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What is the combined pill?

Mostly you will hear the combined oral contraceptive pill simply being called ‘the pill’. The combined pill consists of artificial kinds of female hormones that are normally produced in your ovaries (progesterone/oestrogen). The synthetic versions of these female hormones in the pill prevent your ovaries from releasing any eggs; the combined pill stops you from ovulating.

This type of combined pill prevents pregnancy, so is a type of contraceptive, but it can also be taken to manage and treat PMS or premenstrual syndrome, endometriosis and heavy periods or painful periods.

Your IPSA Medical combined-pill consultation

During your full-length IPSA Medical combined-pill consultation, one of our female IPSA Medical physicians experienced in family planning will see you (which can be on the same day that you have booked your consultation) and examine you. She will work holistically with you, making the clinical setting conducive, so that you relax and are involved in the decision-making concerning your contraceptive choice. After talking you through all the different contraception options, if you decide on the combined pill, then your IPSA Medical specialist will counsel you regarding side effects, how to take your combined pill and about what to do when you miss taking a dose of your combined pill.

Can I get the combined pill at my IPSA Medical clinic?

Yes, the combined pill can be prescribed by your IPSA Medical physician during your full-length consultation, and she will also book any of your combined pill follow-ups at appropriate time intervals.

Family planning with the combined pill

The combined pill is over 99% effective in terms of preventing pregnancy when you take it correctly.

The combined pill should be taken daily for 21 days; you then stop taking any pills for 7 days. During the week when you take no pills, you will bleed in a similar way as when you have your period. The combined pill is then taken again each day following your 7-day break.

The combined pill does have to be taken each day and at the same time, because you can fall pregnant when you don’t. If you vomit, if you have severe diarrhoea or if you miss taking one of your pills, then you can also fall pregnant.

The combined pill is used to treat heavy or painful periods.

Breast tenderness, mood swings and headaches are minor side effects of the combined pill, and there is no real evidence for the combined pill leading to weight gain.

Serious side effects (e.g. cervical cancer/blood clots) are not very common when taking the combined pill.

The combined pill is not appropriate for women with some medical conditions (your IPSA Medical practitioner will discuss this with you) or for those who are smokers over 35.

The combined pill does not prevent STIs (sexually transmitted infections) and so using condoms is essential if STIs are a concern.

Starting your combined pill treatment

You can start the combined pill at any point during your menstrual cycle, but if you have recently had a baby, had an abortion, or suffered a miscarriage, then your IPSA Medical clinician will provide you with special guidance. Depending on the current day of your menstrual cycle, you might also have to use some additional form of contraception for the first few days of taking your combined pill.

Who can use the combined pill?

You can continue with the combined pill until reaching the menopause, as long as no medical issues arise that contraindicate continuing with the pill and you are not a smoker. The combined pill is not appropriate:

  • If you are pregnant
  • If you are a smoker over 35
  • If you are obese/very overweight
  • If you are now a non-smoker over 35, but have only stopped in the last year
  • If you are taking some medications (your IPSA Medical physician will talk you through this)
  • If you have had a blood clot (otherwise called ‘thrombosis’)
  • If you have high blood pressure, a heart abnormality or heart disease
  • If you have or have had breast cancer
  • If you suffer from severe migraine headaches (particularly if you experience auras)
  • If you have had liver disease or gallbladder disease
  • If you suffer from diabetes complications or have had diabetes for more than 20 years

Advantages of the combined pill

The combined pill:

  • Means that sexual intercourse is not interrupted
  • Makes your periods more regular, lighter and often less painful
  • Reduces your risk of womb cancer, ovarian cancer, and colon cancer
  • Reduces PMS symptoms
  • Can protect you against pelvic inflammatory disease
  • Can alleviate acne
  • Reduces your risk of fibroids, ovarian cysts, and benign (non-cancerous) breast disease

Disadvantages of the combined pill

  • Initially, you may experience temporary side effects from taking the combined pill (e.g. breast tenderness, nausea, headaches or mood swings), and if these don’t fade after a couple of months, then changing to another pill could help
  • You might experience a rise in your blood pressure
  • You are not protected from STIs
  • Issues around breakthrough bleeding/spotting are quite common
  • There are links to an increased risk of blood clots (thrombosis), breast cancer, or other serious health issues

If you are considering the combined pill as your chosen form of contraception, then book your IPSA Medical combined pill consultation today.

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