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Combined Pill

Oral Contraceptives - "The Pill"

The Pill is a tablet containing synthetic hormones and taken on a daily basis. When absorbed into a woman’s bloodstream it prevents the release of the egg from the ovary, thickens cervical mucous, which hinders the passage of sperm, and thins the lining of the uterus which minimizes the chances of fertilization. The freedom the Pill gives has been of enormous psychological benefit to women since the 1960’s. The pill is available in most countries throughout the world, if you live in the US or surrounding Islands it can also be purchased online. More information.

The combined Pill contains synthetic forms of the hormones estrogen and progestogen which interfere with the woman’s regular 28 day menstrual cycle. When the Pill keeps the hormone level artificially constant, the signal to ovulate is canceled out. Between them, the two hormones stop you from getting pregnant. The main way in which they do this is by stopping your ovaries from releasing an egg (ovulating) each month.

Oral contraceptives should be taken each day at approximately the same time for maximum effectiveness.

  • if the pill is forgotten one day it should be taken as soon as remembered and the normal routine resumed;
  • for two days in a row take two the day remembered and two the next;
  • if the pill is taken more than 12 hours late at any point during the cycle another form of contraception must be used or intercourse avoided for the remainder of the cycle;
  • if three or more consecutive pills are missed the packet for that cycle should be thrown away and a new packet started after the next menstrual period.

It is important to use another form of contraception during the first two weeks of the next prescription.

The Pill’s effectiveness can be affected by the following:

  • certain antibiotics
  • diarrhoea
  • forgetting pills
  • vomiting

Before the Pill is prescribed a thorough medical examination should be carried out by your health professional to check blood pressure, breasts and pelvis. This form of contraception is not recommended for women who have a history of:

  • angina pectoris
  • blood clots in the legs or lungs (thrombosis)
  • diabetes and heart disease
  • high blood pressure
  • obesity
  • smoking
  • tumors in the breast or sex organs
  • unusual, undiagnosed vaginal bleeding
  • varicose veins

as the following serious side effects can occur:

  • heart attacks (coronary thrombosis)
  • strokes
  • thrombosis (clotting) in the leg veins, possibly leading to a clot in the lung
AdvantagesDisadvantages
no interruption between foreplay and intercourseSide effects*
may decrease menstrual cramps and painchanges in body chemistry
highly effective reduction in blood levels of folic acid, Vitamins B6, B12, and C***
regular menstrual cycle
decreased menstrual flow
predictable menstrual cycles
provides some protection against tubal infection called PID (pelvic inflammatory disease)
reduced risks of certain diseases**

*side effects include:

  • abnormal blood-clotting
  • bloating
  • breast tenderness or enlargement
  • chance of circulatory problems is greater in women who smoke or are over 35
    danger to a developing fetus if oral contraceptives used immediately before pregnancy
  • formation of tumors
  • gall bladder disease
  • headaches
  • heart diseases
  • improvement or worsening of acne
  • increased or decreased sex drive slightly increased risk of breast cancer, cancer of the cervix and a very rare type of liver cancer that has been linked to the Pill
  • light or missed periods
  • moodiness or depression
  • nausea
  • spotting between periods
  • stroke
  • vomiting
  • weight gain or loss
  • yeast infections

Symptoms may often be alleviated by switching to a different type of pill.

** Reduces risk of:

  • benign breast diseases
  • developing bowel cancer
  • cancer of the endometrium
  • iron-deficiency anemia
  • cancer of the womb
  • fibrocystic breasts
  • iron deficiency anemia
  • ovarian cancer
  • ovarian cysts
  • Pelvic Inflammatory Disease

*** Pill users should eat more foods containing these vitamins or take dietary supplements.

Call your medical practitioner immediately should the following occur:

  • abdominal pain (severe)
  • bad headaches
  • chest pain
  • coughing up blood
  • eye problems (vision loss, blurring, or flashing lights)
  • numbness or weakness in arms and legs
  • severe leg pain in calf or thigh
  • shortness of breath
  • shortness of breath
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