Combination birth control pills contain two hormones: progestin and estrogen. They help prevent pregnancy and can also make your period more regular and/or decrease menstrual bleeding. Birth control pills were created in the 1950s but became common use in the 1960s.
If you take the combopill, add it to your Ovia profile so you never miss a day!
How the combo pill works
Combination birth control pills suppress your ovaries from releasing eggs, thicken your cervical mucus so sperm can’t get through, and thin your uterine lining to prevent implantation. There are several types of combo pills out there, including monophasic, multiphasic, and extended cycle. Each one differs in its amount of hormones. None of these options impact your ability to become pregnant in the future.
How often you need to do something
You’ll need to take your combination pill at the same time every day to prevent pregnancy. Combination pill packs include placebo pills that serve as reminder pills so you keep up your routine.
Benefits and drawbacks
While the combination pill is one of the most widely used forms of birth control, know the pluses and minuses to ensure it’s right for you.
- Decreased bleeding
- More regular periods
- Easily reversed if you decide to get pregnant
- Doesn’t interfere with sexual activity and doesn’t require partner participation
- Better control of monthly cycle
- Can reduce PMS symptoms
- Possible improvements in menstrual cramps and acne
- Decreased risk of ovarian cancer, ectopic pregnancy, and ovarian cysts
- Can be used as emergency contraception if you cannot access Plan B
- May have bleeding or spotting
- Doesn’t protect you from STIs
- Slightly higher risk of hormonal side effects than the minipill
- Potential side effects include headaches, high blood pressure, breast tenderness, mood swings, and nausea, but usually these resolve within the first few months
- Increased risk of blood clots, breast cancer, and heart attacks
The combination pill is over 99% effective in preventing pregnancy when used properly. You can start the pill at any time but if you start within five days of your period, you’ll be protected right away. Otherwise, use backup protection like condoms for the first seven days.
Where and how to get it
You’ll need a prescription from a health care provider or family planning clinic. You can then get pills at your pharmacy or order them online.
Birth control pills cost between $0 and $50 per month depending on the type of pill. In most cases, your health insurance or government health plan will cover some or all the costs, including the medical visits.
Most healthy premenopausal women are eligible for the combination pill. There are some exceptions though, such as those who are breastfeeding, those who have a history of deep vein thrombosis or pulmonary embolism, certain types of cancer, diabetes-related complications, liver disease, unexplained uterine bleeding, or uncontrolled hypertension. If you experience migraines with an aura or are a smoker over 35 years old the combination pill may not be a good option for you. Review your complete health history with your provider, including allergies and medications, to ensure it’s a safe choice.
Want to learn about other types of birth control? Check out these posts.
Reviewed by the Ovia Health Clinical Team
- “Combination birth control pills.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic. December 17, 2020. https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/combination-birth-control-pills/about/pac-20385282.
- “Combined pill.” NHS. National Health Services, UK. July 1, 2020. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/contraception/combined-contraceptive-pill/.
- “How do I get birth control pills?” Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood. 2020. https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/birth-control/birth-control-pill/how-do-i-get-birth-control-pills.
- “How do I use the birth control pill?” Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood. 2020. https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/birth-control/birth-control-pill/how-do-i-use-the-birth-control-pill.
- SingleCare Team. “The best birth control pill for you: A guide to contraceptive options.” SingleCare. SingleCare. December 16, 2020. https://www.singlecare.com/blog/best-birth-control-pill-contraceptive-guide/.