The combined pill, known as 'the pill' is a tablet that women take every day. Some types are taken for three weeks before having a week off to allow for their period and some are taken every day. The pill releases the hormones oestrogen and progesterone into the body, which prevent pregnancy
The combination of oestrogen and progesterone stops ovulation, so the ovaries don't release an egg each month. It also works by thickening mucus in the cervix, which makes it hard for sperm to pass through and fertilise an egg and the womb becomes thinner, which means if an egg were to fertilise, it couldn't attach itself to the womb.
It is over 99% effective and can help ease painful or heavy periods. It can also reduce the risk of cancer in the womb, ovaries or colon as well as fibroids, ovarian cysts and pelvic inflammatory disease.
Possible side effects include headaches, nausea, breast pain, mood swings and it may cause weight gain in the first few months. You have to remember to take it every day and it works best if taken around the same time. Vomiting and diarrhoea may prevent the pill from working. It doesn't protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs) so to have safe sex, you will still need to use condoms.
Many women up to the age of 50. However, if you are very overweight, over 35 and smoke or smoked until recently, have or had breast cancer, diabetes, heart, gallbladder or liver disease, stroke, high blood pressure, thrombosis (blood clots), migraines or are on medication, seek medical advice as the pill may not be for you.
Last updated April 20, 2018