The contraceptive pill and patch are more widespread than ever, and yet there are still widespread misconceptions about it.

So what’s the truth? Does the pill make you gain weight? Is it dangerous to take for long periods of time?

Read on and find out…

1. How long is too long to be on the contraceptive pill?

There is no evidence to support ‘taking a break’ from the pill. In fact if this medicine is being relied on for contraception, then the key to avoiding an unplanned pregnancy is to stay on it!

It is considered safe to use the pill continuously up to menopause (as long as there are no other health issues that may affect your suitability to take the pill, e.g. high blood pressure or if you are over 35 and smoke). In fact, there is evidence to show that using the pill reduces the risk of cancer of the ovary and womb lining by 50%, and that this protective effect lasts for up to 15 years after stopping the pill.

2. Does the pill make you gain weight?

No, this is another myth!

Many studies have focused on this aspect, and these have shown that occasionally when weight gain occurs due to the pill hormones, it is only 1-2 kg.

Oestrogen levels in the Pill are not high enough to cause weight gain. However, you may feel bloated due to fluid retention. If this is a side effect you are experiencing, it is advised to wait for 3 months to see if this symptom settles before switching pills. You can also discuss your symptoms with your GP.

3. Can you get pregnant on the pill?

The contraceptive pill is 99% effective at preventing pregnancy – if used correctly. The combined contraceptive pill must be taken everyday for 21 days followed by a 7 day break during which a bleed occurs. In contrast, the progesterone-only pill must be taken at the same time everyday in order to be at its most effective.

It is advised to use the alarm function on a smartphone as a reminder to take the pill, and you should also read the leaflet that accompanied your prescription.

4. Does the contraceptive pill provide protection against STIs?

The contraceptive pill provides NO protection against STIs. If there is a risk of STIs, a barrier method such as a condom should be used to protect against infection.

5. Why is measuring my blood pressure important?

Measuring your blood pressure regularly while you take the contraceptive pill is essential. A small number of women are sensitive to the Oestrogen in the combined pill/patch/Nuvaring. It is important to monitor blood pressure to note whether it is rising over time. Elevated blood pressure can increase the risk of stroke.

This is why an accurate blood pressure reading is required every time a pill prescription is requested on Webdoctor.

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