The Pill

Combined Oral Contraception Pill (COC)

The combined oral contraception (COC) pill prevents the egg being released – a process called ovulation. It also thickens cervical mucus and thins the lining of the womb to prevent a fertilised egg from implanting. The COC contains the hormones oestrogen and progestogen.

Advantages

  • 99% effective if taken according to instructions.
  • Often reduces bleeding, period pain and premenstrual symptoms.
  • Your fertility will return to normal once you stop using the COC pill.
  • Taken for 21 days then break for 7 days. You will have a period in this 7 day break, it may be lighter than usual.

Disadvantages

  • Missing pills, vomiting or severe diarrhoea may make the pill less effective.
  • You must remember to take the pill every day when you are not on the 7-day break.
  • Some medicines can make the pill less effective. Your doctor or nurse will explain this in greater detail.
  • The pill does not protect you from sexually transmitted infections, so you will need to use condoms as well.

Progestogen Only Pill (POP)

The progestogen only pill (POP) contains only one hormone, progestogen. It thickens the cervical mucus to prevent sperm from meeting the egg whilst also thinning the lining of the womb. In some women, ovulation also stops.

Advantages

  • 99% effective if taken according to instructions.
  • Your fertility will return to normal as soon as you stop taking the POP pill.
  • Very low risk of serious side effects.

Disadvantages

  • Needs to be taken every day with no break.
  • Missing pills, vomiting or severe diarrhoea may make the pill less effective.
  • Periods may stop or be irregular, lighter or more frequent.
  • The pill does not protect you from sexually transmitted infections, so you will still need to use condoms.
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