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Combined Pill

The combined contraceptive pill contains synthetic versions of the hormones progesterone and oestrogen. Like other contraceptive pills, the combined pill prohibits ovulation and helps prevent unwanted pregnancy.

About the Combined Pill

The body naturally produces the hormones progesterone and oestrogen, and the combined contraceptive pill contains synthetic versions of these hormones. Taking the pill temporarily stops ovulation (an egg being released). The lining of the womb is also thinned, so if an egg were to be fertilised, it would be less likely to attach.

The combined pill is a daily tablet, and is best taken at the same time everyday to ensure you are protected. Used correctly, it is over 99% effective at preventing pregnancy. However it will not protect you from STIs, so condom use may also be advisable.

Since oestrogen can cause a rise in blood pressure, to ensure that your combined pill is safe for you to take the pharmacist will need to check your blood pressure, height, and weight before they can dispense your contraception. These checks are free and will take place in a private consultation room. For this reason, combined contraception is only available for in-store collection, so we can make sure your pill is safe for you to take.

All our combined contraceptive pills are listed below:

Advantages of the Combined Pill

There are many advantages to using the combined pill over other forms of contraception, such as:

  • it gives you regular periods 
  • it can lighten heavy periods
  • it can make periods less painful
  • it has a longer window period in which it can be taken compared to the progesterone-only pill*
  • it usually has a week's break every month, unlike the progesterone-only pill
  • it is easy to take
  • it is suitable for women who are not comfortable with the procedures involved in putting in a diaphragm, having the implant or coil inserted, or receiving the contraceptive injection

We will also provide a free blood pressure, height and weight check in the pharmacy, so that we can make sure that your combined pill is safe for you to take.

(*Most types of the progesterone-only pill - or 'mini pill' - must be taken every day with no week's break, and within the same three-hour window to be effective)

Disadvantages of the Combined Pill

While the combined pill remains the most popular form of female contraception, it is not suitable to be taken by some women because it contains oestrogen. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, over 35 and smoke, or very overweight cannot take the combined pill.

There are also certain medical conditions that render you unsuitable for the combined pill. These conditions include:

  • blood clots
  • high blood pressure
  • heart disease
  • severe migraines
  • breast cancer
  • certain types of diabetes
  • disease of the gallbladder or liver

Our pharmacists will carry out free blood pressure, height and weight checks when you go to collect your pill, so that we can make sure your pill is safe for you to take.

General downsides:

  • offers no protection against sexually transmitted infections
  • can be easily forgotten (if you forget to take 2 or more pills, you can be at risk of pregnancy and will have to use barrier methods during sex)
  • can be affected by vomiting or diarrhoea

Other Types of Contraception

If you are not suited to the combined pill, or if you simply do not like taking it, there are many other types of contraception available on the NHS. 

Other contraceptive pills

There are low-oestrogen versions of the combined pill, known as low dose pills. As low dose pills contain less oestrogen, they can reduce side effects such as breast tenderness. However, it can also lead to irregular periods.

The progesterone-only pill is suitable for women who cannot take oestrogen, but most types must be taken within the same 3-hour window every day, with no monthly break. 

Long-term hormonal contraception

The implant and the injection are two long-lasting forms of contraception. Both release progesterone slowly over a period of weeks/months (the implant typically lasts for 3 years, and the injection for 8 to 12 weeks). They are convenient, as contraception does not need to be remembered every day, however they can lead to irregular periods and breakthrough bleeding. 

The IUS (intrauterine device), commonly known as the Mirena coil, is another form of long-term hormonal contraception. It is similar to the normal coil (IUD), as it is a small T-shaped device that is inserted into the uterus, but it releases progesterone instead of copper. The IUS can lighten periods and typically lasts for five years. Some women find the insertion painful.

Barrier methods

Another option for contraception is barrier methods. Male condoms are very popular and generally effective, however female condoms can also be used - although these can be tricky to insert correctly and can slip out during sex. 

The diaphragm and the cap are flexible pieces of rubber or silicon that are inserted into the vagina with spermicide to cover the cervix (opening to the uterus). They are not the most effective form of contraception, and have to be left in for 6 hours after sex. However, some women favour the diaphragm or cap because it is non-hormonal and only has to be thought about before sex.

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