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Dr HANX Dispatch: How Does The Contraceptive Pill Work?

Dr HANX Dispatch: How Does The Contraceptive Pill Work?

Whether you’re looking for birth control, want to lighten a heavy period or manage PMS symptoms, the contraceptive pill can be a real wonder… but how does the pill actually work? Dr Sarah Welsh, NHS Gynaecology Doctor and HANX Co-Founder, is at your service. If your pharmaceutical leaflets leave you lost and you want an easy to understand, medically sound overview of hormonal contraception and the different types of Pills available to you via HANX Fix: Pill, she’s got you.

Please remember: this is guidance only, and does not replace the advice of your GP or health professional.

So, what is a contraceptive pill?

A contraceptive pill is a pill taken daily (sometimes with a 7 day break) to prevent pregnancy. There are many different types of pills, but they all contain synthetic hormones (chemical substances) which change the way the body works and… ta-da: pregnancy prevented.

We offer all three types of the contraceptive via our HANX Fix: Pill service: 

  1. The combined oral contraceptive pill AKA the COCP
  2. The progesterone only pill AKA the POP
  3. The emergency contraceptive pill AKA the EC

What is the menstrual cycle – and how does the pill stop us getting pregnant?

The menstrual cycle, aka your period, is pretty amazing. Although it sometimes gets a bad rap (hello cramps, acne and cravings), its evolutionary purpose is for us to ovulate and reproduce. A regular period is a sign that we’re healthy and ready to reproduce - if we choose to do so.

The menstrual cycle is conducted by a delicate balance of female hormones, namely oestrogen and progesterone, hormones which are both released naturally by the ovaries. Contraceptive pills include artificial forms of these hormones which act on the reproductive cycle in a way that prevents pregnancy. This is often through preventing ovulation (the release of an egg from the ovary each month), and if there is no egg to fertilise, you’re therefore unable to get pregnant.

For a full deep dive into your menstrual cycle, dive into our Dr HANX 101 blog. 

What’s the difference between contraceptive pills?

There are two main types of contraceptive pills that people use to prevent pregnancy: combined oral contraceptive pills (COCP) and progesterone only contraceptive pills (POP). These are mostly taken on a daily basis, and some include placebo pills in the pack that do not contain any synthetic hormone or active ingredients. 

However, some pills have a 7 day break. This means you take 21 pills, followed by 7 pill-free days, during which women and people with uteruses often have a bleed here, known as a ‘withdrawal bleed.’

Emergency contraceptive pills are for use when you need them, but aren’t something you should be using on a regular basis. Check out our deep dive into the morning after pill and emergency contraception. 

How do I know which contraceptive pill is right for me?

Our new service HANX Fix: Pill aims to support, educate and advise you through what has traditionally been a daunting, intimidating or confusing process. We're big believers that you should be able to access easy-to-understand information about contraception so you can make informed choices about your healthcare. Get stuck into the features of each pill type in our in-depth guides here:

  1. The combined oral contraceptive pill AKA the COCP
  2. The progesterone only pill AKA the POP
  3. The emergency contraceptive pill

New to hormonal contraception?

Want to share your experiences with the pill?
Need some friendly, non-judgemental chat about birth control?
Chances are: you’re not the first or only one to feel the way you do, or experience what you're experiencing. HANX Life, our free, anonymous forum is a digital safe space to help you connect with the HANX community in a TMI-free zone. Join us there

Slide into our DMs @hanxofficial

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