cycles. There are 12 weeks of active pills, and one week of inactive pills. 

Progestin-only pills 

These pills contain no estrogen. Instead, their main active hormone is progestin. Every pill in a progestin-only pack is active. Progestin-only pills may be a good choice for women who can’t take estrogen for health reasons. 

How quickly do birth control pills become effective?

Combination pills will protect you from pregnancy within seven days, as long as you take the pill properly each day. If you start taking the pill on the first day of your period, you’ll be protected after only five days of taking the pill. 

Progestin-only pills will protect from pregnancy in 48 hours, whether you’re on your period or not. 

Are there side-effects of birth control pills?

Yes, there can be side-effects from birth control pills. You and your doctor should work together to review your medical history and determine the right option for you

Some side-effects women experience are:

  • Nausea
  • Tender breasts
  • Headaches
  • Non-scheduled bleeding, or “spotting”
  • Emotional fluctuations
  • Missed periods
  • Decreased libido
  • Weight gain

It’s fairly normal to experience side-effects when you’re first taking the pill. Doctors recommend that you persevere through minor symptoms for three months. If symptoms persist then it’s worth reexamining the brand of pill you’re taking.

If you’re experiencing these more serious side-effects, call a doctor right away. These symptoms can be remembered by the acronym “ACHES”.

A — Abdominal pain

C — Chest pain

H — Headaches (severe)

E — Eye problems (blurred vision)

S — Swelling or aching legs

How to get birth control pills in Canada?

Not all birth control methods require a doctor’s prescription. Some, like condoms and spermicide, can be purchased over the counter. 

You can get a prescription for birth control pills from:

  • Your family doctor
  • Sexual health clinic
  • Walk-in clinic
  • Online doctor’s visit

Many people wonder if you can buy birth control pills over the counter Canada. The answer is no, the combination and progestin-only pill can only be obtained with a doctor’s prescription. That’s because different pill brands contain unique hormone levels, which aren’t right for every woman. You need a doctor to help choose which pill makes most sense for your medical history and physiology. Your doctor will also follow up to make sure you’re not experiencing dangerous side-effects. 

You can purchase emergency contraceptive pills in Canada over the counter, such as Plan B. Emergency contraceptives contain the hormone levonorgestrel, which prevents or delays ovulation. These pills are up to 84% effective if taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex, but they’re more effective if taken sooner. 

Birth control brands in Canada

There’s no “best” birth control brand in Canada. Your doctor will recommend which pills make sense for your body and medical history. The following pills are available in Canada.

Combination pills:

Progestin-only pills:

  • Ortho Micronor 
  • Movisse 

Note that this list is not exhaustive and frequently changes due to shortages, back orders, and increased options of generic choices.

How much do birth control pills cost?

After you’ve spoken to your doctor, then comes the question of cost. How much are birth control pills in canada? The answer depends. 

Pickup from pharmacy — $20-35/month

Sexual health clinics — $7-23/month

Many health insurance providers will cover the cost of birth control pills. It’s worth checking with your personal or work benefits to see if you can get reduced cost birth control. 

Your privacy in accessing birth control

Unfortunately there’s still a stigma around asking for birth control, especially for young people. 

If you’re a youth, you can get birth control without a parent or guardian’s permission. Your doctor and clinic assistants are bound by confidentiality to not disclose anything about your visit. In fact, they can’t even confirm you were at the doctor’s office. 

Some women prefer to speak to a doctor about their contraceptive needs online. It’s a lot quicker and more comfortable than going the walk-in clinic route. 

If you’re looking to try the birth control pills, you can speak to one of our doctors from your phone, tablet, or computer. That way you get personalized medical attention, while your maintaining privacy. 

The birth control pill isn’t just a means of contraception. Some women take it to control acne, combat anemia, and even to prevent endometrial and ovarian cancer. Whatever your reasons for investigating the pill, it’s always great to have more bodily autonomy. Make sure to speak with a doctor about finding the right pill for you, so you can have maximum freedom and minimum side-effects.

See a doctor online.

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