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Types of contraceptive pills available in Ireland

Types of contraceptive pills available in Ireland
4 minute read

If you’re thinking of taking the contraceptive pill it may feel confusing as to which pill may be right for you. 

 

In this post, we’ll take a look at the two main types of contraceptive pills, why they may not be suitable for you, and how to find the right pill for you. 

What are the main pill types? 

The combined contraceptive pill 

 

The combined contraceptive pill is a tablet that’s made up of two artificial female hormones, oestrogen and progesterone. 

 

When you take the pill, the levels of oestrogen and progesterone rise in your body. You usually take the combined pill for three weeks followed by a seven-day break. During this break it’s likely that you’ll have a withdrawal bleed. It’s possible to continue taking the pill during the suggested seven-day break to stop or reduce symptoms such as heavy or painful periods, headaches, and mood swings. 

 

The combined pill works by:

 

  • Stopping an egg from being released each month from your ovaries (ovulation) 

  • Thickening the mucus at the entrance to your cervix making it harder for sperm to enter your womb

  • Thinning the lining of the womb which stops a fertilised egg from implanting

 

The combined pill is very effective at protecting you against unwanted pregnancy. It is

 

  • Over 99% effective when you use it correctly. To take the pill correctly it needs to be taken around the same time every day. 

  • Over 91% effective when you use it correctly most of the time, for example, if you forget to take one pill. 

The progesterone-only pill (POP)

 

Progesterone-only pills (sometimes called the mini-pill, or POP) don’t contain any oestrogen. In Ireland, there are only two types of progesterone-only pills available, you can discuss which one is right for you with your GP. POP needs to be taken at the same time every day and you can take the pill packets back-to-back. 

 

The progesterone-only pill works by:

 

  • Thickening the mucus at the cervix which makes it harder for the sperm to enter your womb.

  • Cerazette works by stopping ovulation from happening. 

 

The progesterone-only pill is very effective at protecting you against unwanted pregnancy. It is

 

  • Over 99% effective when you use it correctly. 

  • Over 91% effective when you use it correctly most of the time.

 

Why are there different pills?

 

From a practical and medical point of view, not all contraceptive pills are suitable for all women. Let’s take a look at some of the reasons why the combined pill may not be suitable: 

 

  • You are older than 35 and smoke

  • Have just had a baby and are breastfeeding

  • Have high blood pressure

  • Have a history of blood clots or deep vein thrombosis

  • Have had breast cancer

  • If you take St. John’s wort (herbal supplement) 

 

The progesterone-only pill may not be suitable for you if: 

 

  • You have breast cancer

  • Have a liver disease

  • Have unexplained uterine bleeding 

 

Offering various brands of both the combined pill and progesterone-only pill provides you with a choice. So if you’re not able to take one type or brand of the pill your doctor may be able to suggest an alternative contraceptive pill for you. 

Do you need to change your pill?

 

You may find that you get some side effects when you take the pill, these can be unpleasant but may settle down after 2-3 months. However, if you’ve been taking the pill for a few months and you’re still experiencing side effects and would like to discuss the dose or the possibility of changing to a different pill or form of contraception, chat to your doctor or nurse. 

 

Some side effects you may experience, include:

 

  • Headaches

  • Feeling or being sick

  • Sore breasts

  • Irregular bleeding or bleeding in between your periods 

  • Changes to your mood

  • Bloating

How to find the right contraceptive pill for you?

 

After making the decision to go on the contraceptive pill, your doctor or healthcare professional will likely begin by asking you about you and your family’s medical history and will want to know about any medication you’re taking. They’re also likely to ask you questions about your lifestyle and how likely you’re able to take your pill on a regular basis. 

 

It’s important that your doctor understands why you’d like to take the contraceptive pill as not everyone will start taking the pill to protect against pregnancy. Women may take it for other reasons, for example to:

 

  • Reduce stomach cramps

  • Reduce heavy bleeding

  • Make your periods lighter or shorter 

  • Stop acne

  • Have fewer periods or control irregular bleeding

  • Help with PMS symptoms 

 

Your doctor will take the above information into account and will prescribe the right pill for you. It may take a few months for you to settle down on a particular contraceptive pill and your doctor is likely to want to review how you’re getting on. If you find that the pill you’re on isn’t working for you, talk to your doctor about other contraceptive pills that may be available. 

The bottom line 

 

There are two main types of contraceptive pills, the combined pill and the progesterone-only pill. To find the right kind of pill for you, your doctor will ask you questions about your health, lifestyle, and your reasons for wanting to take the contraceptive pill. 

 

If you’re living in Ireland and would like a quick and efficient way to receive your current pill prescription, find out how HealthHero.ie can help. 

 

This blog was written by Rebekah Louise Benfield, a women's health and wellness specialist writerfor HealthHero.ie.