About routine contraception
How does the pill work
There are two main types of contraceptive pill the mini-pill and the combined pill. Most of the combined pills (but not all) are taken for 21 days, and are followed by a pill-free week during which you should have a withdrawal bleed or 'period'. Other pills, including the mini-pill, are taken continuously for 28 days at a time.
- The mini-pill works by stopping ovulation or by thickening the mucus in the cervix which prevents the sperm reaching the egg
- The combined pill works by preventing ovulation and by making it difficult for sperm to reach an egg, or for an egg to implant in the lining of the womb
How does the patch work?
The patch (Evra Patch) is placed on a clear section of skin, is changed every seven days and is worn for 21 days in total, after which you have a seven day patch-free period and should experience a withdrawal bleed.
The patch delivers a continuous level of hormones (progesterone and oestrogen) into the bloodstream through the skin. The patch works in the same way as the combined pill by preventing ovulation and by thickening the mucus in the cervix which makes it difficult for the sperm to reach the egg.
How does the ring work?
The ring (Nuvaring) is inserted into the vagina for 21 days, and then removed for a seven day ring free break, during which you should have a withdrawal bleed or 'period'.
The ring delivers hormones (progesterone and oestrogen) into the body via the vagina. The ring works in the same way as the combined pill by preventing ovulation and by thickening the mucus in the cervix which makes it difficult for the sperm to reach an egg and an egg to implant in the womb.
What are the alternatives to the contraceptive pill?
Some women would rather not have to take a pill everyday and opt for a long-acting reversible contraceptive (LARCs) which remove user action - meaning once it is in place you don't have to do anything for a long period of time.
Examples of LARCs include: the intrauterine device (IUD) and the intrauterine system (IUS) which are types of coils and sit in the womb, the Depo-Provera injection and the implant (or bar).
All LARCs are fitted by a healthcare professional. The IUD can last for up to ten years, the IUS for up to five years, the bar three years, and the injection must be repeated every three months.
Can the doctor recommend a different pill?
Yes. Please take the following steps:
- Select the contraception you are currently taking and start the consultation which is in the form of a questionnaire.
- When asked if you have any side effects, say "Yes" and tell the doctor why you want to change contraception.
- You will be asked if you want to change contraception. Select “Yes”.
- Complete the assessment, and the doctor will reply to you with advice on the most suitable contraception for you.
- Make sure you check your patient record to see the doctor's message.
Remember before taking an assessment for the combined pill you will need to have your blood pressure checked by a pharmacist.
I have never taken the pill before can I use your service?
Yes. You just need to let the doctor know that you haven’t taken the pill before during the questionnaire.
- Please select the contraception you think you would like to order (the doctor will advise if this isn't suitable)
- The questionnaire will ask you if you are currently taking it - this is where you should select “No I have never taken this contraceptive”
- You will then be asked if you want further advice, please say "yes" and the doctor will get back to you with further contraceptive advice once you have completed the consultation
Remember that if you are ordering the combined pill you will need to have your blood pressure checked by a pharmacist before completing the assessment.