What to consider when choosing a contraceptive pill

The large number of contraceptive pills on offer these days might leave your head in a spin. With so much choice available, it can be hard to know where to even start your search. However, by getting to grips with the basic facts, you should be able to narrow down your options and find the perfect pill for you - taking into account your age, health, lifestyle and preferences. Bear in mind there may be a little trial and error involved too. Lots of women test a number of pills before they find one that they’re completely happy with.
Combined pills
The most popular option is the combined pill. Unless you’re over 35, are breast feeding or have a medical condition such as a history of blood clots, the chances are your doctor will start you off on one of these pills. They contain a mixture of synthetic forms of the hormones progesterone and oestrogen. The pills either come in packs of 21, like Cilest, or packs of 28. If you got for the latter option, you will take seven inactive pills after finishing each course of 21 active pills. The advantage of this is that you won’t get out of the habit of taking a daily contraceptive.
Most combined pills are monophasic, meaning all of the 21 active pills in each pack contain the same level of hormone. However, some contain pills with different levels of hormone in. If you opt for one of these, you’ll need to make sure you take your pills in the correct sequence.
Combined pills are associated with a range of advantages. For example, they can help to make your periods lighter and less painful and they usually lead to regular bleeds. They can also reduce premenstrual symptoms. In addition, research suggests they may cut the risk of cancer of the uterus, ovaries and colon.
On the flipside, it’s important to be aware that these contraceptives can lead to temporary side-effects at first, including nausea, headaches, mood changes and breast tenderness. They can also lead to a rise in blood pressure. Meanwhile, if you have a history of blood clots, migraines or heart or liver disease, combined pills may not be suitable.
Low dose
Low-dose combined pills are another option. These contraceptives contain less oestrogen, meaning they can limit a range of side effects associated with the hormone, including nausea, sore breasts and headaches. However, bear in mind that they cause a higher rate of irregular bleeding.
Mini pill
If you’re 35 or older, you smoke or you’re overweight, a mini-pill may be a better option. Also called progesterone only pills, they don’t contain oestrogen. This contraceptive is taken every day without any breaks. One of the major advantages of the pills is the fact that they don’t raise blood pressure. They can also be taken if you’re breastfeeding.
However, most of these pills have to be taken within the same three-hour window each day. Also, the pills don’t tend to regulate periods as effectively as combined versions. Around four in every ten of the women who use this form of contraceptive experience irregular bleeds.
Pills that treat acne and hair growth
There are also pills intended to clear excessive hair growth and severe acne. For example, the contraceptive Dianette can be taken for this purpose. However, this shouldn’t be used as a long-term birth control option. The pills are usually only taken for six months or until the acne or hair growth has cleared.

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