Birth Control Pills

You’ve prob­a­bly heard of the Oral Con­tra­cep­tive Pill – usu­al­ly just called The Pill.’ Depend­ing on the type you use, it’s a com­bi­na­tion of the hor­mones estro­gen and prog­es­terone, or just progesterone.

You need to get a pre­scrip­tion for the Pill from your health care provider’s office or clin­ic. There you’ll decide which kind to use (there are two main types, and also dif­fer­ent strengths, pro­grams, and brands). A pre­scrip­tion for the Pill can be filled at any pharmacy.

How to use it

You’ll take one pill a day for either 21 or 28 days. The first 21 pills in both types of packs con­tain hor­mones. If you have a 21 pack, start a new pack after 7 days off. In the 28 pack, the last 7 pills don’t con­tain hor­mones. They are only there to help you to remem­ber to take a pill every day. When the last day of your pack­age is fin­ished, you start a new pack. It’s impor­tant to take your pill around the same time every day to ensure that your hor­mones are kept steady. Pick a time that fits into your sched­ule so that it becomes an easy habit to keep.

How it works

The hor­mones in the Pill pre­vent preg­nan­cy by doing three things: 1) mak­ing cer­vi­cal mucus thick­er to stop sperm from enter­ing the uterus, 2) stop­ping the ovaries from pro­duc­ing eggs (ovu­la­tion), and 3) thin­ning the wall of the uterus so that a fer­til­ized egg won’t be able to implant.


Over 97 – 99% effec­tive when used cor­rect­ly. It’s less effec­tive if you don’t take the Pill at the same time every day or if you have vom­it­ing or diar­rhea. Talk to your health care provider if you’re on any oth­er med­ica­tion, because some of these can inter­fere with your birth con­trol. Some of the ones that might affect your pills the most are:anti­con­vul­sants (phe­no­bar­bi­tal, car­ba­mazepine, etho­sux­imide, pheny­toin, prim­i­done); antibi­otics (ampi­cillin, peni­cillin, grise­o­ful­vin, chlo­ram­pheni­col, metron­ida­zole, neomycin, nitro­fu­ran­toin, tetra­cy­cline, rifampicin);antacids; seda­tives, hyp­notics, and tran­quil­iz­ers (ben­zo­di­azepines, bar­bi­tu­rates, chlo­ral hydrate, glutethimide, meproba­mate); and cer­tain oth­er drugs (phenylbu­ta­zone, anti­his­t­a­mines, anal­gesics, antimi­graine prod­ucts). Your doc­tor, nurse, or phar­ma­cist will be able to tell you for sure.


Besides pre­vent­ing preg­nan­cy, the Pill will keep your men­stru­al cycle reg­u­lar and may reduce your men­stru­al flow, cramps, acne, and dark body hair. It may also help pre­vent osteo­poro­sis (weak­en­ing of your bones). The Pill is also reversible – short­ly after you stop tak­ing it (or in rare cas­es up to a year) ovu­la­tion will occur and you should get your peri­od in four to six weeks.


The Pill doesn’t pro­tect against HIV or STIs. You could expe­ri­ence side effects in the first few months, such as bleed­ing between peri­ods (spot­ting), ten­der breasts, headache, nau­sea, weight gain, or decreased sex dri­ve. If any of these symp­toms per­sist after the first three months or you’re con­cerned about some­thing, speak to a health­care pro­fes­sion­al. Due to seri­ous car­dio­vas­cu­lar side effects, peo­ple on the Pill are high­ly advised not to smoke. Those who have cer­tain health dis­or­ders or a his­to­ry of blood clots will not be pre­scribed the Pill.

Cost and coverage

The Pill is cov­ered by most pri­vate health insur­ance plans, but you should know that if you use your parent’s drug plan, they may be able to see that infor­ma­tion. The Pill is also cov­ered by:

  • EIA/​social assistance
  • FNI­HB (First Nations sta­tus) – You can call 2049838886 to make sure no one else can see your prescriptions.
  • Man­i­to­ba Phar­ma­care – If you have a Man­i­to­ba Health card and have no oth­er cov­er­age, there’s a good chance you can apply for Phar­ma­care to cov­er a good por­tion of your drug costs. Click here for more information.

If you don’t have any cov­er­age, you may be able to get the Pill for free from your health care provider’s office or clin­ic, or you can call Women’s Health Clin­ic (2049471517) for infor­ma­tion on their free/low-cost birth con­trol pro­gram. Oth­er­wise, the cost to just pur­chase the Pill is gen­er­al­ly between $11 and $27/​month in Win­nipeg (depend­ing on the brand, etc.).*

* This infor­ma­tion is up-to-date as of 2019.