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Oral contraceptive pill

A daily tablet to prevent pregnancy

A short-acting contraceptive method

We offer two different types of pill, each one providing different benefits.

Contraceptive pills contain hormones, similar to those naturally produced by a woman’s body. The pill needs to be taken at the same time every day to effectively prevent pregnancy. It’s ability to prevent pregnancy depends on a person using it correctly.

The two types of pill we have available have different advantages and disadvantages, depending on the woman. During a consultation, we can help you decide if one of these is right for you.

It can take between five to seven days for the pill to start working. You can use a condom or abstinence during this time. Your normal fertility will return immediately after you stop taking the pill.

Contraceptive pills are a quick, easy way to prevent unplanned pregnancies. They are extremely effective for women who are able to remember to take them at the same time each day.

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How contraceptive pills work

All types of contraceptive pill make it harder for sperm to penetrate a woman's womb and reach an egg.

Depending on the type of pill, they may also have an effect on the release of an egg each month.

To be effective as a contraceptive method, you must make sure to take the pill regularly, following the instructions provided for each product.

If you're ever in doubt, or think you may be pregnant while using the pill, please get in touch with us as soon as possible.

The progestogen-only pill

There are two types of progestogen-only or POP pill.

One type mainly works by preventing sperm entering the womb and has a 3 hour ‘missed pill’ window. The other (any pill containing desogestrel only) mainly works by preventing an egg from being released and has a 12 hour ‘missed pill’ window. Typical user failure rate is up to 9%. (Up to 9 women in 100 will have an unplanned pregnancy in the first year of use.)

Progestogen-only aftercare advice

If you start the pill after an abortion, or on the first day of a period, it will work straight away. If you start on any other day, use extra precautions or abstain from sex for 2 days. Do not stop taking it. Irregular bleeding is a common side effect and periods can also stop which is nothing to worry about.

The combined pill

The combined pill works by preventing the ovaries from releasing an egg each month (ovulation). It thickens cervical mucus so that it is harder for a sperm to reach the womb and thins the lining of the womb.

Combined pill aftercare advice

  • If you start the combined pill on the first day of a period or after an abortion, it will work straight away. If started on any other day of the cycle, extra precautions such as condoms or abstaining from sex should be used for seven days.
  • Take it for 21 days at about the same time each day, and then have a 7 day break. During the break you should have bleed but it is usually lighter, shorter and less painful than a usual period. On the 8th day, start the next pack (the starting day of the week for each pack should always be the same if you are taking it correctly). It is common to spot bleed during the first pack of pills. Do not worry, it will still be effective

Frequently asked questions about the contraceptive pill

How do I use the contraceptive pill?

  • When taking your first pill, choose a convenient time to take it. This can be any time of the day.
  • Once you've chosen a time you must then take one pill each day at this same time every day
  • The progestogen-only pill has to be taken every day. Users of the combined pill have the option to take a 7 day break and have a monthly bleed, or to skip or shorten their monthly bleed

What are the advantages of the contraceptive pill?

Advantages of the combined pill:

  • It can make your periods regular, lighter, and less painful
  • It gives you the choice not to have a monthly bleed or control when you have a bleed
  • Your fertility will return to normal immediately after the you stop using the pill
  • It is not used during sex so will not affect spontaneity
  • It helps protect against some forms of cancer (uterus (womb), colorectal, and ovarian).
  • It reduces the risk of getting fibroids, ovarian cysts and non-cancerous breast disease
  • It may reduce acne and improve your skin.

Advantages of the progestin-only pill:

  • It can be used when you are breast feeding.
  • Your fertility will return to normal immediately after the you stop using the pill
  • You can start it straight after childbirth, abortion or miscarriage
  • It is not used during sex so will not affect spontaneity
  • Your period may become lighter or stop altogether

What are the disadvantages of the contraceptive pill?

Disadvantages of the combined pill:

  • The pill has to be taken once per day. Forgetting to take the pill on a daily basis could make it fail. If you do not have a routine and think you will not be able to take a pill at the same time each day, it may not be the right method for you.
  • Some people may not be suitable to have methods containing oestrogen. Please talk to your provider about whether it is safe for you to take
  • You may get temporary side effects at first including headaches, nausea, breast tenderness and mood changes
  • Irregular bleeding and spotting may occur in the first few months of use
  • The pill may not work if you experience vomiting or diarrhoea.
  • Use of some medications, such as those for seizures (fits), HIV or for tuberculosis, can make the pill less effective. Check with your medical provider if your medications are compatible with use of the pill.
  • Condoms are the only contraceptive method which protect against sexually transmitted infections. To ensure protection from both pregnancy and infection, we recommend "dual protection". This means using a male or female condom in addition to the contraceptive method of your choice to prevent pregnancy.

Disadvantages of the progestin-only pill:

  • The pill has to be taken once per day at the same time. Forgetting to take the pill on a daily basis could make it fail. If you do not have a routine and think you will not be able to take the pill at the same time each day, it may not be the right method for you.
  • Some users develop more frequent or irregular bleeding while taking the mini pill.
  • Some users may experience headaches, breast tenderness and acne, but these symptoms generally get better within the first few months of using the pill.
  • The pill may not work if you have vomiting and diarrhoea.
    Use of some medications, such as those for seizures (fits), HIV or for tuberculosis, can make the pill less effective. Check with your medical provider if your medications are compatible with use of the pill.
  • Condoms are the only contraceptive method which protect against sexually transmitted infections. To ensure protection from both pregnancy and infection, we recommend "dual protection". This means using a male or female condom in addition to the contraceptive method of your choice to prevent pregnancy.

How good is the contraceptive pill at preventing pregnancy?

The pill works well at preventing pregnancy. However, its ability to stop a pregnancy largely depends on a person using it properly. With typical use up to 7 out of 100 users will become pregnant.

If you think you will not be able to take a pill at the same time each day, it may not be the right method for you.

What are the risks of using the contraceptive pill?

The pill is associated with some rare risks. For most people the benefits outweigh the possible risks. Your provider will ask you questions to check whether you could be at higher risk (e.g. if you smoke, have high blood pressure, or are overweight etc.).

There are some rare risks associated with the contraceptive pill:

  • Development of a blood clot in your leg or lungs
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke

Find your best fit

If you’re unsure what method is best for you, take our online contraception quiz.

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Marie Stopes Kenya Eden Square Complex, Chiromo Road, Westlands 1st Floor, Block 1 P.O. Box 59328 – 00200 Nairobi, Kenya Tel +254 (0) 721 488607

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