The condom and the pill aren't your only options

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The Combined Pill

What is it?

The pill is a small tablet that you swallow. The combined pill contains 2 hormones: estrogen and progestogen which are like hormones produced by your body.

The combined pill comes in 2 dosing regimens: the 21 day pill and the everyday pill. With the 21 day pill, you take one pill every day for 21 days. Then you take a 7 day break and restart your pill again. Normally you will have your period, or your withdrawal bleed, during this time.

With the everyday pill you take one tablet every day for 28 days (some of these will be placebo pills i.e. contain no hormones) then start a new pack with no break. You will have your period during the placebo pills, but bleeding may also continue into the next pack. Taking a pill every day makes it easier for you to remember as you don’t break your routine.

Depending on the type of hormone in your pill, it can also help you with other things like reducing the amount of spots you get, controlling cramps and fluid retention, so it's worth taking some time talking to your doctor or nurse to make sure that you get a contraceptive pill that works best for you and your lifestyle. Some pills can treat heavy menstrual bleeding.

How reliable is it?

Make sure you follow the packet instructions very carefully because if you miss a pill you may not be fully protected and you could get pregnant.

With “perfect use” the combined pill is over 99% effective meaning that less than 1 woman out of 100 will become pregnant in a year.1

However, because with every day “typical use” many women sometimes forget to take the pill, up to 9 women out of 100 in one year will become pregnant.1

Typical use

91% 1



  • More regular periods
  • Lighter and shorter periods
  • With some pills you may experience less premenstrual symptoms (PMS)
  • With some pills you may experience a positive effect on skin and hair
  • Reduced risk of ovarian cancer and cancer of the womb
  • Less frequent occurrence of benign breast tumors
  • Your fertility (ability to become pregnant) will quickly return to normal once you stop taking the pill


  • Some women may experience mood swings, changes in sex drive, headaches and/or bloating
  • Some woman may experience bleeding problems
  • There is a slightly increased risk of breast cancer, but this risk is very low
  • If you miss a pill, your contraceptive cover could be reduced and you may have to take additional precautions, for example using a condom. Talk to your doctor, or read the packet leaflet for advice
  • It does not protect against sexually transmitted infections

Where can I get it?

You can get the pill from a doctor, Family Planning Clinic or Well Woman Clinic. Your doctor will write a prescription for the pill and you then bring this to a Pharmacy where you can buy the pill. For Medical Card patients the pill is available on the GMS (General Medical Services).


1. Trussell J. Contraceptive failure in the United States. Contraception 83 (2011) 397–404.