Every Question You've Ever Had About The Pill - Answered
I recently wrote an article about late period anxiety and found that one response was universal: a lot of us are confused about The Pill. Can you miss one? How do they work? Are you actually covered in that 7-day break-period? These all seem like simple questions, but I wasn't 100% sure on any of them. So, I popped down to my local Sexual Health Clinic and a kind lady called Pat gave me the low down on what it's all about...
What are the different types of pill?
There are two types:
1) The combined pill: two hormones, oestrogen and progestogen, work together to 1) prevent egg release and 2) create a mucus barrier at the entrance to the cervix. Think of it as a two-pronged security system: one stops the egg turning up, the other stops the sperm coming in.
2) The progestogen-only pill: more-hormone friendly and relies on method number 2) the mucus barrier. An egg may be released into your cervix, but the progestogen is a bitchy door girl; she's not letting any unwanted sperms in.
Should I take the pill at the same time every day?
Whilst this is advised with both pills, it is far more critical to take a regimented approach if on a progestogen-only pill. Keep your door girl regularly fed and hydrated — you don't want her wandering away from her post.
Why are Yasmin and Dianette 'bad'?
Many UK sexual clinics have stopped issuing these particular contraceptives. This is because they can cause blood clots, and although doctors will ask you if you're prone to these, they're relying on YOU to give THEM the correct information. I said no, then found out many women in my family had had them. Meaning I'd been placing myself at risk without realising.
Which pills are good for my skin?
The problem with coming off Yasmin and Dianette? They can be great cures for hormonal acne. Realistically, this is why most people take them (myself included). However, Pat found me a pill that had a similar properties to Yasmin, but was safer in terms of blood clots (Brevinor if you're interested). Two weeks in and I have still got a clear complexion. So go and speak to your local clinic worker, going off these pills doesn't necessarily mean a return to acne.
What should I do if I miss one pill?
Turns out missing one pill is just about OK (how I wish I'd known this sooner). You will still be covered, just take it as soon as you remember — it's ok to take two pills in one day (this won't lead to a hormone overdose, that I always risked — but suspected) Then continue on as normal, your defences will be undisturbed.
What should I do if I miss two (or more) pills?
This is more of an issue. Two is the maximum amount of pills you should take in one day. So take yesterdays and leave any forgotten others. However your security system is now compromised; your eggs are awake and your door girl's distracted. Therefore, you need to use extra contraception for the next seven days or get the emergency pill if you had sex unprotected.
Am I covered during my 7-day break?
Yes. Whether you take no pills during the break or placebo pills (dummies that contain no hormones) you are still protected, even in those few days before your period arrives. Obvs this does not apply to progestogen-only pills which you take every day of every month.
Is it safe to back-to-back pill packets?
Yes and here a few recommended methods of how to do this:
Tri-cycling: Taking 3 packs of pills with no break. Once you finish you third packet, take a 7 day break, then start another 3 month cycle. This means only 4 periods a year and will not harm your reproductive capabilities whatsoever.
Long term pill taking: Taking continuous packs of pills until you have a "break out" or "spot" bleed (usually around 6-9 months). When this happens stop taking the pill for 5 days (record the start and end date of this in your phone). Then restart with a new pack after the five-day break. Carry on pill taking until spotting reoccurs months later.
Holiday pill taking: If you're going away and love a holiday romance you probably don't want to be on your period. To delay it; take your pill continuously whilst you're away, finishing that packet, then take a 7 day break as usual. If you do the long term pill taking method; take a five day break, two weeks before you go away. This will ensure no surprise spotting or break throughs.
Note: just be careful not to miss a pill during this time — no-one wants a surprise period just as Swedish Eric invites you back to his super chic, scandi apartment.
And if you have any questions about anything to do with contraception or sexual health - call this number for free 0300 123 7123 or visit the NHS sexual health site.