WHICH PILL IS FOR YOU?
IT CAN BE HARD TO FIND A CONTRACEPTIVE PILL THAT’S RIGHT FOR YOU. Lollie Barr OFFERS A GUIDE
It has been 50 years since the contraceptive pill changed the way Australians made love and, as it is 99.7 per cent effective (when used correctly) at preventing pregnancy, when we had babies. The 2005 Household, Income and Labour Dynamics (HILDA) Survey found that 39 per cent of women aged 18 to 44 used oral contraceptives.
There are more than 30 contraceptive pill brands in Australia. They can be divided into two types: the combined pill and mini pill, says Dr Deborah Bateson, Family Planning NSW senior medical coordinator.
“The difference is the hormones the pills contain,” Dr Bateson says. “The combined pill contains oestrogen and a progestogen, which mainly work by preventing eggs being released, but they also cause the mucous of the cervix to thicken, making it hard for sperm to ‘swim’ up into the uterus, and keep the lining of the womb thinner, so that if an egg escapes, it is less likely to attach to the womb wall.
“The mini pill is a progestogen-only pill that usually doesn’t stop ovulation but works mainly by thickening cervical mucous and changing the uterine or womb lining, so fertilised eggs can’t implant.”
So which pill is right for you? Dr Bateson says there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach, as pills can produce different side effects in different women. “Often women have to try a few pills to get the one that works for them,” Dr Bateson says. “However, it is worth persevering to get the right pill for your body.” Monophasic combined pills containing levonorgestrel
Microgynon, Levlen, Nordette, Monofeme. These are the “go to” pill for doctors as they have been thoroughly tested. Monophasic means each tablet has the same dose of hormones. You take one tablet every day for 21 days with a seven-day break.
Hormone levels drop, resulting in a withdrawal bleed similar to a period. Newer pills contain a 20microgram oestrogen dose instead of 30 micrograms.
Inexpensive, well-tested pills that suit many women and may help skin problems.
Some women get breast tenderness, mood and skin changes or nausea. They may need to switch to a 20-microgram oestrogen pill or a different type of progestogen.
Women going on the pill for the first time as they are the “every-woman” pills. Combined pills containing norethisterone
Norimin, Brevinor. Older pills contain the progestogen norethisterone, which can help to control acne and heavy periods.
They are inexpensive and can be useful for problem skin and heavy, painful periods. They may have side effects such as nausea.
Those prone to acne and excess hair.
Combined pills containing drospirenone Visit your doctor or family planning clinic to find out more about which pill suits you. You can also call the Family Planning NSW Healthline on 1300 658 886 or visit www.fpnsw.org.au for advice. Women who find it difficult to remember to take a pill every day may be better off with
a long-acting method such as an implant or IUD.