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What Types Of Contraceptive Pills Are There?

Woman looking at packet of contraceptive pills

There are two main types of contraceptive pill: the combined pill and the mini pill. If taken properly, they are both 99% effective at preventing pregnancy.

The combined pill is the most common type of contraceptive pill, whereas the mini pill is usually used by older women, or those who are not medically suitable for the combined pill.

Low dose pills are another type of contraceptive pill. This article will also discuss the vaginal ring and the contraceptive patch - although they are not pills, they work in the same way as the contraceptive pill.

If one of these methods of contraceptive pill is right for you, you can buy the contraceptive pill online from our website without having to book a doctor’s appointment.

The combined contraceptive pill

The combined contraceptive pill is commonly known as ‘the pill’. This is the most common type of contraceptive pill.

It contains the hormones oestrogen and progesterone. These prevent your ovaries from releasing an egg, as well as making it difficult for sperm to reach an egg, or for an egg to implant in the womb lining.

The combined pill is taken orally once a day for three weeks, followed by a one week gap during which you will have your period.

This type of contraceptive pill is usually taken to prevent pregnancy (it is 99% effective if taken properly), but can also be taken to treat heavy or painful periods, or premenstrual syndrome (PMS).

Some advantages of the combined contraceptive pill are:
     - it is really good at giving you a regular monthly cycle
     - it is very effective at reducing period pain, heavy bleeding and
       premenstrual symptoms

There can be disadvantages of the combined contraceptive pill. These include:
     - you have to remember to take it every day
     - vomiting and diarrhoea can decrease its effectiveness
     - it may give you mild side effects like headaches or nausea
     - it contains oestrogen which can cause a very small increase in the risk
        of developing blood clots, strokes and breast cancer
     - it is not medically suitable for all women

The most common brands of the combined contraceptive pill are:

Microgynon and Rigevidon are the most commonly used combined pills, and contain the same ingredients. Cilest is also very similar, but with slightly more oestrogen, making it more suitable for women who experience breakthrough bleeding. Yasmin is a ‘skin-friendly’ pill (aiding in the treatment of mild acne), but evidence suggests that it carries a higher risk of blood clots than the other combined pills.

The mini pill

The other main type of contraceptive pill is called the mini pill, also known as the progestogen-only pill. It contains just one hormone - progesterone - meaning that it can be taken by women who are medically unsuitable to take oestrogen.

Another difference between the combined pill and the mini pill is that the mini pill is taken every day - there is no seven day break.

The main benefit of the mini pill is that it can be taken if you:
    - are breastfeeding
    - are over 40
    - get severe migraines
    - are overweight
    - have high blood pressure
    - are over 35 and smoke

The mini pill is also 99% effective at preventing pregnancy if taken properly.

Downsides of the mini pill include:
    - you have to remember to take it every day at the same time
    - vomiting and diarrhoea can decrease its effectiveness    
    - some women experience irregular bleeding, but this usually settles after
      a few months. 20% of women on the mini pill never have a period,
      40% have regular bleeding and 40% have erratic bleeding.

Cerazette is the most common brand of the mini pill. The advantage of Cerazette over the other mini pill brands is that the user has a 12-hour window each day within which they can take the pill and remain protected. The other mini pill brands only have a 3-hour window.

Low Dose Pills

These types of contraceptive pills are combined pills which have less oestrogen than the regular combined contraceptive pill. They are a better option for older women who do not want the mini pill, and women who experience side effects on higher doses.

The Vaginal Ring

Doctor explains NuvaRing to patient

While the vaginal ring is not strictly a type of contraceptive pill, it is also hormone based, and acts in similar ways to the various types of contraceptive pills.

It is a small plastic ring placed inside the vagina. Each ring stays in place for 3 weeks. It is a combined contraceptive, so it contains both oestrogen and progesterone.

One of the main advantages of the vaginal ring over the pill is that you don’t have to remember to take it every day. However, you have to be comfortable with putting it in and taking it out yourself, and it can increase your vaginal discharge. It is also not medically suitable for everyone.

You must regularly check that the ring is still in your vagina.

The Patch

The contraceptive patch

Again, although the patch is not strictly a type of contraceptive pill it is also hormone based and acts in similar ways to the other types of contraceptive pills.

The contraceptive patch is a combined contraceptive, meaning that it contains both oestrogen and progesterone. It’s a small patch that you place on your skin and replace once a week. It is really good at regulating your periods, as well as reducing pain if this is an issue for you.

Advantages of the patch over the pill include:
    - you don’t have to remember to take it every day
    - it is not affected by vomiting or diarrhoea

Disadvantages include:
    - your skin may become irritated
    - you may experience side effects such as nausea, headaches and breast tenderness