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Pill reminders – Can they help you take your pills on time?

pill reminders

Pill reminder and pill-tracking app is the new mantra used by researchers to improve medication adherence in patients.  

A 2016 poll conducted by Popit Research Labs showed that around 40% of voters relied on their memory to track their pill usage while almost 60% used some form of external pill reminder. Also, multiple studies are suggesting the rise in medication non-adherence due to forgetfulness. There is clearly a need for an external source to keep track of one’s medication usage.

pill reminders

Popit Research Labs, 2016

Do pill reminders work?

With the rise in pill reminder solutions, the first question that pops into your mind is – Do pill reminders actually help? Can they help you take your medications on time? 

According to a randomised clinical trial done in 2018, to check the impact of medication reminder apps to improve medication adherence in a Coronary Heart Disease study, adherence improvement for app users seemed to be ~7.2%. It was concluded that patients who used medication reminder apps had better medication adherence compared to those with usual care.

A study by Cochrane on interventions for medication adherence in the elderly concluded that behavioural and educational interventions along with the aid of simple strategies such as using pill reminders may lead to greater satisfaction in medication management in the elderly.

In a poll conducted by Popit, almost 50% of the users confirmed they have some kind of reminders for pills and they find these useful in tracking their pills for birth control. In a clinical pilot together with a leading university hospital, their pill reminder solution was able to reduce missed pills by over 80% and help build a solid routine around pill-taking.

pill reminders

Popit Research Labs, 2016

Which is the most effective pill reminder?

With the internet being flooded with various pill reminders apps and medication trackers, how do you know if these are effective or not?  Does it really make sense to invest in one? If yes, then which one?

Pill dispensers are cheap, but using a pill dispenser is more or less relying on your memory. On the other hand, smartphone alarms are free, but most people end up ignoring these alarms as constant notifications can get annoying after a while.

smart sensing device could be another option that you can rely on. This is the world’s first and only tracker for a pill blister that comes with built-in sensors. It can sense when you pop a pill off the blister and notifies you only when you miss a pill. Which means, if you take the pill, you don’t get the daily annoying reminders. Also, there is no manual input needed to keep a track of your pill usage. 

We compiled a comparison chart so you can evaluate which solution is best for you.

pill reminders

Pill Reminders

How do pill reminders help?

Medication cannot work as intended if it is not taken as prescribed. Consistency and taking pills according to guidance play a key role in any treatment.

Some of the cases where pill reminders have proven to be beneficial include:

1. Avoiding unwanted pregnancy 

pill reminders

The risk of pregnancy with a typical birth control pill use is 9% and the pill is 99% efficient only when used perfectly.

By perfect use, it means you have to take the pill every day without fail. You must also take it at the same time day after day. In a recent survey conducted by Popit, more than 1 in 12 women on the pill may have experienced an unintended pregnancy due to missing a pill.

2. Medication adherence in chronic health conditions

Medication non-adherence in chronic health conditions is a recognized public health problem. According to a study conducted by NCBI on unintentional non-adherence of prescribed medication, more than 60% of the test group forgot to take their pills on time.

3. Improved parental or caregiver medication adherence 

To keep a track of someone’s medication is more challenging than managing one’s own treatment. You can easily manage this when you have an app that can notify you whenever they miss their pills.

So, do you need one?

Pill Reminders

Evolution of pill reminders

From the humble reminders such as markings on a calendar to smart sensing devices, pill reminders have evolved over the years. This also confirms the need for an external source to track pill usage apart from relying on one’s memory. Multiple studies are also supporting this claim saying it could be one of the ways to improve adherence in patients.

Pill reminder solutions are usually a one time purchase and cost less than a good pair of sneakers. They are the most reliable alternative to ensuring you take your medicines on time and stay on track. These can also be a thoughtful gift for your loved ones. For, after all, there is no greater gift that you can give or receive than to stay healthy or investing in the good health of your loved ones. 

(In a clinical pilot – DOI: 10.15761/COGRM.1000217, conducted by a team of doctor’s including Henna Kärkkäinen, MD, Ph.D, Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics, Heikki Matero Ph.M, Janne Sahlman MD, Ph.D at the Kuopio University Hospital, it was concluded that an on-demand reminder system increases adherence of birth control pill users. More details regarding this study can be found here. )

Birth Control Pills And Sex Drive. Do Pills Lower Libido?

There has been a lot of speculation about the effects of birth control on women’s libido. However, scientists have come to discover that the elements that drive a woman’s desire to have sex are not compatible with scientific methods. The research into the relationship between birth control pills and sex drive has continuously produced different results.

