Frequently asked questions about hormonal contraception
DoktorABC has created a useful list of frequently asked questions about all the topics relating to hormonal contraceptives. If you’ve got a question, you should find the answer here.
Age and hormonal contraception
Can I use hormonal contraceptives if I’m over the age of 40?
Hormonal contraceptive can be safely used up to the age of 50 (depending on your individual health). If you are over 35 and smoke, you may not be suitable for any form of combined contraception, including pills, NuvaRing and Evra Patch (but you might be able to use a mini pill). Each request for a prescription renewal is treated individually, according to the information that you provide in your online medical questionnaire.
I feel like I’m experiencing the menopause, can I still get pregnant?
Yes, it is still possible to get pregnant during this period of your life. You may wish to consider using hormonal contraceptives if you want to avoid pregnancy.
Contraception and Menstrual Periods
Can I use the pill to regulate my period?
One of the beneficial side effects of hormonal contraceptives (including the pill) is that they force the menstruation cycle into a very regular routine. Some pills may also lighten periods, ease period pains, and reduce the symptoms of PMS. Doctors may consider prescribing the pill to women and girls who suffer from serious PMS, difficult menstruation, or premenstrual dysphoric disorder, even if they do not require contraception.
Will I have my period if I’m on the pill?
Most women continue having periodic bleeding, however it is often less intense. It depends on which brand of pill you use, and on your individual body. You may still have a (lighter) monthly period on the pill, or experience some vaginal bleeding or spotting. You can login to your DoktorABC for a free confidential chat if online GP if menstruation is a concern.
Will the pill reduce mood swings and emotional problems?
Hormonal contraceptives are known to reduce the symptoms of PMS and even menstrual dysphoria in some women. Some brands of pill may help to stabilise your moods and emotions during your monthly cycle. Other pills may cause depressive moods, lack of interest in sex or anxieties. If you already have a tendency for these problems, it is important to list them in your online medical questionnaire. Our duty GP will take them into account when evaluating your prescription request.
What is the difference between the Evra Patch and combination pills?
Combination pills and Evra patches use similar hormones to prevent pregnancy. The difference is that you use combination pills you swallow a pill daily. Evra patches are placed on the skin and changed weekly.
What hormones are in Evra Patches?
Each 20 cm2 transdermal patch contains 6 mg norelgestromin (progesterone) and 600 micrograms ethinyl estradiol (oestrogen). The dosage it releases daily is 2.03 milligrams norelgestromin and 0.33 milligrams ethinyl estradiol, which are absorbed through your skin.
Can I swim or do sport with an Evra Patch?
Evra patches are small in size and use a strong adhesive. They are designed to allow you to lead an active life, including swimming, strenuous sports, saunas, and ordinary showering and bathing.
Where do I put the patch?
Apply your Evra patch to any area of clean dry skin that is not broken, irritated or especially sensitive. Some women prefer to wear their patch where it will not be seen by other people.
What to do if the patch falls off?
The patch is highly unlikely to come off for any reason by itself. Should this happen and the adhesive is still sticky, reapply it to your skin. If it has been off for less than 3 hours, the contraceptive effect should not be impaired. In other cases, consult the manufacturer’s leaflet for exact instructions. Use a barrier method in addition to the patch for the next seven days or till the end of the menstrual cycle.
What to do if you forget to put a patch on after the patch-free week?
If less than 48 hours has passed since you were supposed to apply the patch you should still be protected against pregnancy. Apply a new patch immediately and record the day as your ‘new patch day’. If more than 48 hours has passed read the manufacturer’s pamphlet immediately as you may be at risk of unwanted pregnancy.
Smoking and the Pill
Can I use hormonal contraceptives if I smoke?
In general it is recommended to refrain from smoking when you are on the pill. You can, however, use some forms of hormonal contraceptives if you are a smoker (depending on your age and general health). When you complete the online medical questionnaire it is important to be open about how much you smoke.
Can I go on the pill if I smoke?
