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Combined Oral Contraceptive Pills: Mechanism of Action, Advantages and Disadvantages

Last updated: Aug 28, 2014 Post in Gynecology in Brooklyn by Century Medical & Dental Clinic.

Hormonal contraception is an efficient and one of the most widely used birth control methods. It is available in the form of

  • Oral medications containing either estrogen and progestin hormones together or progestin alone
  • Patches applied over the skin surface,
  • Rings inserted in the vagina, injections
  • Specialized devices that are positioned inside the uterus

Combined Oral Contraceptive PillsCombined Oral Contraceptive Pills: Mechanism of Action, Advantages and Disadvantages

Traditionally oral contraceptive medications come in two types of packs, a 21-day pack and a 28-day pack.  In case of a 21-day pack, you take the medications for 21 days of the menstrual cycle and then for the next seven days you don’t take any kind of medications. In case of a 28-day pack, you take the hormone-containing medications for the first 21 days and for the next 7 days you take a dummy pill to help you develop a habit.

Mechanism of action

COCPs contain estrogen and progestin that work together to produce the following effects

  • COCPS inhibits the release of the egg, thus preventing the pregnancy despite being sexually active.
  • Cervix produces a secretion called mucus. An adequate passage of the sperm across the female reproductive system all the way to the uterus requires this cervical mucus to be soft and flexible. COCPS, make it thick and more hostile for the sperm, thus preventing its passage.
  • COCPS also inhibits the process of attachment of the fertilized egg to the wall of the uterus.


  • Highly effective medications for birth control that will produce the results if you use them as directed by the doctor
  • Cause reversible contraception. Thus, if you have planned to start a family at some point, you can stop using these medications any time.
  • Decrease the risk of menstrual irregularities.
  • Decrease the risk of problems occurring secondary to hormonal imbalances such as acne and excessive hair growth.
  • Prevention of ovarian and uterine tumors
  • Minimize the symptoms experienced by women occurring before the menstrual cycle.


  • Taking a pill every day at a specific time: For effective contraception, you are supposed to take these medications at a specific time every day that may not be always possible.
  • STD:  An ideal contraceptive should also provide protection against sexually transmitted diseases in addition to its primary effect of contraception. OCPS, however, lack this effect.
  • Drug interference: You may be using medications for other conditions you are having. Using them in conjunction with certain medications can decrease their efficacy significantly.
  • May cause problems such as headache, tenderness of the breasts as well as abdominal bloating

To find out if the combined oral contraceptive pill is right for you, come to Century Medical and Dental Center (Downtown Brooklyn, Gravesend, Flatbush, Fort Greene and Midtown Manhattan) to speak to our gynecologist.

SHARE THIS POST Page Updated on Aug 28, 2014 by Dr. Dvorkina (Primary Care Doctor) of Century Medical & Dental Center
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