How does it work?

The combined pill is usually just called the pill.  It contains two hormones (estrogen and progestogen) which are similar to the hormones women naturally produce.

The main way the pill works is to stop the ovaries from releasing an egg each month (ovulation).  It also thickens the mucus in the cervix preventing sperm reaching the egg and thins the lining of the uterus so it is less likely to accept a fertilised egg.

What are the advantages?

  • If taken according to instructions the pill is over 99% effective
  • It can make your periods more regular, lighter and less painful
  • It can reduce the risk of cancer of the ovary, uterus and colon
  • When you stop using the pill your fertility will return to normal

Are there any disadvantages?

  • You may get temporary side effects including headaches, nausea, irregular bleeding and tender breasts
  • There may be a small increased risk of thrombosis, breast cancer and cervical cancer
  • If you have missed pills, had vomiting or diarrhoea the pill can be less effective
  • The pill does not protect you against sexually transmitted infections so you may need to use condoms too.

Where can I get it?

You can get the pill from your GP or local sexual health clinic