Choosing the right type of contraception can be tricky. Some may cause unwanted side effects, cause discomfort, or not fit your lifestyle. It can take time to find the right type of contraception, and even if you decide the oral contraceptive pill is right for you, choosing the right kind can also come with its fair share of hurdles.
There are two main types of oral contraceptive pills available in Australia – the combined pill, which contains both oestrogen and progestogen, and the progestogen-only pill, commonly referred to as the mini pill. Both pills are unique and affect your body in different ways, so if you’re considering switching from one to the other, it’s important to consider their pros and cons and your own medical history. Here are some other factors to consider when choosing or switching pills.
You need to consult your doctor first
Switching pills should always be done under medical supervision, so it’s important to discuss this with your doctor before making the change. Your doctor can help determine the correct pill for you, especially if you have experienced side effects or if you have any specific medical conditions. They can chat to you about what to expect, and also advise if the contraceptive pill is the right fit for you. If you are wanting to take the contraceptive pill for reasons other than preventing unplanned pregnancy (such as controlling acne or migraines), your GP can offer specific advice on this topic, too.
Expect a change in symptoms
Changing birth control pills can result in a number of new or different symptoms, such as irregular bleeding, nausea, sore or tender breasts, bloating, weight gain, moodiness and changes in your libido. It’s a good idea to keep track of these symptoms so you can chat to your GP about them. If a doctor notices your blood pressure increases after taking the pill, they may consider changing your prescription. Your body will take at least three months to adjust to the new pill, but if your symptoms don’t settle down or become more severe after this time, head to your GP for a review.
It’s not a good idea to swap mid-cycle
For the smoothest transition and for your best chance at avoiding any unplanned pregnancies, be sure to finish your current pill packet before beginning a new one. This way, you will take your sugar pills as normal and begin the new packet exactly when you would have taken your previous prescription. This means you’ll be less likely to skip a pill, which will minimise any potential protection gaps.
You need a back-up plan
If you finish your prescription and begin a new one, you’ll likely be covered from unplanned pregnancies. If you do leave a gap though, or can’t start your new prescription right away, it’s important to have a backup plan. You may want to use a secondary method of contraception (such as condoms) for the first week or so. Ask your doctor about transition times and if you need to consider other methods of contraception before you finish your current prescription.
Know the pill has more than one use
Before you switch pills, get clear on why you’re swapping. While the main use of the contraceptive pill is to prevent an unplanned pregnancy, it can also be used to treat acne and manage migraines, and your new pill may not offer these benefits. To ensure all of your needs are met, chat to your GP or a gynaecologist about your reasons for wanting to swap pills, and what sort of coverage or benefits you’re hoping for.
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