The Pill

There are 2 main kinds of the contraceptive pill – the combined pill and the progestogen-only pill. To get the pill you need to go to your doctor for a prescription or to a health clinic


The Combined Pill

The Combined Pill contains two types of hormone called oestrogen and progestogen and is often just called ‘The Pill. It will come in a packet of small tablets. There are 27 different types of combined pill available. You should speak to your doctor about which is the best choice for you. All of them are designed to stop you getting pregnant and when used properly, is over 99% effective.


  • The combined pill is 99% successful if you take it correctly.
  • No evidence that it causes additional weight gain
  • Can help reduce spotty skin on face and body.
  • Bleeding may be lighter and period pain or Pre-Menstrual Syndrome (PMS) or Pre-Menstrual Tension (PMT) is less likely.
  • You may have lighter periods while taking the pill.


  • The pill doesn’t protect against sexual infections, always use a condom with it
  • Vomiting, diarrhoea and some medicines such as antibiotics can interfere with how it works. (If any of the above happens and you have had sex, you should seek advice about emergency contraception)
  • Requires a prescription
  • Can cause temporary side effects like headaches, nausea, breast tenderness and mood swings
  • A very small number of women may develop a blood clot which can block a vein. If you have ever had a thrombosis, you should not use the pill
  • Not suitable for women with conditions such as high blood pressure or smokers over 35


How To Take The Combined Pill

  • You start the pill on the first day of your period and you must take 1 pill every day
  • You are protected against pregnancy from the first day of taking the pill
  • You take the combined pill for 21 days of the month. Then you have a 7-day break before starting a new pack. Most women have a light period during this week
  • The packs show the days of the week for each pill so it’s easy to realize if you have missed a day.
  • Some drugs may stop the pill from working – a doctor or pharmacist will advise

The Progestogen Only Pill Or Mini-Pill

The mini pill contains one female hormone progestogen. This pill is taken every day (at the same time) without a break. It works mainly by preventing sperm from getting through the fluid at the neck of the womb. It may also thin the lining of the womb preventing an egg from settling there and may prevent an egg from being released. Effectiveness depends on careful and consistent use. The mini-pill does not protect against sexually transmitted infections.


  • It is good alternative if you can’t or do not want to take oestrogen
  • It can be taken while breastfeeding
  • It can help relieve period problems


  • Must be taken at the same time every day
  • May cause irregular periods
  • May be less effective in women who weigh over 70kg

How To Take The Mini Pill

  • You usually start taking the mini pill on the first day of your period
  • You are protected against pregnancy from the first day of taking the pill
  • You take the mini pill daily for 28 days per packet
  • There is no break on the mini pill.

What To Do If You Forget To Take The Pill

  • Read the pack instructions carefully about what to do when you forget a pill
  • If you had sex and forgot to take the pill, advice should be sought on emergency contraception to prevent pregnancy
  • Not reliable if taken over twelve hours late or after vomiting or severe diarrhoea unless an extra method is used.
  • Some drugs may stop the pill from working – a doctor or pharmacist will advise

Can anyone use POP?

The Progestogen-only Pill is not suitable for all women. A doctor or nurse will ask you questions about your own and your family’s medical history, weigh you and take your blood pressure, just to check it will be suitable for you. If it is, they will probably prescribe you about 3 months’ worth of pills to take home, and explain how to take them correctly.