Spotlight On: Contraception... The Oral Contraceptive Pill: Part 2
Contraception and its many different forms are a talking point for women across the country. With so many different types on the market, coupled with the fact that every woman's body is different, we take a closer look at all the options that are available to you.
This week, we again focus on the pill, in the second part of our two-part Combined Oral Contraceptive Pill feature.
Last week we explained all the basic facts you need to know about the pill: how it works, the best pill for you and most importantly, when the pill doesn't work.
Now we look at some of the myths and facts surrounding this popular form of contraception.
Will the pill stop me from getting an STI?
No the pill will not protect you from getting STI so it’s important to use condoms to prevent spreading an infection.
Will it make me fat?
Lots of research has looked into whether the pill causes weight gain and there is no evidence that the pill causes women to gain weight. For a few women, the pill can cause fluid retention which can cause weight gain. For other women, the pill can cause an increase in appetite, and obviously if you eat more, you could gain weight. If you are worried that you have gained weight on the pill, talk to your doctor about switching brands, as changing the amount of oestrogen or the type of progesterone in the pill could help.
Will it give me breast cancer?
The pill contains oestrogen, and oestrogen is one of the hormones that stimulates breast cancer. It is thought that there is a tiny increase in the risk of getting breast cancer while a woman is on the pill and that this risk returns to normal several years after stopping the pill. As breast cancer is rare in young women, this risk is still very low. It is worth noting that the pill is thought to reduce some cancers, such as womb and ovarian cancers.
Will it affect my fertility?
Taking the pill will not lead to infertility. However for some women, after stopping the pill, it can take 6-12 months for them to become pregnant. It's important to remember that not taking the pill as prescribed, or missing a dosage, can increase the risk of pregnancy mid-cycle.
Will it give me a blood clot?
There has been a lot in the media recently about certain “killer pills” causing blood clots. What are the facts? Well, the risk of a young woman getting a blood clot is pretty low, with 5 in 10,000 women likely to develop a blood clot.
If you put all these 10,000 women on the pill, about 10 of these women will get a blood clot. And if those 10,000 women all got pregnant, 29 of them will get blood clots. So, although the risk of getting a clot increases slightly when taking the pill, it is still a lot less than the risk of getting a blood clot during pregnancy… Confusing we know!
Other risk factors for getting a blood clot include smoking, being overweight, and being older than 35. Some brands of pill are seen to be safer than others at preventing blood clots, so if you are worried about this, or if you are a smoker or overweight, chat to your doctor about which pill would be the safest choice for you.
Why do I have to see the doctor for check-ups?
It is important to have regular (at least annual) check-ups while taking the pill to monitor the side effects such as high blood pressure. The doctor may also check your Body Mass Index to ensure it is safe to prescribe the pill to you and they may talk to you about smoking. If you are a smoker over 35 years of age, the pill may not be the safest option for you and the doctor may chat to you about changing to a different form of contraception.
But, but, I don’t like taking tablets….*wails*
That’s ok! The pill also comes as a patch and a ring that is inserted vaginally.
What is the Mini-Pill?
This is the progesterone only pill - there is no oestrogen in this pill. There are two of these on the market in Ireland at the moment. As they contain no oestrogen, they are a safer option for smokers, women who suffer from migraine, or women where there is a family history of blood clots.