The fun stuff
NSW Government

It seems from your questions and emails that many of you are interested in the Combined Oral Contraceptive Pill, or “the Pill”.

The Pill is a small tablet that a female takes once a day.

There are a variety of Pills available in Australia, but a single packet generally contains 21 hormone pills and 7 sugar pills. The hormone pills contain two artificial hormones similar to the natural hormones, oestrogen and progesterone. The sugar pills don’t contain any hormones but help you remember to take a pill every day.

You have a monthly bleed (like a period) when you take the sugar pills. However, you can skip your period by not taking the sugar pills and continuing to take the hormone pills in the next packet.

You might need to try a few different types of Pill before you find the one that suits you best. Let’s look at the Pill in a bit more detail.

How does it work?

  • It stops the ovaries from releasing an egg
  • Thickens the mucus at the cervix to stop sperm from moving into the uterus
  • Thins the lining of the uterus to stop a fertilised egg implanting

How well does it work?

The Pill is more than 99% effective if it’s taken properly – that means remembering to take it at the same time, every day! But in real life, it can be less effective (91%), because Pills can easily be forgotten.

What are the benefits?

  • If taken properly, it can be effective at stopping you from getting pregnant
  • Periods usually become lighter, more regular, and less painful
  • Some women use the Pill to skip their periods altogether
  • Acne often improves
  • Symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) may improve or disappear completely

What are the downsides?

  • The Pill doesn’t protect against STIs, so should be used with condoms
  • You must remember to take the Pill every day!

The Pill will not work properly if:

  • You forget to take it
  • You’re taking certain other medications at the same time (ask your doctor)
  • You’re experiencing vomiting or severe diarrhoea

Are there side effects?

Most women have very few side effects. Those who do get side effects often find they settle down within the first two to three months. You may experience:

  • Tender breasts
  • Headaches
  • Feeling sick
  • Bloating
  • Mood changes
  • Irregular spotting (bleeding)

Where do you get it?

The Pill is available at the pharmacy with a prescription from a doctor or from a Family Planning NSW clinic.

I hope this has answered a few of your questions. But, if you want to know more, you can ring 1800 451 624 between 9.00am and 5.30pm Monday to Friday to talk with a sexual health nurse. It’s confidential and free if you call from a landline.

Until next time,

Play Safe!

Nurse Nettie

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