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  • What is in the Contraceptive Pill?

    Contraceptive pills contain one or more female hormones known as oestrogens and progestogens. Each type of hormone provides contraception in a different way and is suitable for different people.

    The contraceptive pill can be divided in to two broad groups. The combined pill commonly known as “the pill” contains two different hormones, oestrogen and progesterone. The ‘mini pill’ contains only the hormone progesterone. It is a good choice when the combined pill is not appropriate or in certain other circumstances that can be identified by your GP.

  • What makes the Pill a good Contraceptive choice?

    The contraceptive pill has helped many women enjoy sex without the worry of unwanted pregnancy for many years. It is very effective, if taken correctly it has a 99% success rate, and it also doesn't reduce fertility in the long term. The combined contraceptive pill also has other added health benefits; it can reduce the incidence of acne, make periods lighter, pain free and reduce spotting. There is also evidence to suggest it can reduce the risk of cancer in the womb and ovaries.

  • Can you get pregnant the first time you have sex?

    Yes, you can become pregnant any time you have sex, even from your first time. If you are thinking about having sex for the first time, you should visit your GP or local GUM clinic to discuss contraceptive options to ensure you have contraceptive cover.

  • Is withdrawing the penis before ejaculation a good form of Contraception?

    The withdrawal method is when the male removes the penis before ejaculation. Sperm can be present in lubricating fluids (pre-ejaculate) before ejaculation and in the heat of the moment it can be difficult to withdraw at the right time. This makes it is an unreliable method of contraception and it should not be attempted.

  • Apart from the Pill, what other Contraceptive choices are there?

    There are implants, a progesterone only injection, contraceptive patches, Inter-Uterine Devices (IUD) and vaginal rings. These are all hormonal contraceptives; they release oestrogen/progesterone slowly to give continued contraceptive cover.

    Non-hormonal contraceptives include condoms, dams and caps. Condoms include both the male and female variety (femidom). These contraceptive methods are generally slightly less effective than hormonal methods as they are non always convenient to use and can be used incorrectly/fail on occasions. Male and female condoms have the advantage of protecting against STIs as well as unwanted pregnancy.

    It is difficult to know what’s best for you as an individual without professional advice. For help making the right choice you should speak to your pharmacist, GP, contraceptive nurse or local GUM clinic.

  • If you have sex standing up, will this stop you getting pregnant?

    Unfortunately there is no truth in this rumour; the movement of sperm is not affected by gravity. It is possible to get pregnant in any position.

  • Condoms can split, does that mean the Contraceptive Pill is better?

    If used correctly, splitting of condoms is rare. Use a new condom every time you have sex, be careful when opening the packet as not to tear it with fingers or jewellery and make sure it is in date! 

    Condoms still provide the best protection against STI’s and using one is safer than not using them at all. Combining the pill and using a condom will not only give the best contraception protection it will also protect against STI’s which the pill won't.

  • Is the rhythm method an effective form of Contraception?

    A woman is more fertile during ovulation, which occurs during the middle of her cycle. If your cycles are regular, you can determine when you will be most fertile and avoid sex at this time of the month. However cycles can vary in length and it you can be caught out. It is not advisable to use the rhythm method as a form of contraception.

  • I have seen a drop in my libido. Can this be from the Pill?

    It is rare for the pill to affect your libido. Knowing that you are covered against unwanted pregnancy will help you relax and enjoy the moment and should have a positive effect on your libido.

  • With so many different pills, which one is the best for me?

    Your GP or GUM clinic will talk to you and then assess your individual situation. They will consider different criteria including your age, current state of health, if you are suffering from acne or migraines and if you are taking any other medication. They will discuss the different contraceptive options that are available and the ones most suitable for you. Remember, just because a friend or relative uses one method, it doesn’t mean it is also right for you.


  • Where do I go to get the Pill?

    The pill is available from your GP, contraceptive nurse or local GUM clinic. It is also available online from our Online Pharmacy for women who have taken the same pill for over a year and have had a recent pill check including a blood pressure reading.


  • Do I have to pay for the Pill or other forms of Contraception?

    The contraceptive pill and some other forms of contraception are free to all women on the NHS and they are available from your GP or GUM clinic. You can buy a repeat supply contraceptive pill privately from our Online Pharmacy for speed, convenience and discretion.

  • I had sex but forgot to take my Pill. Will I be covered or do I need emergency Contraception?

    This will depend on the type of contraceptive pill you are taking, how many pills you have missed and what stage of your cycle you are currently in. It may not always be necessary to take emergency contraception. Read the ‘Directions’ tab for your pill above for further information on missed pills. If you are still unsure please feel free to contact us for more information and advice.

