Why use contraception?
|Contraception is necessary if you wish to avoid an unintended pregnancy.|
|Every month a woman's ovary produces an egg. When a man ejaculates, his semen contains millions of sperm. It takes only one of these sperm to fertilise an egg and begin a pregnancy. If a couple has sex and do not take precautions, there is a high risk of pregnancy. Using contraception allows you to have sex and avoid an unintended pregnancy.|
A condom is always a good idea
|In Australia, there are more than 20,000 new sexually transmitted disease infections every year. One of the most common of these is chlamydia, which can lead to infertility if left untreated. A condom is your best protection against infections. If you use a condom and water-based lubricant every time you have sex you will have less chance of getting HIV/AIDS and many other sexually transmitted infections (STIs).|
|There are two main types of oral contraceptive pills. The combined pill contains two hormones and stops the ovaries releasing an egg each month. The progestogen-only pill (mini pill) has only one hormone and works by changing the mucus at the entrance to the womb (uterus) so that sperm cannot pass through to fertilise the egg.|
The Combined Pill
How well it works?
|The combined pill is about 99.7% effective if taken properly. Approximately 1 in 10 women (91%) taking the Pill may get pregnant. The effectiveness is reduced by irregular pill taking, diarrhoea and vomiting, or when taking medicine that may affect pill absorption. You are not protected against pregnancy until you have taken hormonal pills for seven days. It is important to not be more than 24hrs late when taking the combined pill. |
- A regular bleed with reduced blood loss.
- Acne often improves.
- Improvement or absence of PMS (premenstrual syndrome) which can cause uncomfortable symptoms and mood changes in the days before the period starts.
- Tender breasts, nausea (feeling sick) and breakthrough bleeding mainly in the first few months of taking the Pill.
- The Pill may cause some weight gain, mood changes or loss of libido in some women.
- Rare health problems.
|Serious health problems with the Pill are rare. Smoking increases the risk of harmful effects. The Pill is not suitable for women with the following conditions:|
- history of blood clotting
- unusual vaginal bleeding.
|It is suitable for women who are breastfeeding and can be continued when the baby is weaned.|
Taking the Combined Pill
- take one pill every day
- take each pill at the same time every day, or as close to it as possible
- if you forget to take a pill, take it as soon as you remember and take the next pill at the usual time the next day.
|Fertility can return and you can become pregnant if:|
- you have been over 24 hours late with taking the Pill
- you stop the pill without other forms of contraception.
|When you not be protected from pregnancy:|
- during the first packet until seven consecutive hormone pills have been taken
- if you vomit or have diarrhoea
- when taking some other medicine which may affect the pill absorption, e.g. some anti-epilepsy medications
- when you have missed taking a pill or are more than 24 hours late with taking the pill
|Continue taking your pill, but use some other form of contraception (e.g. condoms) for seven consecutive hormone pills.|
|BUT if these seven days run into the end of your packet then miss the seven inactive pills and start taking the hormone pills in the next packet. If you are not sure which pills are inactive, ask your doctor or local pharmacist, you can also telephone the Women's Health Information Centre or the Women’s Medicines Information Centre.|
Some newer types of the Pill are effective from the first day they are taken. Ask your health practitioner or local pharmacists which type you are using.
The Vaginal Ring
|The vaginal ring contains the same two hormones as in some types of the Pill. It is 99.7% effective with perfect use. As with the Pill, approximately 1 in 10 women (91%) using a vaginal ring may get pregnant. It works in the same way as the Pill to prevent an egg being released each month. The ring is placed high in the vagina and left in place for 3 weeks. It is removed for one week to allow you to have a regular monthly bleed. A new ring is then inserted. It is not listed on the PBS (Pharmaceuticals Benefits Scheme).|
The Progestogen-Only or Mini Pill
|The progestogen-only pill (POP) or the mini pill, contains one female hormone only.|
|The progestogen makes the cervical mucus thicken. This mucus then acts as a plug and prevents sperm from entering the uterus and traveling to the tube to fertilise the egg. It is 99.7% effective with perfect use but if mistakes happen, such as missed pills, 1 in 10 women (91%) taking the mini pill may get pregnant.|
In most women the mini pill will not prevent her from having a normal menstrual cycle.
The mini pill is taken daily without a break. It is important not to be more than three hours late when taking the mini pill. Back-up contraception (e.g. condoms) should be used for 48 hours when first starting the mini pill.
It is suitable for women who are breastfeeding and can be continued when the baby is weaned.
(Previously known as the Morning After Pill)
|The emergency pill is available from chemists without a prescription.|
|If you were not using contraception and you had sex when you did not plan to, or the condom broke, and you don't want to get pregnant, then you can take the emergency pill. You must start the emergency pill within three days (72 hours) after unprotected sex. However, it is more effective the sooner you take it.|
How you take it?
|The most common method of emergency contraception consists of either one or two single pills that are taken together. This method prevents about 85% of expected pregnancies.|
There are other emergency contraception methods that consist of multiple combined contraceptive pills. These are no longer recommended because they are less effective and have more side effects. All emergency contraception is more effective the sooner it is taken after sex.
Possible side effects
|Side effects are uncommon but some women get breast tenderness or headaches.|
Where to get further information
|Women's Health Information Centre|
|Ground floor, near main entrance|
Royal Women’s Hospital
Tel: (03) 8345 3045 or 1800 442 007 (rural callers)
|Medicines Information Centre (Pharmacy Department)|
|Level 1, Royal Women’s Hospital|
Tel: (03) 8345 3190
|Choices Clinic at the Women's|
|A low cost service offering advice, consultation and treatment for all contraceptive and sexual health requirements.|
Hours: Tuesday, Wednesday ,Thursday and Friday mornings
Location: Level 1 South, Royal Women's Hospital
Tel: (03) 8345 3032 to make an appointment.
|Visit the Choices Clinic service information page for more information.|
Related fact sheets
|The Royal Women’s Hospital does not accept any liability to any person for the information or advice (or use of such information or advice) which is provided in this fact sheet or incorporated into it by reference. We provide this information on the understanding that all persons accessing it take responsibility for assessing its relevance and accuracy. Women are encouraged to discuss their health needs with a health practitioner. |
If you have concerns about your health, you should seek advice from your health care provider or if you require urgent care you should go to the nearest Emergency Dept.
|Last updated Octobler 2013|