Inflammation (Latin, īnflammō, "I ignite, set alight") is part of the complex biological response of vascular tissues to harmful stimuli, such as pathogens, damaged cells, or irritants. The classical signs of acute inflammation are pain, heat, redness, swelling, and loss of function. Inflammation is a protective attempt by the organism to remove the injurious stimuli and to initiate the healing process. Inflammation is not a synonym for infection, even in cases where inflammation is caused by infection. Although infection is caused by a microorganism, inflammation is one of the responses of the organism to the pathogen. However, inflammation is a stereotyped response, and therefore it is considered as a mechanism of innate immunity, as compared to adaptive immunity, which is specific for each pathogen.
Progressive destruction of the tissue would compromise the survival of the organism. However, chronic inflammation can also lead to a host of diseases, such as hay fever, periodontitis, atherosclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and even cancer (e.g., gallbladder carcinoma). It is for that reason that inflammation is normally closely regulated by the body.
The combined oral contraceptive pill (COCP), often referred to as the birth-control pill or colloquially as "the Pill", is a birth control method that includes a combination of an estrogen (estradiol) and a progestogen (progestin). When taken by mouth every day, these pills inhibit female fertility. They were first approved for contraceptive use in the United States in 1960, and are a very popular form of birth control. They are currently used by more than 100 million women worldwide and by almost 12 million women in the United States. Use varies widely by country, age, education, and marital status: one third of women aged 16–49 in the United Kingdom currently use either the combined pill or a progestogen-only "minipill", compared to only 1% of women in Japan.
Combined oral contraceptive pills should be taken at the same time each day. If one or more tablets are forgotten for more than 12 hours, contraceptive protection will be reduced. Most brands of combined pills are packaged in one of two different packet sizes, with days marked off for a 28 day cycle. For the 21-pill packet, a pill is consumed daily for three weeks, followed by a week of no pills. For the 28-pill packet, 21 pills are taken, followed by week of placebo or sugar pills. A woman on the pill will have a withdrawal bleed sometime during the placebo week, and is still protected from pregnancy during this week. There are also two newer combination birth control pills (Yaz 28 and Loestrin 24 Fe) that have 24 days of active hormone pills, followed by 4 days of placebo.
Hormonal contraception refers to birth control methods that act on the endocrine system. Almost all methods are composed of steroid hormones, although in India one selective estrogen receptor modulator is marketed as a contraceptive. The original hormonal method—the combined oral contraceptive pill—was first marketed as a contraceptive in 1960. In the ensuing decades many other delivery methods have been developed, although the oral and injectable methods are by far the most popular. Altogether, 18% of the world's contraceptive users rely on hormonal methods. Hormonal contraception is highly effective: when taken on the prescribed schedule, users of steroid hormone methods experience pregnancy rates of less than 1% per year. Perfect-use pregnancy rates for most hormonal contraceptives are usually around the 0.3% rate or less. Currently available methods can only be used by women; the development of a male hormonal contraceptive is an active research area.
There are two main types of hormonal contraceptive formulations: combined methods which contain both an estrogen and a progestin, and progestogen-only methods which contain only progesterone or one of its synthetic analogues (progestins). Combined methods work by suppressing ovulation and thickening cervical mucus; while progestogen-only methods reduce the frequency of ovulation, most of them rely more heavily on changes in cervical mucus. The incidence of certain side effects is different for the different formulations: for example, breakthrough bleeding is much more common with progestogen-only methods. Certain serious complications occasionally caused by estrogen-containing contraceptives are not believed to be caused by progestogen-only formulations: deep vein thrombosis is one example of this.