Unlike contraceptive methods like the IUD, birth control pills are a hands-on, daily affair – the same time, on-the-clock, pill-poppin’ ritual for pregnancy prevention. But once a Betty gets to the placebo pills of their pack, are they actually important? *shoulder shrug emoji* We asked our experts what happens if you decide to take a vacay from placebo pills and to explain why these are a valuable part of your pregnancy prevention plan.
Before we dive headfirst into the placebo pool, a quick refresher on how contraceptive pills work:
Birth control pills can vary widely in design, timing, and formula, but all function the same. The hormone-containing pills (some with a single hormone, a progestin, and others, a progestin + estrogen combo) prevent your ovaries from releasing an egg. They also thicken the cervical mucus, which makes it harder for sperm to reach an egg. The hormones also thin the uterine lining, making it difficult for implantation to occur if an egg does get fertilized.
A one-month supply of birth control comes in a 28-pill pack. Typically, 21 of the pills are “active”(meaning: contain hormone), while the remaining seven are your placebo pills. When taking the “inert” (as in, no hormones) pills, Betties’ periods will kick in.
No hormones? what’s their purpose then?
The Pill’s effectiveness comes down to how well you can stay on schedule. While none of its ingredients are purposed for preventing pregnancy, placebo pills allow a Betty to have a monthly period while staying on track with your daily pill.
SO… IS IT BAD IF I SKIP THEM?
Remember, placebo pills are “inert,” so if you’re taking the active pills as prescribed + they are working properly, ovulation does not occur and you stay protected from pregnancy. While skipping or forgetting your placebo pills is not medically harmful, we recommend you stick with taking them as a body-smart practice and for your peace of mind. Placebo pills reduce your margin of error, so skipping them increases the chances of botching your pill-a-day routine.
If you find yourself a pill-forgetting repeat offender, consider looping in your provider to explore what contraceptive options better match your lifestyle + preferences.
Betties, the most effective birth control is the one you are most consistent with.
The placebo pills in your pill pack are purposed for just that – reminders to keep up your BC-poppin regimen!