The combined oral contraceptive pill has a combination of 2 hormones. These hormones are like those produced by the body — progestogen and oestrogen.
It is safe to take this pill continuously without a 7 day break — take the 21 day hormone pills, then start a new pack straight away. This means missing the non-hormone pills and skipping your period. This is the most effective way to take the combined pill. Choose the time of day that suits you best to take the pill.
How the combined oral contraceptive pill works
It works to prevent sperm reaching the egg and fertilising it. It does this in 3 ways.
- It stops your eggs being released from your ovaries (ovulation).
- It makes it harder for sperm to reach the egg.
- It makes the uterus lining thinner so a fertilised egg can not implant.
Benefits of the combined oral contraceptive pill
If you take the pill correctly, it is over 99% effective. It can help make your periods lighter, more regular, and less painful. It may also reduce premenstrual symptoms. The pill has other health benefits, like reducing the risk of ovarian, colon and uterine cancer. The pill does not affect your ability to get pregnant when you decide to no longer take it and try to get pregnant in the future.
Side effects of the combined oral contraceptive pill
You may experience some, or none, of these side effects for the first few months:
- feeling sick (nausea) or throwing up
- breast tenderness
- mood swings
- increased blood pressure
- bleeding and spotting between periods.
Throwing up (vomiting) and having runny poos (diarrhoea) and other medicines can affect how the pill works. Talk to your healthcare provider about this.
Protection against pregnancy
If you start within the first 5 days of your period, you are protected straight away.
If you have short period cycles (23 days or less), start in the first 4 days for immediate protection as you might ovulate early.
If you start after these times, use extra protection such as condoms, for the first 7 days.