Birth control pill package icon
Birth control pill 
  • 91% effective
  • Take daily
  • Prescription required
  • Contains hormones
  • No STI/STD protection
  • Lighter periods


What is it?
  • The birth control pill is a small tablet with a combination of hormones that you take daily to prevent pregnancy.

  • Birth control pills come in a pack, and you swallow 1 pill every day.

  • There are multiple types of birth control pills.

  • If used perfectly, the pill is 99% effective in preventing pregnancy. But people aren’t perfect. So, in reality, the pill is 91% effective.1
  • The pill contains the hormones estrogen and progestin to stop you from getting pregnant.

  • The hormones in the pill work by:

    • Stopping your ovaries from releasing eggs. When eggs aren’t released, you can’t get pregnant.

    • Making the mucus in your cervix too thick for sperm to pass through. This prevents sperm from meeting an egg.
  • You can get a prescription for birth control pills at your medical facility.
  • In the United States, the average cost for one month’s supply of the pill is $50. The cost may vary depending on where you live.

  • Kaiser Permanente members may be able to get birth control pills at low or no cost.2
  • Swallow 1 pill each day at the same time.

  • After you finish the pack of pills, immediately start a new pack the next day.

  • Make sure you fill your prescription for the pill on time so you don’t miss a day.

  • If you forget to take 1 pill, take it as soon as you can.

  • If you forget to take 2 pills, take 1 as soon as you can and take your next pill at the usual time. You should also use condoms for the next 7 days.
  • The birth control pill is 91% effective in preventing pregnancy. That’s because people don’t always use it correctly or take it on time.

  • You may have more regular, lighter, shorter, or less painful periods.

  • The pill helps prevent or lessen acne, period cramps, and iron deficiency.

  • It’s temporary. You can stop using it whenever you want to try getting pregnant.

  • The pill decreases your risk of endometrial and ovarian cancers.
  • The birth control pill doesn’t protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs/STDs), including HIV. Even if you take the pill, you should use a condom every time you have sex to reduce your chances of getting or spreading STIs.

  • In the first few months, you may have nausea, spotting between periods, or breast discomfort. This usually goes away after 2 to 3 months.

  • The pill can change your level of sexual desire.

  • Some people may experience mood changes, bloating, or headaches.

  • If you don’t take the pill on schedule every day, you’re more likely to get pregnant.

  • Blood clots in the veins or arteries are a serious, but uncommon, side effect of using the birth control pill. Blood clots can lead to serious conditions like stroke, heart attack, and deep vein thrombosis.


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© 2019 Kaiser Permanente

1“Birth control pill,” Planned Parenthood,, accessed August 13, 2019.

2Costs are dependent on your policy terms. For questions about your coverage, please call Member Services or view your benefit coverage documents.