What is it?
A pill containing a combination of hormones called oestrogen and progestogen, which are very similar hormones produced by the body naturally. It is normally taken for 21 days followed by a 7 day break.
How does it work?
It works by stopping the body producing an egg (ovulating) every month. It also thickens the section around the opening of the womb (cervix) making it difficult for sperm to move through and reach an egg. It makes the lining of the womb thinner so it is likely to accept a fertilised egg.
How effective is it?
If it is taken properly it is over 99% effective. This means that out of 100 women taking it for one year less than 1 woman will get pregnant. Some medication as well a diarrhoea and vomiting can stop the pill working. Remember – it is very important to take the pill properly or there may be a high risk of pregnancy.
- If you remember to take it properly you do not have to worry about contraception while you have sex.
- It can help sort out period problems including painful and heavy periods and PMT.
- It may protect you from cancer of the ovaries, cancer of the womb and some pelvic infections.
- It may also reduce your risk of fibroids, ovarian cysts and breast disease that is not caused by cancer.
- Initially women taking the pill may notice symptoms such as headaches, feeling sick, sore breasts, gaining or losing weight, bleeding between periods or mood changes. If these side effects last more than three months then trying another type of pill may help.
- The pill may increase your blood pressure.
- Taking other types of medication at the same time e.g. antibiotics may reduce the pills effectiveness so always ask whether any other medication given will affect the pill.
- Diarrhoea and vomiting can also stop the pill from working.
- The pill does not protect you against sexually transmitted infections so we would always advise you to use condoms as well.
The pill can have some rare but serious side effects these include:
- An increase risk of developing a blood clot that can block a vein or artery.
- An increased risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer.
- An increased risk of developing cervical cancer.
- An increased risk of developing a very rare liver Cancer.
However risks of health complications due to pregnancy are much higher.
Is the pill suitable for all women?
The pill is not suitable for all women.
At the Family Planning Clinic we will take a detailed medical history to find out if the combined oral contraceptive pill is safe and suitable for you.