Doctors recommend not to use combined hormonal contraceptives when you smoke. Progestogen-only pills are a little less risky for smokers. If you’re under 35 and you smoke you should be able to use all forms of hormonal contraception (combined pill and micro pill, mini pill, Evra patch and NuvaRing). If you are over 35 and you smoke or stopped smoking less than a year ago, you may be restricted to an oestrogen-free mini pill.
Why can’t I use the pill if I’m over 35 and smoke?
Heavy smokers over the age of 35 are at an elevated risk of blood clots and cardiovascular problems. Combined hormonal contraceptives bear a certain additional risk for these conditions. It depends how many cigarettes you smoke every day and on your wider health situation. Make sure to provide accurate information to the GP in order for them to evaluate risk factors realistically.
Find answers to frequently asked questions on the use, suitability, effectiveness and risks of the Mini Pill.
When does NuvaRing start to work?
If you insert the NuvaRing on the first day of your period you’ll have immediate protection against unwanted pregnancy. If you insert it at any other time during your menstrual cycle, you’ll have complete protection after 7 days have passed.
Is the NuvaRing uncomfortable to wear?
Most women (and their sexual partners) don’t notice that the ring is in place at all. It is a small device made of a very soft plastic and shouldn’t cause any discomfort if used correctly.
Will wearing a NuvaRing affect sex?
Most couples find that NuvaRing is unnoticeable during sex. The minority of men who can feel it do not usually object to the extra sensation. Used correctly, NuvaRing will not interfere with your normal sexual activity in any way.
What are the benefits of NuvaRing?
NuvaRing is convenient, unobtrusive and a single ring provides a whole month’s protection. As a combined hormonal contraceptive it may help with difficult menstruation and acne.
Where you can get the vaginal ring?
The vaginal ring is readily available in high street pharmacies, online pharmacies and other dispensaries). You just need a doctor’s prescription to obtain it. If you have been prescribed a hormonal contraceptive before, you can request to renew your prescription at DoktorABC, even if it was for a different type of hormonal contraceptive. It takes just a few minutes to get started and check whether you meet the basic health requirements to continue to use NuvaRing.
General Contraception Questions
Why do I have to complete an online medical questionnaire?
Anybody who renews a prescription online in the UK has to complete a medical questionnaire. It’s designed to protect your health by ensuring that you do not receive an unsuitable medication. Hormonal contraceptives are prescription medications that may cause severe side effects in a small minority of women. Taking a few minutes to fill out the form will safeguard your health.
Can you get pregnant on the pill?
No contraceptive can provide a 100% guarantee to prevent you from becoming pregnant. However, if you use the pill correctly, the chances are extremely low. The pill has proven to be one of the most reliable contraceptive methods available today. If you forget to take pills, or are otherwise careless with your birth control medication, the risk of pregnancy increases. Should you have reason to suspect pregnancy, consult a gynaecologist immediately and do not continue taking the pill, if you are indeed pregnant.
Can I go on the pill if I’m overweight?
Being overweight may present an extra risk factor, when it comes to cardiovascular diseases, high blood pressure etc. If you weigh more than 14 stone (90 kilos) or your body mass index (BMI) is over 35, you may not be able to use combined pills, the NuvaRing vaginal ring, or the Evra patch safely. Make sure to provide accurate information for the online GP to review and evaluate your individual risk and recommend the best option for you. All information you provide is kept confidential.
Who can use hormonal contraceptives?
Any woman of childbearing age who meets the health requirements can usually be prescribed hormonal contraceptives. Over 3.5 million British women are currently using them to keep them from getting pregnant.
What are low oestrogen pills?
Low oestrogen pills are combined pills that contain a lower dose of the hormone oestrogen than some other combined contraceptive pills. Low oestrogen pills include Sunya, Mercilon, Millinette and Loestrin. You may experience more breakthrough bleeding with low oestrogen pills, but they should reduce the chance of side effects.
Can I take antibiotics if I’m on the pill
Most antibiotics won’t reduce the effectiveness of hormonal contraceptives, with the possible exception of rifampicin and rifabutin. These antibiotics are used to treat serious conditions like tuberculosis (TB) and meningitis, and are not widely prescribed.