Oral contraceptive pills are generally prescribed for women as a birth control measure or sometimes for regularising heavy and irregular periods. Today, low- dose contraceptive pills, with lesser dose of hormones, have reduced side-effects, said speakers at the medical update here on Sunday.

Combined oral contraceptives, prescribed for women who wish to prevent pregnancy, contain two hormones, estrogen and progestin. When contraceptives were introduced in 1960, the estrogen component was 100 micrograms and was associated with unexpected death.

Reduced estrogen levels

Though the levels of estrogen have reduced over the years, the pills have been associated with risk of cardiovascular disease, blood clots, cervical and breast cancer. Today, the estrogen level ranges between 20 and 35 micrograms, reducing risk of developing certain side-effects significantly, said Lakshmi Prabha, obstetrician, opening the session on contraceptive updates. The medical meet was organised by the Tiruchi Obstetrics and Gynaecological Society (TRIOGS) , Federation of Obstetric and Gynaecological Societies of India (FOGSI) and Indian Medical Association (IMA)-Tiruchi Branch. While the pills were said to increase risk of cancer, recent studies have proved it is not always so. While the risk of breast cancer as a side effect was negligible, a minimal risk for cervical cancer still existed.

A panel discussion moderated by M.Thamil Selvi discussed and suggested the prescription of pills for various case scenarios, including after an abortion or post pregnancy. Panellists and gynaecologists J.Amala Devi, president, Dindigul Society of FOGSI, A.Charmila, secretary, Tiruchi branch and Lakshmi Prabha along with physician Srinivas, GastroCare, discussed the effects of pills on women with high blood pressure, epilepsy and migraine.

The most common side-effect of combined oral contraceptive pills is nausea that many women complain of. Nausea is transitory and would pass off after the initial three months. In some women, it can prevented by taking it at bed –time. The pills can be continued till 50 years of age if there are no contraindications. P.Rajagopal, Thanjavur Medical College, spoke on the advantages of no-scalpel vasectomy for men, a surgical sterilisation procedure.