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.

Normal female anatomy

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.

FSH and LH from pituitary gland

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 estrogen

Release of LH

The estrogen in the body causes the pituitary gland to release LH stimulating the ovary to produce a ripe egg.

Release of LH

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.

Birth control pill

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.

Progestin in pill

Revision

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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