Skip navigation and jump to content
Welcome to Ireland's Youth Information Website
Follow us
Facebook Twitter Instagram YouTube Snapchat

Accessibility Options

High Contrast Text Size

Contraceptive pill: combined

Remember: the Pill does NOT protect against sexually transmitted infections


Written by SpunOut | View this authors Twitter page and posted in health


Share this article -

One in five young women forget to take the pill at least twice a month. Always use condoms with the pill to prevent sexually transmitted infections (STIs). There are two main kinds of contraceptive pill (usually called the pill) that women can take: the combined pill and the progestogen only pill. The combined pill is most commonly used in Ireland. To get the pill, you need to go to your doctor for a prescription or to a health clinic.

The combined pill

This contains the hormones oestrogen and progestogen. It works by stopping a woman from ovulating (releasing an egg every month). There are several different types of combined pill, and you should speak to your doctor about which is the best choice for you.

Advantages of the combined pill

  • The combined pill is 99.7% successful if you take it correctly. It is important that you take your pill every day and that you use a backup method like a condom if you are taking antibiotics, have an upset stomach or have missed a pill.
  • It can help to reduce pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS) and period pains. This is because you don't ovulate (release an egg) while on the pill, so you won't have the usual surge of hormones before your period. Therefore, you are much less likely to experience PMS or period pain.
  • You may have lighter periods while taking the pill. This is because periods on the pill are technically 'withdrawal bleeding' (from stopping the pill for the seven day break) rather than real periods. It offers some protection from ovarian cancer and cancer of the lining of the womb. It can also protect against cysts on the ovaries. Since you don't ovulate on the pill, there is less chance for cysts to develop.
  • You may become pregnant as soon as you decide to stop taking the pill. So if you decide to have a baby, you won't need to wait for long before trying, as you would with other forms of contraception. Some pills help to clear your skin of acne (ask your doctor).

Disadvantages of the combined pills

  • The pill doesn't protect against STIs, so always use a condom.
  • Not available without a prescription.
  • You might have side effects like headaches, migraines, breast tenderness, acne, bleeding/spotting between periods, feeling sick or weight gain. If the side effects continue, talk to your doctor.
  • Taking the pill slightly increases the risk of breast cancer, cervical cancer and liver cancer.
  • Remember: the pill may not work if you are vomiting, have severe diarrhoea or are using some types of medicine. In these cases, always use another type of contraception (like condoms) as well. Consult your doctor for more information.

How to take the combined pill

  • You start the pill on the first day of your period and take one pill every day.
  • If you start the pill on the first day of your period, then you're protected against pregnancy from the first day of your period.
  • You take the combined pill for 21 days of the month. Then you have a seven day break before starting a new pack. Most women have a light period during this week. However there are some combined pills that are taken every day without a break. These are called EveryDay pills and have ED after the name of the pill.
  • The packs show the days of the week for each pill, so it's easy to realise if you miss a day.
  • Try to remember to take the pill at the same time every day.

What to do if you forget to take the combined pill

  • Read the pack instructions carefully about what to do when you forget a pill.
  • If you forget to take the pill at your normal time, but remember to take it within 12 hours then you don't need to worry or take extra precautions.
  • If you forget to take the pill for more than 12 hours, you need to take the forgotten pill right away, even if it means taking two at the same time.
  • You also need to use extra protection, such as a condom for seven days after the forgotten pill.
  • You must take a pill every day during this time. If the packet finishes before the seven days end, then you start a new packet without stopping for the normal seven day period.
  • Usually you won't have a period during this time. This is normal and doesn't harm your body.
  • If you have been vomiting within three hours of taking the pill, or taking other medication or have diarrhoea then you should use condoms and follow the same advice as for forgetting to take the pill.
  • If you are still unsure what to do, seek advice from your pharmacist, family planning provider or doctor. While you are getting advice, don't stop taking the pill and use an extra method of contraception.
An alarm clock, condom and contraceptive pill. Make sure to take the pills at the same time each day. Make sure to take the contraceptive pill at the same time each day to maximise protection.

Contraceptive pill: Mini Pill

The mini pill contains the female hormone progestogen. The mini pill is between 96% and 99% successful if you take it correctly. It works by preventing sperm getting through the cervix. It may also thin the lining of the womb preventing an egg from implanting and may prevent an egg from being released. Remember: the Pill does NOT protect against STIs. Always use condoms as well as the pill to prevent STIs.

Advantages of the mini pill

  • It is important that you take your pill every day and use a backup method like a condom if you are taking antibiotics, have a stomach upset or missed a pill.
  • The mini pill is not associated with an increased risk of stroke or blood clots.
  • It is a good alternative if you can't take oestrogen based pills, such as the combined pill.
  • You can take it while breastfeeding.
  • It can help to relieve period problems.

Disadvantages of the mini pill

  • Irregular periods and bleeding in between periods (spotting) are common if you take the minipill.
  • The Pill does NOT protect against STIs.
  • Must be taken at the same time each day.
  • May not work if you are vomiting, have diarrhoea or are using some types of medicine. In these cases, always use another type of contraception (like condoms) as well.
  • You can have temporary side effects such as acne (spots), tender breasts, nausea, headaches, dizziness and weight gain. In general however, the mini pill has fewer side effects than the combined pill and the side effects may be less severe.
  • If you become pregnant while taking the mini pill, there is a small chance of having an ectopic pregnancy.
  • The mini pill may raise blood sugar levels in both diabetic and non-diabetics.

How to take the mini pill

  • You usually start taking the mini pill on the first day of your period. You are protected against pregnancy from the first day of taking the pill.
  • You take the mini pill daily for 28 days per packet.
  • There is no break on the mini pill – you start a new packet the day after finishing a packet.
  • You have to take mini pill at the same time every day. Other contraception may be necessary if you neglect to do this.
  • You should not take the mini pill if you are very overweight as this can limit its effectiveness. You can discuss this with your doctor.

What to do if you forget to take the mini pill

  • Read the pack instructions carefully about what to do when you forget a pill.
  • You should take the mini pill at the same time every day, so forgetting to take it by more than three hours means you won't be protected against pregnancy.
  • If you forget to take the pill at your normal time, but remember to take it within three hours then you don't need to worry or take extra precautions.
  • If you forget to take the pill for more than three hours, you need to take the forgotten pill right away, even if it means taking two at the same time.
  • You also need to use extra protection, such as a condom for seven days after the forgotten pill.
  • You must take a pill every day during this time. If the packet finishes before the seven days end, then you start a new packet without stopping for the normal seven day period.
  • If you have been vomiting within three hours of taking the pill, or taking other medication or have diarrhoea then you should use condoms and follow the same advice as for forgetting to take the pill.
  • If you are still unsure what to do, seek advice from your pharmacist, family planning provider or doctor. While you are getting advice, don't stop taking the pill and use an extra method of contraception.

Remember: The age of sexual consent in Ireland is 17. If you're over 16, you can consent to medical treatment including any treatment or tests needed.

Share this article -

Published February 6th, 2013
Last updated March 30th, 2017
Tags contraception pill sex periods sexual health
Can this be improved? Contact editor@spunout.ie if you have any suggestions for this article.

Need more information?

Request to speak with a youth worker in your area over the phone, by email or text. They may be able to assist you by providing further information specific to your needs.

Youth Work Ireland - Crosscare - YMCA

Contact via: Phone E-mail Text
By clicking submit you agree to our terms and conditions. ​Please note that this service is run by Youth Work Ireland and Crosscare​.​ E​nquiries are not handled by SpunOut.ie directly.
Jump to related articles
Was this article helpful?