The science on birth control pills and sex drive

An analysis of the research studies conducted on this topic shows that most women reported no link between birth control pills and their sex drive. However, there are various ways in which the contraceptives can alter your bodily functions which can cause you to lose interest in sex.

Hormonal abnormalities

Many scientists consider testosterone to be a sex drive hormone. Estrogen, which is common in many birth control pills, has been linked to a reduction in testosterone levels in the body. This is because estrogen contributes to the increase of sex hormone-binding globulin. It traps some of the testosterone in the body.

In a study appearing in the Journal of Sexual Medicine scientists found that the level of sex hormone-binding globulin in women taking birth control pills was four times higher than in women who had never used hormonal contraceptives.

Another factor that might lead to lower testosterone levels is the lack of ovulation. Most oral contraceptives work by releasing hormones into the body that mimic pregnancy. In return, this helps to prevent pregnancy by preventing ovulation. However, some women experience a rise in the testosterone levels mid cycle. The increase in testosterone causes some women to experience a spike in their sexual desire.

However, since ovulation does not occur when taking birth control pills, there is no spike in testosterone. Therefore, a person might miss this rise in sexual appetite once they get on the pill.

 

Birth control pills can affect lubrication

One of the side effects of low-dose birth control is that it can make it harder for a woman to get wet. Although this is not a sign of low sex drive, it does affect some women’s ability to get turned on.

Challenges in research

It is really hard to pin down what low sex drive means to different people. For some, it might mean that they are not that into it. Others might be repulsed by the thought of having sex. This is one of the reasons why studies keep giving different results on the connection between birth control pills and sex drive.

What to do if your pill is affecting your libido

If you feel that there is a link between your birth control pills and sex drive, then you should switch to another pill or method. Read on for information on both.

Switch to another pill

The beauty of oral contraceptives is that they come in different varieties. If your birth control is not working for you, you can switch to another pill with the help of your physician.

Pills containing drospirenone are known to be anti-testosterone. If your pills contain it, you can switch to a pill that has levonorgestrel which is considered to be pro-testosterone.

Switch to another method

If pills just aren’t working for you, you can opt for an alternative birth control method. An IUD is a good option since it does not prevent ovulation. The copper IUD may even be better since it is not hormonal.

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Missed, Forgotten Or Late Birth Control Pill – Effects and Remedy?

 

Missed forgot late birth control pill effects

The birth control pills are the most used means of contraception but can be easily forget to take. Birth control pills are easiest to use since they are taken orally and are effective over 99 % of the time.

Can there be side-effects to forgetting to take birth control? One quite common side-effect is spotting, but it is also possible to get pregnant because of a missed pill.

For one missed pill this isn’t a very likely scenario, but it’s better to play it safe and stay consistent.

Gynecologists prescribe birth control pills according to the requirements and needs of the taker. They are available in various packs but the most used are those which contain 21 pills and 28 pills and are to be taken on a daily basis.

But many times you simply might just forget to take the daily dose. Forgetting birth control pills is actually quite common.

Here’s a compilation of instructions from the internet on what to do if you’re on the combined oral contraceptive pill.

If you are less than 24 hours late, you can take it without any delay as soon as you remember

  1. Less than one day late:
    If you have not taken your pill and are less than 24 hours late you can take it without any delay as soon as you remember. No additional contraceptive protection or emergency contraception is required.
  2. Two days late (24h to 48h):
    Take the missed pill as soon as possible. The remaining pill should be taken according to the usual schedule as well. This means you might need to take two pills at the same time. With most birth control pills you will not require additional contraceptive protection or emergency contraception. Read the leaflet that came with your pills to make sure.
  3. Three days late or more (more than 48h):
    Take the most recent pill as soon as possible and continue with the remaining pills at the usual time. If you are to have sexual intercourse, apart from the pill you need to make sure you use other contraceptive means such as condoms, IUD’s etc. for the next seven to ten days to be extra careful. Consider also emergency contraception.

Also, if you miss three or more pills in the third week, finish the hormonal pills in the package and discard the placebos. Start a new sheet the next day.

To sum it up:
Understand that sticking to your pill schedule is very important and measures should be taken to remember.

If by any chance you miss a pill or two, take those pills along with the ones that are scheduled.

Missing three pills usually means you may need to alter the pill routine by discarding the placebos. Also emergency contraception might be needed.

Sticking to your pill schedule is very important and measures should be taken to remember

Don’t panic and don’t worry. Go the extra mile and use other contraceptive measures as well. Just to make sure, consult your doctor or physician for instructions.

Most women have some kind of a reminder for pills. What do you think about reminder apps?

