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GB-NON-02457 | Date of Preparation: April 2020


Combined Pill

The combined pill is often referred to as the ‘birth control pill’

The combined pill contains artificial versions of two hormones which are naturally made in the human body, oestrogen and progestogen.1 The combined pill prevents an egg being released so you can’t get pregnant.1


Combined Pill key facts

There are many different types of the combined pill available, with different combinations of oestrogen and progestogen. You need to take the pill at around the same time every day,1 so it may be a good choice if you’ve got a daily routine.


Contains two types of hormone – oestrogen and progestogen1


Needs to be taken every day, or for cycles of 21 days followed by a 7-day break (depending on type) to work properly1


Different versions of the pill are available, which may suit different women1

  • Typical effectiveness is 91%,* but more than 99% effective when used correctly1,2
  • Many women find the pill reduces bleeding and period pain, makes their periods more regular, and can help with premenstrual symptoms1
  • It may cause side effects, like headaches and mood swings (if these don't go away, you can ask to change to a different pill)1
  • If you don’t have a routine, it might be hard to take it at the same time every day1
  • Whether it works or not can be affected by vomiting or diarrhoea1

The pros and cons listed are not exhaustive. Talk to your doctor or nurse for more information.

*These are "typical" effectiveness rates, which is how effective the method is with an average person. Typical rates tend to reflect real life usage (including inconsistent and incorrect use). "Perfect" effectiveness rates are how effective the method is when used perfectly. Refer to the patient information leaflet for "perfect" use.

Common questions

Who is the combined pill not suitable for?

The pill cannot be taken by women who smoke and are 35 or older, or by women who are very overweight. There are a few medical conditions and some medicines that make the pill unsuitable. Have a chat with your doctor or nurse to find out if it’s right for you.1

How do I take it?

You take the pill at around the same time, every day, for as long as you want to avoid getting pregnant.1

Are there health risks?

Like with any medicine, there are some risks with the pill, like blood clots.1 The pill also increases your risk of some cancers while decreasing your risk of others.3 If you want to know more about this, have a chat with your doctor or nurse.

Do I have to take a break from the pill for my health?

Usually you take the pill for 21 days with a 7-day break where you bleed – depending on the type of pill you either stop it for 7 days or take an inactive pill for this time.1

Similar contraceptive types

This contraceptive is a type known as short-acting – for more contraceptives like this, click below

Progestogen-only pill

Tell me more


Tell me more

Vaginal ring

Tell me more

So what do I do now?

Now you have a few options for types of contraception that might be right for you, you should have a chat with a GP/doctor or nurse.


Sexual health clinic

Find and visit a contraception clinic near you for information about your available choices.

Find out more


Pop into your local pharmacy and ask about your options.

Find a pharmacy

GP clinic

Make an appointment with your nurse or doctor so you can chat about what options are best for you.

Find a GP

You may want to download information on your options to help with your discussion.

Download now

PDF - 0.5MB

Reporting of Side Effects: If you get any side effects, talk to your doctor, pharmacist or nurse. This includes any possible side effects not listed in the package leaflet. You can also report side effects directly via the Yellow Card Scheme at By reporting side effects you can help provide more information on the safety of this medicine.


  1. NHS Contraception Guide: Combined pill.
    Available at: (Last accessed June 2019).
  2. NHS Contraception Guide: How effective is contraception at preventing pregnancy?
    Available at: (Last accessed July 2019).
  1. Iversen L. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2017;216:580:e1–9.
  2. Merriam-Webster medical dictionary. Available at: (Last accessed September 2019).

Contraceptive Match is an awareness campaign which has been fully funded and developed by MSD.

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