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Combined Oral Contraceptive Pill (The Pill)

The Combined Oral Contraceptive Pill (often called ‘the Pill’) is taken once a day and contains two hormones called oestrogen and progestogen.

There are a variety of combined Pills available in Australia and packs generally contain hormone pills and sugar pills. You have a monthly bleed (like a period) when you take the sugar pills. You may need to try a few different Pills before you find the one that suits you best.

How does it work?

  • Stops ovaries from releasing an egg.
  • Thickens the mucus at the entrance to the uterus (cervix) to stop sperm from moving into the uterus.

How well does it work?

The Pill is 99.7% effective at preventing pregnancy if it is taken perfectly, but in real life it can be less effective (91%) because pills can be forgotten or missed.

Can anyone use the Pill?

Serious health problems with the Pill are rare in all women, especially young women, but you can’t take the Pill if you have:

  • a history of blood clots in the leg or lungs
  • some health problems such as certain types of migraines, heart disease and severe liver conditions – talk to your doctor about any medical conditions you may have

What are the benefits?

  • Periods usually become lighter, more regular and less painful.
  • Some women use the Pill to skip their periods altogether.
  • Acne often improves.
  • Symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS), such as mood changes before a period, may improve or go completely.
  • Some Pills are cheaper than others.

What are the downsides?

  • The Pill does not protect against STIs but can be used at the same time as condoms.
  • You must remember to take the Pill every day. If you have difficulty remembering, you may want to set a daily reminder or alarm on your phone. Alternatively, you may prefer a long acting reversible contraceptive that you don’t need to remember to take, such as the contraceptive implant.
  • The Pill will not work properly if you:
    • are taking certain other medications at the same time (ask your doctor)
    • forget to take it
    • get vomiting or severe diarrhoea

If any of these things happen and you have sex, the Pill may not work properly. You may want to use Emergency Contraception. Another form of contraception, like condoms, should also be used until you’ve been taking the Pill correctly again for seven days.

Are there side effects?

Most women have very few side effects. Those who do experience them often find they settle down within the first few months. You may experience:

  • tender breasts
  • headaches
  • feeling sick (nausea)
  • bloating
  • mood changes
  • irregular spotting (breakthrough bleeding)

Double-up condoms with the Pill for protection against STIs and unplanned pregnancy.

Where do you get it?

The Pill is available with a prescription from a doctor or Family Planning NSW clinic.

The combined oral contraceptive pill

Contraceptive Pill