Combined Contraceptive pill
What are combined oral contraceptive pills?
Combined contraceptive pill or 'the pill' is one of the most widely used methods of contraception and also one of the most effective. The pill is known as the combined oral contraceptive because it uses two different types of female sex hormones which influence the menstrual cycle to prevent pregnancy.
The combined pill is also one of the most tested prescription medications and over the years many different variants have become available to help accommodate the different hormonal tolerances of different women. This means that it's more likely that you'll be able to choose a contraceptive pill that suits your lifestyle and needs.Yasmin
How do combined oral contraceptive pills prevent pregnancy?
Combined oral contraceptive pills contain two active ingredients, which are artificial versions of progestogen and oestrogen. These hormones work together to influence your regular menstrual cycle so that it's almost impossible for you to conceive. Firstly, the contraceptive pill prevents ovulation, secondly it inhibits growth of the womb lining and thirdly it causes cervical mucus to become thicker.
The combination of oestrogen and progestogen contained in the combined pills suppresses the release of an egg from the ovaries, which means that an egg isn't released for fertilisation.
During your cycle, various hormones are released to cause your womb lining to thicken so that it's possible for an egg to attach itself and grow, however the hormones in the combined pill prevent the womb lining from thickening. When cervical mucus is thicker, sperm is prevented sperm from entering the womb.
What types of combined pills are there?
There are three different types of combined pills, that either require you to take one strength during your cycle (monophasic), two (biphasic) or three (triphasic).
Monophasic – monophasic refers to combined oral contraceptive pills that supply a single dose of hormones to your system during your cycle. These contraceptive pills should normally be taken for 21 days, followed by a seven day break, before starting your new pack. To ensure that you don't start your pack late, some monophasic contraceptives are also available in an everyday version, which means that the pill strip contains seven placebo pills, which you take during your break.
Biphasic, Triphasic and Multiphasic – Biphasic, Triphasic and Multiphasic versions of the pill require you to take different doses of hormones at different points in your cycle. This is said to provide a more natural level of hormones, potentially evening out any cyclical fluctuations that could cause side effects such as mood swings. These types of contraceptive pills are also normally taken for around 21 days of your cycle, followed by a break, although this may vary slightly depending on the pill.
What are the benefits of combined contraceptive pills?
Combined oral contraceptive pills are almost 100% effective at stopping pregnancy. If they are taken correctly, the pill can provide contraceptive cover for your entire 28 day cycle, making them a convenient alternative to barrier contraceptives such as condoms and diaphragms. The pill may also have benefits for other conditions and can in some cases be used to treat premenstrual syndrome, heavy periods, painful periods, acne, endometriosis and excessive hair growth.
What about the side effects?
Although many women are concerned about the side effects the contraceptive pill may cause, side effects are rare and not all women experience them. Side effects are more likely to appear when you first start using taking the contraceptive pill, but they tend to go away as your body adjusts to the hormones in the contraceptive. If they persist, you may wish to consider changing your contraceptive. These side effects may include headaches, nausea, breast tenderness, slight weight gain, spotting or mood changes.
Sometimes lifestyle factors can make it more likely that you may experience side effects such as smoking, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, a family history of thrombosis, high cholesterol or immobility. In these cases you may have to avoid using a combined pill or may be recommended a particular type of the pill.