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References and useful sources for further information:

Morning After Pill And Its Options

We all know the morning after pill, but there are a range of emergency contraception options available to women whose other contraception has failed, who are not on birth control, or who did not use contraception during sex. Even if you are on birth control, you may still need emergency contraception after having sex if you did not take the birth control pill on time. What types of emergency birth control methods exist and when should you take them?

Hormonal – The Morning After Pill

The first type of emergency contraception is hormonal. These pills are often referred to as the “morning after pill” and usually contain a mixture of estrogen and progestin (or, in some cases, just progestin). The sooner after unprotected sex these pills are taken, the more effective they will be, though some are effective up to five days afterwards.

Where to get the morning after pill?

Hormonal emergency contraception is usually available over the counter, from a pharmacy, without a prescription. In the past, a woman would have to speak with her doctor before being able to get one of these pills. Today they are more readily available.

The two brands on the market are Levonelle (take within 72 hours of sex) and ellaOne (120 hours). Even though the manufacturers have established maximum times, it is always best to take the morning after pill as soon as possible after sex.

IUD

The second type of emergency contraception comes in the form of a copper IUD. If you have an IUD inserted less than seven days after unprotected sex, it can be very effective at preventing pregnancy. What this method does is to make the uterus completely unreceptive to sperm. If inserted before ovulation, it will kill off the sperm before it can meet an egg. If inserted after ovulation, it will make it impossible for a fertilized egg to actually implant itself in the uterus.

This is the most effective type of emergency contraception, but usually has to be inserted at a doctor’s office that has a qualified medical professional and access to the IUD. Read here about the the pros and cons of having an IUD.

When Can I Use Emergency Contraception?

Some women will use emergency contraception in the place of more traditional contraception like condoms or birth control pills. Emergency contraception is actually not as effective as birth control and other contraception methods, making it very important for a woman not to rely expressly on that as her only method of preventing pregnancy. Emergency birth control should definitely be used if you’ve forgotten to take the (combination) pill more than two days in a row (with mini-pills already after 3 hrs), if a condom broke or leaked or if no birth control was used at all.

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6 Effective Ways to Remember the Birth Control Pill

Unless you have a fool-proof system or the memory of an elephant, you’ve most likely forgotten your birth control pill at some point during your prescription. We listed some effective ways to remember birth control pills.

Forgetting actually seems to be very common. According to a survey done by Popit in 2016, almost 80% of women had forgotten to take the birth control pill at least once within the last 12 months. That’s not surprising given that the pill needs to be taken each day. Combine this with a busy lifestyle and perfect compliance can be tricky or downright impossible to achieve.

Why is it then important to be diligent with birth control pills? There’s obviously the anxiety that not-remembering brings, but these two statistics really make you think:

Take the pill according to prescription and there’s a 0.3% chance of unintended pregnancy. Take it in a “typical fashion” (occasional forgetfulness) and the chances go up to 9%! That’s a 30x jump.

So that you would not remember and think less about what to do if you forget, we’ve compiled a list of useful tips to remember The Pill.

 

6 Effective Ways To Remember Birth Control Pills

1. Smartphone alarm

Set a daily alarm on your smartphone. You can also change the alarm tune to something that you connect with birth control – like a song about babies

Have two alarms just in case, the other being set some 15-20 minutes later. It’s just too easy to dismiss and forget the first one when you’re in the middle of doing something important.

2. Visual reminders

Keep the pills where you can see them daily, like the bedside table, kitchen counter, next to your hair brush etc.
Post-It notes to the rescue! Attach one of these with appropriate writing to your bathroom mirror or any place you’re sure to see during daily routines. Could also be your outside door.

One especially creative way we’ve seen has been to attach glow-in-the-dark stars on the ceiling above the bed to jog the memory every night.

3. Piggyback on an existing habit

Determine which are the daily habits you very rarely – or at all – break. A good example could be brushing the teeth: place the pill sheet next to your tooth brush.

4. Help from friends

Share an online reminder with your girlfriend or significant other. That way if you didn’t remember, they may remind you (and vice versa).

5. Cross it off

Mark the daily pill into your calendar (yes, the PAPER one) or cross off the date. Sometimes the act of writing makes you remember better.

6. Apps

Install one of the many reminder apps. The functionality is basically the same as with a smartphone alarm or calendar reminder. Just get ready for needless reminders when you’ve already popped your pill for the day.

What kinds of methods do you use to remember the pill? Let us know in the comments.

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References:
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ejsp.674/abstract
https://www.reddit.com/r/TwoXChromosomes/comments/2h9v47/i_was_having_trouble_taking_my_birth_control/
http://www.gurl.com/2012/12/18/birth-control-pills/

How Women Use Birth Control Pills

Early this year we did a study in the US with 500 women using birth control pills. Here are some of the results in an infographic.