Advantages and Disadvantages
Advantages of hormonal contraception
Hormonal contraception is the most popular form of contraception for women in the UK with over 3.5 million users. Many women use the pill during much of their fertile years and find that its advantages outweigh the disadvantages. Some women find that they suffer from side effects, or don’t remember to take the pill and switch to other forms of contraception.
What are the advantages of the pill?
There are several general advantages to using the pill and other forms of hormonal contraception.
- High level of protection
Hormonal contraceptives have a very high success rate in preventing pregnancy. They have been found to be among the safest of contraceptives available today.
- Regular menstrual cycle
Women who experience irregular bleeding will find hormonal contraceptives a good solution to regulate their monthly cycle.
- Less discomfort during menstrual bleeding
Hormonal contraception may ease the symptoms of PMS, lighten your periods, and help with period pains.
- The pill is convenient
It takes just a couple of seconds every day to swallow a pill. The packet fits discreetly in a handbag or washbag.
- There is no stigma attached to using the pill
The pill has been around since the 60s and has become a normal part of life for millions of UK women.
- Help with acne and other androgen-related conditions
If you suffer from very oily skin or bad acne, hormonal contraceptives may reduce the symptoms and improve your skin. Some pills can also reduce facial hair growth or other conditions caused by excessive androgen production.
- Treat PCOS
Hormonal contraception may help ease polycystic ovary syndrome. This is a condition where liquid-filled cysts grow in the ovaries.
- Reduced risk of certain health conditions
Hormonal contraceptives may offer some protection against fibroids, ovarian cysts and non-cancerous breast disease.
- There is a wide choice
The number and variety of pills and other hormonal contraceptive methods is huge and growing. If you did not feel comfortable with one type, there are plenty of alternatives to consider that may be suited for you.
Find answers to frequently asked questions on the use, suitability, effectiveness and risks of the Mini Pill.
What are the disadvantages of the pill?
Some women find that the pill (and other forms of hormonal contraception) are not for them and opt for other types of reversible contraception, including the diaphragm or IUD.
- Alter the natural menstrual cycle
Some women are not happy about “playing around” with their natural menstrual cycle and find that altering the hormone balance is not right for them.
- Impact on moods and emotions
Changing the natural hormone cycle can impact a psychologically as well. Some women experience mood swings, depressions, anxieties, lack of libido.
- It’s easy to forget
It can be easy to forget to take a pill, especially if you have a busy schedule, active social life, or are under pressure.
- Sexually transmitted infections
The pill doesn’t protect against STIs. Unless you’re in a monogamous relationship you may still have to use condoms for protection against diseases.
- Increased risk of thrombosis
There is a slightly higher risk of thrombosis if you use hormonal contraceptives than if you don’t. The overall risk remains low (1 in every 1,000 adults will experience thrombosis and there are many different causes), however, the condition may be life-threatening.
- Increased risk of breast cancer
If you take the pill you are statistically at a slightly higher risk of developing breast cancer than non-users. Overall, the risk remains low for both groups, however, if there is a history of breast cancer in your family, you need to inform your GP before using hormonal contraceptives.
I am forgetful - can I use contraceptive pills?
Probably the single biggest disadvantage that most women encounter with the pill is the problem of forgetting to take it. The sudden realisation that you forgot to take a daily pill, or went away for a few days and left the packet at home, can cause stress, anxiety, and confusion. It can also lead to unwanted pregnancy and all the associated problems associated with it.
It’s important to build a rock-solid daily routine for taking the pill and to stick to it. It may help to choose a set time when you know that you’ll be more focused and have fewer distractions. This might be the last thing at night when you clean your teeth. Some women will put a daily alarm on their phone, even for a month in advance. Another popular choice is to install an app on your mobile that will vibrate or sound a discrete alert.
The hormonal patch and the vaginal ring are two alternatives to the pill with the same protection mechanism. In other words, they use the same hormones and function the same way, however, do not need to be applied daily. For some women, this can be a very fitting solution.
Will the pill make me gain weight?
One question that women almost always ask - or secretly Google - is “will the pill make me gain weight?” The simple answer is: probably not. All forms of hormonal contraceptives have potential side effects, these can sometimes include weight gain due to water retention (bloating). Fortunately, they are rare and you can consult your GP and request a type of pill with which this problem is less likely to occur.
Using the pill, or a NuvaRing vaginal ring, or the Evra patch is unlikely to make you gain weight. The main issue with bodyweight and hormonal contraception is that if you are seriously overweight you may not be able to use the combined pill safely. Seriously overweight in this case is usually defined as BMI 35+ (or if you weigh over 90 kilos -14 stone). If you are clinically obese you may be prescribed an oestrogen free mini pill instead.