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    What's the best contraceptive pill for me?

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    1. Is the combined pill right for you?
    2. Is the mini pill right for you?
    3. Does the contraceptive pill help with acne?
    4. Do you forget to take your pill?
    5. Where to get the contraceptive pill

    Best contraceptive pill

    There are so many different brands out there that it can often be difficult to know the best contraceptive pill for you.

    This guide aims to provide an overview, and to answer some initial questions like the different types of pills, how the pills work and who they might be suitable for. However, it should not be used as a substitute for a doctor’s consultation. You should always seek a doctor’s advice before taking the pill or changing brand (click here for our online contraceptive pill service).

    All types of contraceptive pill are equally good at preventing pregnancy: they can have a 99% success rate if they are always used correctly.

    Is the combined pill right for you?

    The combined pill is safe for lots of people, and unless you have any of the specific issues mentioned later on, the combined pill (commonly known as ‘the pill’) is probably the best contraceptive pill for you. 

    The combined pill is the most common type of contraceptive pill and it's estimated that around 100 million women worldwide use it. 

    Benefits of the combined pill

    The combined pill:

    • gives you regular periods
    • reduces period pain and heavy periods
    • may help to relieve premenstrual symptoms

    Combined pill brands

    The most common brands of the combined contraceptive pill are:

    Side effects of the combined pill

    Although the combined pill suits most women, like all medications it can cause some side effects, such as:

    • Mood swings
    • Nausea
    • Sore breasts
    • Headaches

    But some people experience more severe side effects like increased risk of blood clots, stroke and liver disorders. But these are rare. 
    If you do experience side effects on the combined pill, a low dose pill such as Gedarel 20 might be a contraceptive option for you. These types of contraceptive pill contain both oestrogen and progestogen, but with a lower dose of oestrogen compared to the regular combined pill. This means that oestrogen-related side effects are often reduced. If you’re over 35 and a smoker, you experience migraines or have a family history of breast cancer, you might be advised not to take the combined pill. It might increase your risk of certain conditions and the mini pill might be a better option. 

    Find out more about taking the combined pill here

    Is the mini pill right for you?

    As just mentioned, if you're over 35 and a smoker or you’re breastfeeding, overweight, experience migraines or have high blood pressure, you might not be able to take oestrogen, which is in the combined pill. The mini pill might be the best contraceptive pill for you as it contains only progestogen, meaning that women who cannot take oestrogen can use it.

    Benefits of the mini pill

    Unlike the combined pill, the mini pill will not raise your blood pressure, but it may not control your periods in the way that the combined pill does. 40% of women who take the mini pill have irregular bleeding. Bleeding may be irregular, light, more frequent, last longer or stop altogether. This may settle down and isn’t harmful. If you have any concerns, speak to your doctor or nurse. Changing to a different mini pill may help. 

    The mini pill is also taken every day; there is no seven-day break as there is with the combined pill. If you take a break, you will not be protected. Another important difference to the combined pill is that, in most cases, the mini pill allows you only a three hour window in which to remember to take the pill. If you take the mini pill more than 3 hours after you usually take it, you will not be protected against pregnancy.

    One of the exceptions to this rule are Cerazette and Cerelle, which are the most popular brands of mini pill. They offer a 12-hour window in which you can take your pill, so if you suffer from any of the above, Cerazette or Cerelle may be the best pill for you. 

    Mini pill brands

    The most popular mini pill brands are Cerazette and Cerelle, but other brands include Noriday and Norgeston.

    Side effects of the mini pill

    Generally, people experience less side effects on the mini pill, as you don’t get the oestrogen-related symptoms. However, like with all pills, there is a potential for side effects, common ones include:

    Find out more about the mini pill here

    Does the contraceptive pill help with acne?

    Generally speaking, combined contraceptive pills are ‘skin-friendly’. Yasmin is a popular brand of the combined contraceptive pill, sometimes thought of as being particularly ‘skin-friendly’. However, there is evidence to suggest that it carries a higher risk of blood clots in the legs and lungs than older generation combined contraceptive pill brands. 

    ‘Skin-friendly’ pill brands

    These days, it’s often Lucette that’s prescribed to women looking for a pill that might help with their acne. Lucette is the generic version of Yasmin and contains the same active ingredients. 

    This is because the hormones in the pill can help balance hormone levels in the body, this in turn can prevent acne flare ups caused by changing hormone levels during your menstrual cycle. 
    You can find out more about the pill and acne here

    Do you forget to take your pill?

    Many women find that remembering to take the pill around the same time each day can be difficult. Failing to do so can cause ‘spotting’ and reduce your protection against pregnancy.

    You may want to consider long-acting methods of contraception, such as:

    If you are interested in these methods you should see your GP or family planning clinic.

    Or you may want to consider other ‘routine’ types of contraception like the contraceptive patch or a vaginal ring. These are combined contraceptives and work in similar ways to pills, but you don’t have to remember them daily.

    The contraceptive patch

    The patch is a combined contraceptive which is placed on your skin and replaced once a week. You change the patch every week for three weeks, then you can have a four or seven-day break without a patch. Or you can choose to have no break at all.  

    The patch delivers the hormones into your body through your skin.

    Find out more about the patch here

    The contraceptive ring

    The vaginal ring (also a combined contraceptive) is a small plastic ring placed inside the vagina for three weeks. You leave it in for 21 days, then remove it and have a four or seven-day ring-free break. You'll remain protected against pregnancy during the ring-free break. Or you can choose to have no break at all. 

    You then put a new ring in for another 21 days. If you are uncomfortable with the idea of putting it in and taking it out yourself, this might not be the best contraceptive for you.

    Find out more about the ring here

    Where to get the contraceptive pill

    All the types of contraceptive pill mentioned, as well as the patch and vaginal ring, are available through our convenient online service.

    Alternatively, you can book an appointment with your GP or family planning clinic to get a prescription.

    Looking for contraception?

    Visit our contraception service


    References

    patient.info/sexual-health/hormone-pills-patches-and-rings/progestogen-only-contraceptive-pill-pop
    pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23384741/
    https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/combination-birth-control-pills/about/pac-20385282
    https://www.sexwise.org.uk/contraception/progestogen-only-pill-pop
    https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/contraception/the-pill-progestogen-only/

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