  • Will my Pill be effective if I am taking antibiotics?

    It was previously recommended that if you were taking most antibiotics, that you use another form of contraception whilst you were taking them and for 7 days after. Following clinical studies being published that showed no effect on contraceptive cover by most antibiotics, this advice has now been changed. There is no need to use additional contraceptive cover when taking most antibiotics.

    The exceptions to this rule are the antibiotics used to treat tuberculosis and meningitis called rifampicin and rifabutin. These are the only types of antibiotic that make the contraceptive pill, and other hormonal contraceptives, less effective. Additional contraceptive methods, such as condoms, should be used during the course of rifampicin or rifabutin and for 7 days after it has finished.

    Other forms of contraception like the injection, IUD (Inter Uterine Device) and barrier methods will not be affected.

  • Apart from antibiotics, what other medication interacts with the Pill?

    Some anti-epileptic medication, HIV medication and St John’s Wort all decrease the effectiveness of the pill. You should inform your prescriber of any medicines you take when starting the pill and if you start any new medicine whilst taking the contraceptive pill.

  • Am I still covered by the Pill if I suffer from vomiting or diarrhoea?

    After taking the contraceptive pill, it takes roughly 3 hours for it to be absorbed fully into your system. If you suffer with vomiting or diarrhoea during the 3-hour period after taking your pill, it could mean that it has not been fully absorbed. Depending on the pill you are taking, you may need to follow the same instructions for missed tablets meaning you may not have effective contraceptive cover.

  • Is it important to take the Pill at the same time each day?

    For combined contraceptive pills it does not matter at what time you take the pill, although you should aim to do this at a regular time every day, and missing one pill wont necessarily mean you are not covered.

    For progesterone only (mini pills), they need to be taken at the same time each day or within 3 hours of that time (12 hours for Cerazette). Missing a tablet or not taking at the right time may lead to bleeding or lack of contraceptive cover.


  • What is the best choice of Pill after you have given birth?

    After birth, the production of breast milk is 98% effective in preventing pregnancy if it is done every 4 hours (this includes feeding at night). Weaning the baby off milk is a natural trigger to start your periods again.

    If you feed but not as often then a progesterone only (mini) pill is recommend as a form of contraception. Alternatively condoms and other non-hormonal methods can also be used.

    The combined pill is known to reduce the flow of breast milk and is not recommended when you are breastfeeding. It can be started after you have stopped breast feeding. 

    If you decide not to breast feed then you need to start the pill 21 days after the birth date. Additional protection is needed for 7 days if you start later than the 21st day to allow the hormone levels build up.

    You should always check with your doctor before starting the contraceptive pill or switching between pills.

  • Is it safe to stay on the Pill for long periods of time?

    There used to be theories that taking breaks from the contraceptive pill and not taking it for long periods of time was beneficial. Medical evidence now seems to suggest that in women who don’t smoke, do not have high blood pressure and are not overweight, it is perfectly safe to continue taking the contraceptive pill up until they are 45.

  • Are there risks involved with taking the Pill?

    Yes, as with all medicines, there are small risks attached to taking the contraceptive pill although these are thought to be outweighed by the benefits in younger women.

    For some women there will be a small increase in the risk of developing a blood clot, high blood pressure, and breast or cervical cancer. When the pill is stopped these risks generally slowly disappear. However, the contraceptive pill seems to lower the risk of endometrial, ovarian and colon cancer.

  • If I take the Pill, will it be harder for me to have a family when I stop taking it?

    The contraceptive pill does not reduce your fertility and you can conceive once you stop taking it. This is a lot quicker and easier than other forms of hormonal contraception. The injection, another effective form of contraception, can take up to a year to wear off and restore your fertility.


  • Can I delay my period if I am going on holiday?

    If you are taking a combined pill then you can delay your period by starting the next cycle of tablets straight away. For women who are taking the ED version of the combined pill, you will need to omit the remaining 7 inactive pills and start a new packet on the 21 active pills. Your next bleed will be at the end of your next cycle.

    You should always check with your GP before using your pill to delay your period and should never run more than 2 packs together consecutively.

    Another option for women NOT currently taking the pill is to take Norethisterone 5mg tablets, which available from our Online Pharmacy for up to 17 days period delay.

Authored By:

A photo of  Andy Boysan

Andy Boysan


Published on: 29-05-2019

Last modified on: 29-05-2019

Andy is a co-founder, the superintendent pharmacist and director at The Independent Pharmacy.

Reviewed By:

A photo of  Leanne Sinclair

Leanne Sinclair


Reviewed on: 29-05-2019

Next review date: 29-05-2021

Leanne is a clinical pharmacist with years of experience working in pharmacy.

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