Combined Oral Contraceptive pill (The pill)

This is one of the best known forms of contraception. It consists of 2 hormones – oestrogen and progesterone. There are several different brands available in Ireland. The most common brands available are Yasmin, Yasminelle, Ovranette, Mercilon, Logynon, Dianette and Cilest.

What is the Pill?

It is an oral form of contraception which consists of a tablet containing 2 artificial hormones – oestrogen and progestogen. The type of hormone and the dosage depends on the brand of pill prescribed.

How does it work?

The pill works by preventing ovulation i.e. the release of an egg on a monthly basis. By preventing ovulation and therefore fertilisation this is one of the most reliable forms of contraception available provided it is taken properly.

How effective is it?

The pill is more than 99% effective in preventing pregnancy. This is the same for all brands of the pill, regardless of whether the pill is “high dose” or “low dose”.

Who is suitable to take it?

Most women can safely use the combined pill as contraception. However women with high blood pressure (hypertension), a personal family history of blood clots, overweight women or women with a history of certain types of severe migraine are not suitable. Womens who smoke are not suitable to taken the pill over the age of 35.

Are there any side effects?

Most of the side effects associated with the pill are temporary and will resolve within a few weeks. These include mood swings, nausea, bloating, breast tenderness and enlargement. More serious side effects such as deep vein thrombosis are rare.

How do I take it?

You start the pill on either Day 1 or Day 5 of your period. If you start on Day 1 your contraceptive cover starts from that first day onwards. If you start on Day 5 the contraceptive starts to work after the first seven pills have been taken. You take 21 pills consecutively, followed by a seven day pill-free break, during which you will have a withdrawal bleed. This is much lighter and shorter than your usual period. Seven days after stopping your pills you start a new pack.

How do you get pregnant while on the pill?

Contrary to popular belief it is actually quite difficult to conceive while on the combined pill. You have 12 hours to remember to take your pill which allows flexibility. The commonest mistakes made are taking antibiotics at the same time as the pill, being more than 12 hours late taking your pill, and vomiting and diarrhoea within 4 hours of taking your pill. If you take extra precautions as described in the information leaflet of your contraceptive pill then you should be safe. These include either using condoms or continuing your pills without taking a break, depending on when the above scenarios occur in your pack.

How do I start the pill?

You need to be checked by a doctor before starting the pill. This includes a blood pressure measurement and a brief medical history. An initial prescription for three months is issued, and subsequently a maximum of six monthly scripts are issued by the doctor.