Combined pill

The combined oral contraceptive pill is usually just called the pill. It contains synthetic (artificial) versions of the female hormones oestrogen and progesterone.

The pill is usually taken to prevent pregnancy, but can also be used to treat painful periods, heavy periods, premenstrual syndrome and endometriosis.

What are the benefits of using the combined pill?

  • It is over 99 per cent effective when taken correctly.
  • If you have heavy periods or painful periods, the combined pill can help.
  • It does not interrupt sex.
  • It reduces your risk of cancer of the ovaries, womb and colon.
  • It can reduce symptoms of premenstrual syndrome.
  • It can sometimes reduce acne.

Things to consider

  • It does not protect against sexually transmitted infections.
  • You need to take the pill every day for 21 days, then stop for seven days, and during this week you have a period-type bleed. You start taking the pill again after seven days.
  • You need to take the pill at the same time every day. You could get pregnant if you don't do this, or if you miss a pill, or vomit or have severe diarrhoea.
  • Minor side effects include mood swings, breast tenderness and headaches.
  • There's a very low risk of serious side effects such as blood clots and cervical cancer.
  • It is not suitable for women over 35 who smoke or women with certain medical conditions.
  • It can increase your blood pressure.
  • Breakthrough bleeding and spotting is common in the first few months.

Where can I get more information?

The Family Planning Association provides a range of helpful information.

My contraception tool

The FPA has developed an interactive tool that can help you find out which methods of contraception may be best for you.

The tool asks questions about your health, lifestyle and contraceptive preferences. All your answers are completely confidential and can't be linked back to you. The tool is available on their website.

Find out more