Since its introduction in the 1960’s, the ‘pill’ has been one of the most effective and widely used forms of contraception.
When used effectively, the pill is over 99% effective.
The pill contains artificial versions of the female hormones oestrogen and progesterone which prevent the ovaries from releasing an egg each month (ovulation).
Depending on the type, it can also thicken the mucus in the neck of the womb to make it harder for sperm to enter or thin the lining of the womb so that a fertilised egg cannot implant itself.
The most common way to take the pill is to take 1 every day for 21 days, then have a break for 7 days during which you will bleed like a normal period.
The combined pill is appropriate for most women but there are exceptions, for example if you are a smoker, very overweight or on other medication.
The pill can cause temporary side effects at first, including headaches, nausea (feeling sick), tender breasts or mood swings. These typically pass but if they do not another pill may be prescribed.
Contrary to rumour, there is no evidence the pill will make you gain weight!
The progesterone-only pill is often prescribed to women who are older than 35 and smoke, have high blood pressure or have a history of blood clots or migraine headaches.
Unlike the combined pill, it does not contain oestrogen. Instead, the progesterone works by thicken the mucus in the neck of the womb to make it harder for sperm to enter. The desogestrel progesterone-only pill can also stop ovulation.
Again, it is 99% effective when used correctly but needs to be taken every day to be effective (without a pause whilst you bleed).
Like the combined pill, side effects are rare and typically short lived.
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