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Hormone therapy for young women

How does this medicine work?

Hormone replacement pills (also known as birth control pills, or combination oral contraceptives, COCs) are prescribed for teens and young women for many reasons. This medicine is made up of the hormones estrogen and progesterone, which are normally produced by the ovaries. They stop ovulation (the release of an egg from the ovaries). When no egg is released pregnancy cannot occur. Protection against pregnancy does not occur until after the first two weeks of taking COCs.

This medicine also has a number of other effects that can be helpful to young women. COCs are also used to:

___ prevent discomfort with ovulation and menstruation (your period)

___ decrease heavy menstrual bleeding and anemia (low red blood cell count)

___ manage infrequent or too frequent menstrual cycles

___ replace hormones when the ovaries or pituitary gland have been damaged by radiation or chemotherapy

Other benefits:

  • decreases acne (pimples)
  • may reduce ovarian cysts
  • Reduces the risk of ovarian cancer and endometrial cancer

How should I take them?

COCs come in pill form and must be taken:

  • once every day- there should not be any days that one doesn't take a pill
  • at the same time of day (usually before bedtime for best results)
  • exactly as prescribed by your doctor or nurse practitioner

Your pills are typically packaged as one-month supplies. When you have taken the last pill in a pack, you need to start a new pack the very next day. Make sure that you have your prescription refilled before finishing a pack.

Other instructions:

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Are there any precautions about food or other medicines?

If you have nausea (upset stomach), take the pill with food, or just before bedtime.

If you have a family history of thrombosis (blood clots) you should discuss this with your health care provider before beginning COCs.

Check with the doctor, nurse practitioner, or pharmacist before taking any other prescription or non-prescription medicines, herbs, or vitamins.

What if I forget to take a pill?

Take it as soon as you remember that day, and then take your next pill at the regular time. If you forget two pills in a row, take two each day for the next two days. If you forget 3 or more pills, call your provider. If you miss pills often you may have spotting between periods.

Note: If you are using COCs to prevent pregnancy, you are not protected against pregnancy if you're late taking the pill so you should use a condom if you choose to have intercourse.

What are the side effects?

Common in the first 3 months

  • nausea (upset stomach)
  • headache
  • breast tenderness
  • spotting or bleeding between periods

Rare

  • blood clots

When should I call the clinic?

  • if any of the common side effects don't go away, or if they bother you but do not stop taking the pill
  • abdominal (belly) pain
  • chest pain
  • severe headache
  • blurry vision
  • severe leg cramps or swelling
  • signs of allergic reaction:
    - fever or chills
    - rash or hives
    - wheezing
    - trouble breathing - call 911

What else do I need to know?

You should know the names and doses of all medicines you are taking. Share this information with anyone involved in your care. Please remember to bring the medicine container when you come to the clinic or emergency department.

If you are using COCs to prevent pregnancy, you must use another form of birth control for the first two weeks. COCs do not protect against sexually transmitted infections.

Store this medicine in its original container and away from direct sunlight or heat. Do not store in humid places. Keep them out of children's reach, locked up if possible.

If too much or the wrong kind of medicine is taken, call the Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222. If your child is unconscious or has a seizure, call 911.

Questions?

This is not specific to you, but provides general information. If you have any questions, please call the clinic or pharmacy.

Children's Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota
Last reviewed 8/2015 

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This page is not specific to your child, but provides general information on the topic above. If you have any questions, please call your clinic. For more reading material about this and other health topics, please call or visit Children's Family Resource Center library, or visit www.childrensmn.org/educationmaterials.

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