Healthy living

Contraceptive pill (the pill)

There are 2 types of contraceptive pill.

The combined pill contains both the female hormones oestrogen and progesterone. The other is the progesterone-only pill, sometimes called the mini-pill. You take either kind once a day.

Both pills are very effective if taken properly, but will not protect you against STIs or HIV.

The combined pill works in 3 ways:

  • it stops the female body releasing an egg each month
  • it changes the lining of the uterus so a fertilised egg cannot grow
  • it makes the mucous in the cervix thicker so sperm cannot get through.


  • It’s easy to use and relatively cheap.
  • With the combined pill, periods will be regular and usually painless.

Things to consider 

  • You need a prescription from a doctor or health service, and have to remember to get another prescription when you start your last packet.
  • There are a number of types of combined pill, so you may need to try different ones to find one that suits you best. Check with your doctor or clinic nurse.
  • The mini-pill can cause irregular periods.
  • The pill may cause side effects such as nausea or mood swings. If this happens, see your doctor.
  • Some women should not take the pill if they have had blood clots or heart disease, or are smokers over 35 years of age.
  • Diarrhoea, stomach upsets or vomiting, or certain medication such as antibiotics, can interfere with the pill’s effectiveness. If you are unwell, use additional contraceptive protection. Tell your doctor or clinic nurse if you are on any medication, and/or are unwell.
  • The mini-pill does not stop the body releasing an egg each month, so it must be taken at the same time every day. If you forget to take the mini-pill for more than 3 hours, you need to take the missed pill as soon as you remember and use additional protection for at least 1 week.
  • You need to remember to take the combined pill every day, ideally at the same time. If you miss 1 hormone pill, take the missed pill as soon as you remember and continue taking pills as usual; unless you miss more pills within the next 7 days you will still be protected against pregnancy. If you miss 2 hormone pills in a row or 2 or more hormone pills in a week, take the missed pill as soon as you remember and use additional protection for at least one week.
  • Emergency contraception is available over the counter at pharmacies if you missed taking the mini-pill or combined pill and had unprotected sex.
  • The pill is a very effective contraceptive, but will not protect you against STIs or HIV.
  • Your doctor or clinic nurse can give you more information.

Where to get help

Sexual Health and Blood-borne Virus Program, Public Health

This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.

Anyone can be a HealthySexual: talk, test, protect