Key Facts About the Contraceptive Pill

The pill remains one of the most popular choices for contraception in the UK. It can be a simple and effective option for preventing pregnancy. Here are the key facts you need to know about the pill so that you can decide if it is right for you.

How the Contraceptive Pill Works

The pill is a type of hormonal contraception. It contains artificial versions of the female hormones that control the menstrual cycle. The combined pill contains both oestrogen and progestogen (artificial progesterone). The mini-pill only contains progestogen, so it can be used by women who aren’t able to take oestrogen.

Both kinds of contraceptive pill prevent pregnancy in the same way:

  • Preventing ovulation (the release of a mature egg)
  • Thinning the womb lining so that it’s harder for an egg to implant if you do release one
  • Thickening the cervical mucus to make it harder for sperm to reach any eggs that are released

How Effective is the Pill?

The pill can be very effective at preventing pregnancy, but it does depend on how well you follow the instructions. It might not be as effective if you miss a pill, throw up or take certain medications.

  • With perfect use the pill is more than 99% effective at preventing pregnancy
  • For a typical user, the pill is about 91% effective
  • This means that if 100 women use the pill for a year, 9 of them will get pregnant

What Happens if you Miss a Pill?

One of the most important things to understand when you’re taking the pill is that you need to be consistent. If you forget to take your pill or take it later than you should then it might not be able to protect you properly.

Generally:

  • You should still be protected if you’ve missed one combined pill (it’s been less than 24 hours since you were supposed to take it). You should take the missed pill as soon as possible and then continue with the next pill at the usual time.
  • You won’t be protected if it’s been more than 3 hours since you were supposed to take the mini-pill. You should take the missed pill as soon as possible and then continue taking the rest of the packet as usual, but you’ll also need to use another form of contraception for 48 hours.

Since there are many different versions of the combined and mini pills, you should check the pack or talk to your doctor if you have missed a pill. It’s also a good idea to discuss the effects of missing a pill with Mr Michael Stafford when you change contraception so that you will be prepared if you do make a mistake.

Extra Benefits of the Contraceptive Pill

Hormones can have lots of different effects on our bodies, so taking the contraceptive pill can do more than just prevent us from becoming pregnant. One common reason for taking the pill is that it can often improve menstrual symptoms such as period pain, heavy periods, and irregular bleeding. Your doctor might even recommend hormonal contraception as a treatment for these kinds of period problems. Hormonal contraceptives such as the pill may also be recommended if you have acne as it can often help to clear up your skin.

Side Effects of the Pill

All kinds of medication can cause side effects and the pill is no exception. Make sure that you’re aware of the potential risks of taking the pill and contact your doctor if you have any concerns.

Potential side effects of the pill include:

  • Headaches
  • Tender breasts
  • Nausea
  • Mood changes
  • Increased risk of blood clots (with the combined pill)

Most women can take the pill without any serious side effects and any minor side effects will often clear up within a few months. However, some women have to change to a different pill or type of contraception and the combined pill may not be suitable if you are already at higher risk of blood clots due to your age or other health issues.

Is the Contraceptive Pill Right for Me?

Choosing the right form of contraception is important. The pill could be right for you if you want reliable contraception and you’re happy to take it every day. However, there are lots of other options available. Make an appointment with Mr Mike Stafford at the 132 Healthwise clinic to get personalised contraception advice.

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