Skip to content

Nov 19 Please take part in a 4 min survey about the website by clicking here

Contraceptive pills

The Combined Contraceptive Pill (COCP)

The combined oral contraceptive pill is sometimes just called “the pill”, or the COCP . It contains a combination of two hormones: Estrogen and progestogen.

It is over 99% effective, as long as you take it regularly.  People using the COCP  usually get a regular bleed every three weeks, but you can choose to miss a bleed by taking pill packets without a break.  Some people can’t take this pill because of health conditions.

If you have run out of pills please see further information on Run out of pills or missed pills?

 

 

  • How does the combined pill work?

    The combined pill contains two hormones – estrogen and progestogen.

    These hormones work in three ways:

    • Stopping ovulation.  Ovulation is when you ovaries release an egg each month.
    • Thickening the mucus that comes from your cervix.
    • Making the lining of your womb thinner.

  • What are the advantages of the combined pill?

    The combined pill has the following advantages:

    • It usually makes your bleeds regular, lighter and less painful
    • It may help with premenstrual symptoms
    • It reduces the risk of cancer of the ovary, uterus and colon
    • It improves acne in some women
    • It may reduce menopausal symptoms
    • It may reduce the risk of fibroids, ovarian cysts and non-cancerous breast disease

  • What are the disadvantages of the combined pill?

    The combined pill has the following disadvantages:

    • You may get some temporary side effects
    • The pill may increase your blood pressure
    • The pill doesn’t protect you from sexually transmitted infections
    • For some people, the pill can cause some serious side effects (see risks below)

  • Are there any risks taking the combined pill?

    For most women, the benefits of the pill far outweigh the risks.  We will ask you some questions to make sure it is safe for you.  The pill can slightly increase your risk of a thrombosis (blood clot).  Research suggests there is a small increase in your risk of breast and cervical cancer.

  • Are there any risks to taking the POP?

    The POP is a very safe pill to take but there are some small risks.

    • Some POP users may develop small fluid-filled cysts on their ovaries. These aren’t dangerous and don’t usually need to be removed. Often there are no symptoms, but some people may have pelvic pain. These cysts usually disappear without treatment.
    • Research about the risk of breast cancer and hormonal contraception is complex and contradictory. Research suggests women who use hormonal contraception may have a small increase in the risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer compared to women who don’t use hormonal contraception.
    • If you do become pregnant while you’re using the POP, there’s a risk of you having an ectopic pregnancy
  • Where can I get the pill from?

    You can get the COCP or POP  from your GP, or from one of the Unity Sexual Health clinics.

The Progestogen-only pill (POP or mini pill)

Progestogen-only pills (POPs) contain a progestogen hormone. This is similar to the natural progesterone produced by the ovaries.

It is over 99% effective, as long as you take it regularly.

Different POPs contain different types of progestogen. POPs with a type called desogestrel are named where relevant to the information below.

If you have run out of pills please see further information on Run out of pills or missed pills?

  • What is the progesterone only or "mini" pill?

    The progestogen only pill (POP) or mini-pill is different to the combined pill.

    It only contains a single hormone – progestogen.

    It is taken every day without a break. It has different missed pill rules to the combined pill. It is often suitable for people who cannot take the combined pill for medical reasons and it is not thought to increase risk of blood clots. It is not possible to control bleeding patterns on the POP and some people may experience irregular bleeding or have no bleeding at all.

  • How does the POP work?

    The POP contains a single hormone, progestogen.

    There are different types of POP, Desogestrel and others:

    • The main action of desogestrel is to stop your ovaries releasing an egg (ovulation). Other types of POP sometimes stop you releasing an egg.
    • All POPs work by thickening the mucus from your cervix (neck of the womb). This makes it difficult for sperm to move through it and reach an egg.
    • All POPs make the lining of your uterus (womb) thinner so it’s less likely to accept a fertilised egg.
  • What are the advantaged of the POP?

    Some of the advantages of the POP are:

    • Some people cannot take estrogens, like those found in the combined pill, contraceptive patch or contraceptive vaginal ring
    • You can use it at any age, but it’s especially useful if you smoke and are 35 or over
    • It can help with premenstrual symptoms and painful periods
    • You can use it safely if you’re breastfeeding.
  • What are the disadvantages of the POP?

    There are no serious side effects with the POP. However:

    • Your periods may change- this can mean lighter periods, irregular periods, or no bleeding at all.
    • No protection against sexually transmitted infections, so you may need to use condoms as well.
    • You have to remember to take the pill at the same time every day.
    • You may get some side effects when you first start taking the POP, such as spotty skin, breast tenderness and headaches. These usually stop within the first few months.
  • Where can I get the pill from?

    You can get the COCP or POP  from your GP, or from one of the Unity Sexual Health clinics.

Locate a confidential service

Find your local Pharmacy or Clinic and book a confidential appointment.


Order a testing kit

Worried about STIs or other sexual health problems? You can request a confidential free home testing kit.

Find out More

Please provide feedback on our website