Contraceptive Pill

  • 93 - over 99 % Effective
  • No STI Protection
  • Daily

What is the Pill?

The Pill is a daily tablet (also known as the combined pill or oral contraceptive pill). The Pill contains two hormones oestrogen and progestogen. These are similar to the hormones that are produced by the ovaries.

Fpv Combined Pill
photo of pill packet

How effective is the Pill?

If used correctly the Pill is over 99% effective at preventing pregnancy. If you miss a pill, vomit within 2 hours of taking a pill, have severe diarrhoea or take certain medications it might only be 93% effective.

What stops the Pill from working?

The pill may not work if:

  • It is taken more than 24 hours late
  • You vomit within two hours of taking it
  • You have very severe diarrhoea
  • You are taking some medications or natural remedies. (Check with your doctor, nurse or pharmacist)

How do I use the Pill?

You take it by swallowing one pill around the same time every day. There are many different brands of the Pill. Most brands come in a 28-day pack that includes both hormone and sugar pills. It is usually recommended to start with a less expensive brand first. Speak to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist for advice. You will usually have your period (bleeding from your vagina) during the sugar pills. You can skip your period by missing the sugar pills and continuing to take the hormone pills.

illustration of person taking pill

How does the Pill work?

The Pill works by stopping the ovaries from releasing an egg each month.

illustration of eggs not being released by ovaries

It also thickens the fluid around the cervix (opening to the uterus/womb) to prevent the sperm from entering.  

illustration of mucus in cervix

When you start the Pill for the first time or after a break it can take up to 12 days to start working to prevent pregnancy. This depends on whether you start with the hormone pill or sugar pill. Speak with a doctor, nurse or pharmacist about the best way to get started.    

Where can I get the Pill?

Your doctor will write you a script which you can take to your pharmacy. Some brands may be more expensive than other brands.Some brands will be cheaper if you have a healthcare card.

What is good about the Pill?

  • It can be used to skip your period
  • Periods usually become lighter, more regular, and less painful
  • Acne can improve
  • Chance of getting cancer of the uterus (womb) and ovaries decrease
  • It can help with symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and endometriosis
  • Once stopped your fertility quickly returns to normal

Are there any side effects from taking the Pill?

Possible side effects for a small number of users can include:

  • Irregular vaginal bleeding
  • Nausea
  • Sore/ tender breasts
  • Headaches
  • Bloating
  • Changes to your skin
  • Mood changes

These side effects often settle with time. The Pill has not been shown to cause weight gain.

Can the Pill cause any serious health problems?

The Pill causes a very small increase in your chances of a deep vein blood clot/thrombosis, heart attack or stroke.

Reasons why The Pill might not be a good option for you:

  • Find remembering a daily tablet difficult
  • Have certain types of migraine headache
  • Are very overweight
  • Have a close family member who has had a deep vein blood clot/thrombosis
  • Are taking certain types of medication which might stop the pill from working (check with your doctor, nurse or pharmacist)
  • Have had some health conditions like high blood pressure, heart or liver disease (check with your doctor, nurse or pharmacist)
  • Are over 35 years and smoke
  • Have been treated for breast cancer
  • Are unable to move around for a long time (for example because of surgery or disability)

What if I miss the Pill?

  • Take the missed pill as soon as you notice (this may mean taking two pills on the same day)
  • Continue to take your pills as normal
  • Use condoms for the next seven days
  • If you have had sex without a condom in the seven days before missing a pill, you may need emergency contraception or start a new pill pack in the hormone section. This depends on where you are up to in the pill packet (check with your doctor, nurse or pharmacist)


What happens if I get pregnant while I’m taking the Pill?

The Pill won’t harm the pregnancy. It is safe to continue the pregnancy (and stop the pill) or to have an abortion.

Can I take the Pill after I’ve had a baby?

If you are breastfeeding the Pill cannot be used until your baby is six weeks old. After six weeks you can use the Pill but other types of contraception might be better choices.

What if I’m taking the Pill and I want to become pregnant?

You can stop the Pill at any time and your fertility will quickly return.

What else should I know about the Pill?

  • The Pill does not protect you from sexually transmissible infections (STIs).
  • If you run out of pills and cannot see a doctor for a new script, speak to a pharmacist. Some pharmacists will give you a small supply of pills without a script if you show them your old pill packet.
  • The Pill is one of many types of contraception. See other options     

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Where to get more information, support or advice


Translated factsheets

The Pill - Arabic

The Pill - Chinese

The Pill - Hindi

The Pill - Vietnamese

This is general information only, you should speak to your doctor for advice and further instruction.

Last updated: 28 June 2018