Pills in a blister pack

The combined pill (‘the pill’) is taken every day, usually with a week off once a month (for a period).

It contains two hormones which are very similar to women's own hormones. 

Easy to start and stop, but can be difficult to remember to take it.

Effectiveness

Positives

  • Easy to take – one pill a day
  • It doesn’t interrupt sex
  • The pill is good at preventing pregnancy
  • It helps to make periods lighter and less painful
  • Periods will usually be very regular
  • Women can control when their period will come
  • The pill can help with acne and spots
  • Some women get bigger breasts
  • It protects against womb and ovarian cancer
  • Protects against pelvic inflammatory disease

Negatives

  • It can be difficult to remember

Possible side effects when first starting:

  • Spotting (bleeding in between periods)
  • Nausea (feeling sick)
  • Sore breasts

Other possible side effects:

  • Changes in mood or sex drive
  • Feeling more hungry

Extremely rare side effects:

  • Blood clots in the legs or lungs (2 in 10,000 women)

Most women don’t put on weight

Sometimes the pill makes women feel more hungry. Studies show that most women stay the same weight – 1 in 10 women put on weight, and 1 in 10 lose weight while they are on the pill

Women don’t need a break from the pill

It’s safe to take from teenage to the menopause (for most women).  It’s fine to have been on the pill from a young age, and for many years – there is no need for a break

You don't need to take it at the same time every day 

It's good to have a routine which reminds you to take the pill, but it works fine if a pill is taken once a day, at any time

Not all pills suit everyone

One pill might suit someone really well, and another might cause moodiness, hunger, nausea, or less desire for sex. Every woman is unique, and there are different kinds of pills available, so it’s worth trying a few different brands of combined pill to find one which suits

Women don’t need to have a period once a month

It’s safe to miss periods by taking several packets in a row without a break – blood doesn’t build up inside, because the womb lining stays thin. It can help women feel more energetic if they are not losing iron each month in a period. Find out more about periods here

The pill does not cause infertility

When women come off the pill, fertility returns to normal, meaning that it’s possible to get pregnant within a few days or weeks.  It’s important to know that it’s less easy to get pregnant as women get older – it’s harder to get pregnant over the age of 35. Find out more about infertility here

Many women are on the pill for its benefits

Even if they don't need it for contraception.  Many women find the pill fantastic for controlling period pain, and to level out the moodiness of premenstrual tension

Mood changes can happen

On the pill - e.g. depression, anger, tearfulness. Different brands of pill suit different women, so it's worth trying another if this happens

A clinic visit is needed

To check general health, family history, blood pressure, height and weight.  The pill is not suitable for some women (e.g. heavy smokers, or women whose weight increases the risk of blood clots)

What's right for you?

Good to know

The pill is excellent for controlling periods - they are lighter and less painful on the pill, and you can control when a period comes.
If you want to miss periods, you can use two or three pill packets back to back, going straight from one packet on to the next with no break.
Some women can't use the pill because of a risk of blood clots (clinics will check medical history, smoking, blood pressure and weight)

How much effort is the pill?

Women usually take one pill a day for 21 days, followed by 7 days off. During this pill-free week, there will be a bleed (like a period).  On the 8th day, women start the next packet and repeat the pattern. This means that it’s easy to predict when a period is coming. 
If the pill is taken every day it’s really effective, but it can be difficult to remember. 
Women can get the pill for free from a GP and sexual health clinics, or pay through online suppliers. Further Information about this can be found here

How effective is the pill?

It depends. If the pill is taken without missing any, or vomiting or having diarrhoea, or taking other medications that make the pill less effective, it is more than 99% effective – meaning that if 100 women take the pill for a year, less than one will have an unplanned pregnancy.  However, allowing for the ups and downs of life, it is around 91% effective – meaning that out of 100 women taking the pill for a year, around 9 will get pregnant by accident

How does it work?

Taking the pill temporarily stops the ovaries from releasing an egg each month.  It also thickens the fluid around the neck of the womb (which stops sperm getting to an egg), and makes the lining of the womb thinner so that a fertilised egg can’t settle.  For more information about how the body works, click here
If you forget to take the pill, or are late in starting a new pack, you might need an emergency pill, or an emergency copper coil.

 

What's right for you?