What is the best contraceptive pill for me?
Contraceptive pills are tablets taken daily to prevent pregnancy. Taken correctly, they are up to 99% effective. But, because of things like missing a pill, or having diarrhoea or vomiting (being sick), on average the pill is actually about 91% effective.
There are two different types of pills available: the combined pill and the mini pill. For both types, there are many different brands available. All the different pills are almost just as effective at preventing pregnancy if taken correctly. But, some types are more suitable if you have certain health conditions or need a longer timeframe in which to take them each day.
Your doctor or pharmacist will make sure it is safe for you to take the pill before prescribing it. As different brands use different combinations of hormones, you may find that one brand works better for you than others. Working out which pill suits you best can be trial and error, based on what benefits you want to get out of the pill and the side effects you might have. We can give you pointers to help you discuss with your doctor where to start.
Most contraceptive pills need a prescription from a doctor, but two mini pills (Lovima and Hana) are available over the counter following an assessment by a pharmacist, and can be bought online conveniently with Superdrug Online Doctor.
The contraceptive pill does not protect you from sexually transmitted infections (STIs). The only way to do this is to use a condom every time you have sex.
The mini pill, also known as the progestogen-only pill or POP, is a type of contraceptive pill that only contains an artificial (man made) version of progesterone. This makes it more suitable for women who are advised not to take contraceptives that contain oestrogen, such as the combined pill. You take the mini pill every day, without taking a break. The mini pill must be taken within a specific time frame each day, either 3 hours or 12 hours depending on which brand you use.
Advantages of the Mini Pill
- Suitable for women who cannot take oestrogen (such as breastfeeding women, or women with high blood pressure)
- Safe for smokers over 35
- It can help with PMS symptoms and painful or heavy periods
Disadvantages of the Mini Pill
- Depending on which mini pill you use, you need to take it within 3 or 12 hours of your usual time every day
- It may cause temporary side effects in the first few months, such as headaches, breast tenderness, weight change and spots
- Your periods may become irregular or stop altogether. Spotting in between periods is also common with the POP. Some women may have heavier periods.
- Does not help improve acne
The combined pill contains artificial (man made) versions of progesterone and oestrogen. Due to the oestrogen it contains, it is not suitable for women who have:
- a high BMI
- high blood pressure
- some types of migraine (especially with aura)
It is also less suitable for those who smoke, especially if over 35. It also may be less suitable for women with various other conditions, which is why you must talk to your doctor before getting the pill.
On the other hand, oestrogen in the combined pill can help with period pain, heavy periods and acne. Most combined pills are taken every day for 21 days, with a 7 day break before you start the next packet. Some combined pills have dummy pills which contain no hormones, which help you stick to a routine of taking the pill daily and make it easier to remember to start your next packet on time.
- Easier to take than the mini pill, as they do not need to be taken at the same time every day.
- Can make periods lighter, more regular and less painful
- It may help PMS symptoms
- Certain brands can help with acne
- Studies have found that it reduces the risk of ovarian, uterine and colorectal cancer
- Does not affect your fertility once you stop using it
- Does not cause weight gain
- Helps with problems associated with polycystic ovarian syndrome
- Side effects including headaches, nausea, mood changes, and breast tenderness are common in the first few months of taking it
- Can increase your risk of breast and cervical cancer
- Can increase your risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT)
- It may not be suitable if you’re a smoker and are over 35 years old, have a family history of breast cancer, have cardiac problems or are very overweight