Birth control pill - series
Normal female anatomy
The internal female reproductive organs include the uterus, ovaries, cervix and vagina. These organs are necessary to produce a successful pregnancy. To prevent pregnancy, birth control pills affect how these organs normally function.
FSH and LH from pituitary gland
Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) and Lutenizing Hormone (LH) stimulate the ovary into producing a ripe egg ready for fertilization by sperm during a normal ovulation cycle.
Release of estrogen
During a normal menstrual cycle, hormones stimulate the ovary causing an egg to ripen. The uterine lining thickens preparing itself for implantation of a fertilized egg and the cervical mucus thins to help sperm reach the egg.
Release of LH
The estrogen in the body causes the pituitary gland to release LH stimulating the ovary to produce a ripe egg.
Birth control pill
The lower levels of estrogen in birth control pills suppress FSH and LH, "fooling" the pituitary gland into thinking a woman is pregnant. Ovulation will then not occur, which prevents pregnancy.
Progestin in pill
The progesterone in birth control pills creates a thick cervical mucus, making it difficult for sperm to reach the uterus. It also impedes an egg from attaching itself to the uterine lining (endometrium) because of changes in the cellular structure of the lining.
Last reviewed 2/26/2012 by Susan Storck, MD, FACOG, Chief, Eastside Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound, Bellevue, Washington; Clinical Teaching Faculty, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.
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