[ All about Oral Contraceptive Pills ] [ How to take the Pill ]
Is it safe?
the Pill safe? Basically, yes. But very occasionally, it can have serious
side-effects, which we’ll deal with in a moment.
For that reason, most doctors do not think that it should be ‘dished out’ to
absolutely everyone, without any need for a prescription.
So when you want to start on the Pill, you should see a doctor and have a short
The main purpose of this is to see if you have any ‘risk factors’ (see below)
which would make you more liable to heart attacks or strokes.
What is the Pill?
Pill is a tablet containing two female-type hormones – an oestrogen and a
Various different oestrogens and progestogens are used in the many different
types of Pill which are available. There are currently 23 brands on the market
What these two hormones do is to stop you from ovulating (‘producing an egg’)
each month. And if you don’t ovulate, you won’t get pregnant.
In addition, the hormones thicken the secretions round your cervix – thus making
it more difficult for sperm to get through. Also, they make the lining of your
womb thinner, so that it is less receptive to an egg.
effective is the Pill?
very effective indeed — which is why so many millions of women rely on it. If
you take it exactly as prescribed, then its effectiveness is likely to be 100
Put it another way: let’s say that 100 women use the Pill for a year, and that
all of them never forget to take the little tablet. It is likely that not a
single one of them will get pregnant.
In contrast, if they were all relying on the condom instead, then probably about
five of them would become pregnant. And if they used no contraception at all,
then at least 20 of them would fall pregnant!
So the Pill is just about the most effective method of contraception there is,
apart from sterilisation .
do you take it?
In India you’re given a pack containing 21 Pills and you take one every day for
three weeks. At the end of those three weeks, you ‘break’ for a week. During
those seven days, you’ll have your period.
It is stopping the Pill at the end of the pack that brings on the period.
After the week’s break, you start on your next packet. So it’s ‘three weeks on
and one week off’ throughout the year.
If you want to, you can set your mobile phone so that it beeps at the same time
every day, to remind you to take your Pill. Detailed instructions may be found
What are the benefits of taking the Pill?
The Pill has now been shown to have certain major health advantages:
makes your periods regular
reduces/abolishes pain during your periods
makes your periods shorter as well as lighter so you are less likely to become
improve acne if you have it
reduces your chances of getting certain cancers like cancer of the ovary,
uterus and possibly [but not completely proven] of the intestines
reduces the risk of fibroid tumours of the uterus
What are the side effects of the pill?
Many women get minor side
effects which pass off in a few cycles like:
These side-effects usually go
away after the first few packs. If they don’t, it’s very easy to get rid of them
by simply switching to another brand of the Pill.
There are some serious side
events are very rare. BUT ... they are much more likely to happen if you have
certain ‘risk factors,’ which include:
being a smoker
having a bad
family history of thrombosis or some similar illness (say, if your mother had
a heart attack at 40)
(though quite a few non-smoking diabetics do use the Pill, under careful
having a high
blood cholesterol level (hypercholesterolaemia)
migraine may become worse. I’m not talking about people who have an occasional
slight headache, like we all do. But if you have genuine migraine attacks –
particularly migraines with ‘aura’ affecting your eyesight – then in my
opinion you shouldn’t be on the Pill.
There are other
‘risk factors’ – for instance, making a very long journey in a plane or a
cramped car seat.
Does age make a difference?
Yes. The Pill is extraordinarily safe for young women
in their teens or 20s who have no ‘risk factors’ (such as smoking). But when you
get to the age of 35 or 40, the chances of having a thrombosis (clot) are
starting to increase.
In practice, there are plenty of women of 40 who take
the Pill. But as the years go by, there is more and more reason to switch to the
mini-Pill, or to some other method of contraception, such as sterilisation and
vasectomy for men.
Be 'breast aware'
Check your breasts regularly for lumps or anything
odd, particularly as you approach middle age, which is when this type of cancer
starts becoming common.
The increase in breast cancer risk is now believed to
be around 25 per cent - while you are actually on the Pill. But after you stop
using the oral contraceptive, the risk soon reduces. Ten years after stopping
the Pill, your risk is about the same as anyone else’s.
Does anything make the Pill less likely to work?
Any of the following could reduce the
efficacy of the Pill:
– especially at the beginning or end of a pack
antibiotics – notably those used for fungus infections and tuberculosis (TB),
but also commonly prescribed antibiotics like tetracyclines and amoxycillin.
In general, take extra precautions if you’re put on an antibiotic. If a doctor
wants to prescribe something for you, always tell your doctor that you’re on
What if I miss a
Try not to! Of course people do inevitably miss Pills;
it’s only human nature.
If you miss only one Pill, you’ll probably be OK; take
it as soon as you remember – and then take the next one on time (even if that
means you’re taking the two of them at the same time).
If you want to be extra-careful, you could avoid sex
for the next seven days – or take extra precautions.
But missing more than one Pill is quite risky –
particularly near the beginning or end of a packet. To avoid pregnancy, follow
the advice on the pack leaflet strictly.