Healthy living

Contraceptive pill (the pill)

There are 2 types of contraceptive pill.

  1. the combined oral contraceptive pill - contains the hormones oestrogen and progestogen.
  2. the progestogen-only pill - (sometimes called the mini-pill).

You take either kind once a day.

Both are very effective in preventing pregnancy if taken properly, but they will not protect you against STIs or HIV.

The combined oral contraceptive pill works by:

  • stopping the ovaries from releasing an egg.
  • changing the lining of the uterus so a fertilised egg cannot grow.
  • making the mucous in the cervix thicker so sperm cannot get through.

The progestogen-only pill works by:

  • making the mucous in the cervix thicker so sperm cannot get through.


Things to consider regarding both kinds of contraceptive pill

  • They are easy to use and relatively cheap.
  • Your first prescription needs to be from a doctor.
  • You may also be eligible to get a resupply from a pharmacist if you have been stabilised on the same pill for at least 2 years.
  • Some types of contraceptive pill are on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) which makes them cheaper. You can ask your doctor about this.
  • There are many types of pill, so you may need to try different ones. Your doctor or health service can help find one that suits you best.
  • If you miss a pill, you will need to use additional contraceptive methods (e.g. using condoms, not having penis-in-vagina sex) for 7 days.
  • Emergency contraception is available over the counter at pharmacies if you missed taking a pill and have had unprotected penis-in-vagina sex.
  • Diarrhoea, vomiting, or certain medications (e.g. for epilepsy) and supplements can interfere with the pill’s effectiveness. If you are unwell, use additional contraceptive protection. Speak to your doctor, clinic nurse or pharmacist if you are on any other medication, and/or are unwell.
  • The pill may cause side effects such as nausea or mood swings. If this happens, see your doctor.
  • Some people should not take the pill if they have had blood clots or heart disease, or are smokers over the age of 35.
  • It is important to understand the instructions on the Consumer Medicine Information (CMI) of the pill you are taking. If you need help with this, ask your doctor, clinic nurse, or pharmacist.

The combined pill

  • The combined pill usually makes periods regular and less painful.
  • You can choose to skip bleeds.
  • Can cause side effects such as nausea or mood swings.
  • If you have had or are at risk of blood clots, heart disease or get migraines, you may not be able to use the pill.
  • You need to remember to take the combined pill every day, ideally at the same time.
  • If you miss a pill, use to search for advice on what to do for the specific pill you are taking.

The progestogen only pill

  • To ensure your pill is working effectively, take it consistently at around the same time of day. Some mini-pills are considered ‘missed’ if you take them more than 3 hours late.
  • Can cause irregular periods.

Where to get help

Sexual Health and Blood-borne Virus Program, Public Health

This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.

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