Combined Pill

THE BASICS

What is it?


Combined pills contain the hormones estrogen and progesterone.

Some brands contain 21 pills with hormones and 7 without hormones (placebo pills). Your period comes when you’re taking the hormone-free pills. Newer brands have more hormone pills. Other brands have fewer (or even zero) placebo pills.

How well does it prevent pregnancy?

An effective form of birth control, but not as reliable as implant, hormonal IUD, copper IUD, or sterilization for men or women.

About 7 out of 100 women using combined pills get pregnant in a year of use.

HOW DOES IT WORK?

Prevents the release of an egg from the ovaries each month (ovulation). Progesterone also thickens the mucus in your cervix. This stops sperm from entering the uterus. The lining of the uterus also becomes thinner.

WHAT ARE SOME PRODUCT NAMES?

Many brands and generics are available.

PROS

  • Effective birth control.
  • Sex can be spontaneous.
  • Safe to breastfeed while using combined pills. Make sure your milk supply is good before you start taking the pills.
  • Reversible. Stop taking the pills if you want to try to get pregnant.

CONS

  • You need to remember to take your pill every day. If you don’t, you could become pregnant.
  • If privacy is a concern, you may prefer another method.
  • Not safe if you are a smoker over age 35.
  • No-go with some health issues:
    • History of blood clots (deep vein thrombosis or venous thromboembolism)
    • Breast or endometrial cancer
    • Stroke
    • Coronary artery disease
    • High blood pressure
    • Serious liver disease
    • Migraine with aura
    • Advanced diabetes or lupus

POSSIBLE CONCERNS

Possible side effects (mostly short-term) include:

  • Breast tenderness
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Weight gain

EXTRA BENEFITS

  • Can reduce heavy menstrual bleeding, painful periods, and anemia.
  • Can allow you to have periods less often than once a month. Ask your doctor how to do this.
  • Lowers risk for colon, ovarian, and endometrial cancers.
  • May improve:
    • Acne
    • Endometriosis
    • Menstrual migraine without aura
    • Irregular periods