How does the contraceptive pill work?

10th March 2020

Approximately 60% of women of reproductive age are currently using some form of contraception and of those women, a massive 9 in 10 of them are using the contraceptive pill. With two different kinds of pill available (combined contraceptive pill or progestogen-only pill), how well do you understand your contraception?

How does the contraceptive pill work?

The pill is a type of hormonal contraceptive, which means that it contains synthetic versions of your body’s natural hormones. These work to prevent you from getting pregnant and are over 99% effective when used perfectly (approximately 91% effective when measuring typical use).

There are two types of contraceptive pill and these each work slightly differently.

The progestogen-only pill

Also known as the mini pill, this type contains a synthetic version of one of your major female hormones, progesterone. This hormone has two functions in helping to protect you against pregnancy.

Firstly, progestogen thickens the mucus of your cervix, which makes it more difficult for sperm to work its way through to fertilise the egg. And secondly, it has the opposite effect on the lining of your uterus, thinning it so that if an egg is fertilised, it will be considerably more difficult for it to implant itself.

Popular brands of progestogen-only pill include Cerazette and Cerelle, both of which you can buy from UK Meds without an existing prescription. These come in strips of 28 tablets and are designed to be taken every day without a break.

The combined pill

The combined pill is the more popular type out of the two and these contain two different synthetic hormones; an oestrogen and a progestogen.

The progestogen in combined pills works in exactly the same way as that in the mini pill, thickening the cervical mucus and thinning the uterus lining to prevent pregnancy.

The oestrogen adds a third function to the way in which these pills work. The oestrogen stops your body from producing hormones needed to ovulate, which effectively prevents an egg from being released. And if an egg isn’t released, then there’s nothing to fertilise.

Popular brands of the combined contraceptive pill include Microgynon, Yasmin and Femodette, which you can again purchase from UK Meds using our online prescription service. These come in strips of 21 tablets and are to be taken consecutively for 3 weeks before a one-week, 7-day pill-free break.