Combined oral contraceptive pill

About the Combined oral contraceptive pill (COC)

About: Often called ‘the pill’, the combined pill contains two hormones similar to those produced naturally by women. It is over 99% effective when used perfectly but the typical use failure rate is 9%.

How it works: It prevents the ovaries from releasing an egg each month (ovulation).

How to use it: Traditionally, women have taken a tablet for 21 days, stopped for seven days to have a bleed and then started again after the seven days. However, there are now more convenient and effective ways to take the pill which your clinician can advise. If you have missed pills or have vomiting/diarrhoea and have had unprotected sex you may need emergency contraception - take a look at the missed pills chart from Family Planning Association.

Who can use it: Many women use the pill up to the menopause, but there are some key exclusions depending on whether you smoke, your BMI and your medical history.

Advantages: Include not interrupting sex, more regular, lighter and less painful periods. May also reduce acne, mood swings and the symptoms that occur before your period (PMS).

Disadvantages: Include not protecting you against STIs, needs to be taken every day, risk of temporary side effects, increased blood pressure and some serious health conditions.

Where to get it: Most types of contraception are free in the UK and available through the NHS including most GP surgeries, sexual health clinics, some pharmacies, and young people’s services.

If you think the pill is the right contraception choice, you can:

If you need to bring your child/children with you to your appointment we recommend you bring another adult with you to care for them.

Our walk-in and wait clinics offer limited slots and operate on a first come first served basis. When clinics are at full capacity, patients asking to be seen will be triaged and those who fit our urgent criteria will be a priority. At busy times we may need to signpost non-urgent cases to other clinics or recommend patients make an appointment for an alternative day or suggest a return visit.