Choosing The Right Combined Contraceptive Pill

With over 20 different types of combined contraceptive pills to choose from, it can be hard to know where to start. A few years ago the Family Planning Association said women are forced to put up with painful periods, water retention and problem skin because their doctors aren't prescribing them the right contraceptive pills. Of the wide range available, many GPs rely on the five most popular types when offering oral contraceptives.

How can I choose the right pill?

When choosing a pill, it's important to remember that everyone's body responds differently to hormones and the first brand you try won't necessarily suit your body perfectly. It is a case of trial and error with every woman, and you'll need to try a few different types of combined contraceptive pills before you'll know which suits your body.

If you've never used combined contraceptive pills before, your doctor will usually prescribe you a monophasic pill. Every type of pill has the potential to cause benefits or side effects. For this reason you should discuss any existing conditions with your doctor, because it can affect which pills are safe for you to use. If you suffer from acne, hirsutism, polycystic ovary syndrome or endometriosis, certain combined contraceptive pills can provide symptomatic relief.

Problem or side effect Choosing a contraceptive pill to help
Irregular periods

Irregular periods

All pills are known to regulate periods. Biphasic, triphasic and multiphasic pills have differing hormone levels throughout the pack to more closely mimic the natural cycle. These pills may help you to track your menstrual cycle more closely.

Acne

Acne

Avoid progestogen-only pills, as it is the progestogen in the pills that can promote sebum production. Dianette is the most commonly prescribed contraceptive pill for treating acne. Yasmin and Marvelon may also provide results for mild cases of acne.

Breakthrough bleeding

Breakthrough bleeding

Pills with a higher oestrogen and progestogen dosage, such as Yasmin, are recommended if you experience spotting or breakthrough bleeding.

Breast tenderness/soreness

Breast tenderness/soreness

A pill with a lower oestrogen dosage, such as Mercilon, may help with this problem.

Mood changes

Mood changes

Generally, lower-dosage pills are considered to be most beneficial in terms of reducing mood swings.

Endometriosis

Endometriosis

A pill with a lower oestrogen dosage and a higher progestogen dosage, such as Loestrin, may help.

Menstrual cramps

Menstrual cramps

Pills that contain higher doses of progestogen can be helpful in reducing cramps, such as Yasmin and Loestrin.

Weight gain

Weight gain

Lower dosages of oestrogen can help prevent fluid retention which can be confused with weight gain. Yasmin is often recommended for this reason.

How will I know if I've picked the right or wrong pill?

It's easy to see if the combined contraceptive pill you're using doesn't suit your body because you'll experience side effects. All kinds of oral contraceptives can cause side effects, but they should become milder with time.

If you experience serious side effects like severe abdominal pain, shortness of breath or tightness in the chest, severe headache, vision problems or leg pains, you should stop taking the pill and talk to your doctor.

You should see your doctor every few months when using a new combined contraceptive pill. This will allow your doctor to monitor your health, and allow you to discuss any side effects you've developed. It's important to tell your doctor of any side effects you've noticed, and explain if they remain or have disappeared, because this information will help them recommend alternative pills that may be better suited to your body.

If the doctor feels the combined contraceptive pill is unsafe, they may recommend a progestogen-only pill (the mini pill).

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