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Pills, patches, rings. It’s easy to get lost with contraception. We can help you find treatment tailored for you.

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This page was medically reviewed by Dr Daniel Atkinson, GP Clinical Lead on August 02, 2022. Next review due on August 01, 2024.
Contraception: Here's what we have.
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Combined pill

Pregnancy protection. Help with PMS. Find the birth control pill that works best for you.

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Contraceptive patch

Skin plaster that works just like the combined pill. Slowly releases hormones into the body that prevent pregnancy.

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Mini pills

The pill, but without oestrogen. Better option if you get migraines or side effects on combined birth control.

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Contraceptive ring

If you’re looking for birth control that’s low maintenance, the contraceptive ring could be just the one.

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Pharmacist Prescriber
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Pharmacist Prescriber

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Further reading

All the info related to contraception you could ever need.
Take a look at our health guides.

Which birth control pill is best for acne?

Which birth control pill is best for acne?

On this page we’ll discuss which pills may be beneficial for your skin and acne symptoms, which aren’t and what to do if you take a pill that makes your skin worse.

Read more  
What happens when you stop taking the pill?

What happens when you stop taking the pill?

Saying goodbye to a daily habit is always a big change, but knowing what to expect can help make coming off the pill a worry-free experience.

Read more  
What are my options for birth control if I don’t want to take the pill?

What are my options for birth control if I don’t want to take the pill?

If you’re looking for safe, effective contraception but a daily pill just isn’t for you, don’t worry. You’ve got plenty of options — with and without hormones.

Read more  

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Disclaimer: The information provided on this page is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any questions or concerns about your health, please talk to a doctor.

What is contraception?

In a nutshell, contraception reduces your risk of getting pregnant. Certain types of hormonal birth control also have the added benefit of reducing some of the uncomfortable symptoms you may get around your period, and can make your period lighter and more regular.

You can take contraception for as long as you want to. Or you can switch methods or stop using it if you want to have a child. Some types of hormonal birth control are better for specific health issues or age ranges. So it’s good to check in with your clinician every now and then to make sure your birth control is still right for you.

Hormonal contraception is only available on prescription in the UK. Our clinical team will help you narrow down the best option because there are quite a few out there, and it’s not a one-size-fits-all type of deal.

What types of contraception are there?

There are four types of hormonal birth control that you take by yourself, and a few others where you’ll need a bit of guidance from a clinician or nurse before you use them.

At Treated, we offer both the combined oral contraceptive pill (COCP), which contains progestin and oestrogen, and the progestogen-only pill (POP), also called the mini pill. Pills need to be taken every day at around the same time to be most effective.

We also have the patch, which is applied to the skin like a plaster and changed once a week, and the vaginal ring, which is inserted into the vagina once a month.

Other types of birth control include the depo shot, the IUD (hormonal and non-hormonal) and the implant. You can’t use those without a clinician or nurse though so we don’t offer them. There are also condoms (for both men and women) and the diaphragm, which you can get at a pharmacy or sexual health clinic. These methods also protect against STIs.

Which birth control is best?

It depends on you, really. If you like the comfort of taking something every day and knowing you’re protected, we recommend the combined pill or mini pill. If you’d like a more low-maintenance option, the weekly patch may be better. And if convenience is your thing, the monthly ring might be the way to go.

Formulations make a difference too. Some women prefer pills with a higher oestrogen dose, because it helps them with symptoms like vaginal dryness or low sex drive. Others prefer a lower oestrogen dose, because they’ll be less likely to get water retention or heavy periods.

The progestogen-only pill is good for women who can’t take oestrogen because of health factors, or who are breastfeeding.

So it’s very much a case of personal preference, and your health background. But we can talk you through all your options.

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Medically reviewed by
Dr Daniel Atkinson
GP Clinical Lead
on August 02, 2022.
Meet Daniel  
This page was medically reviewed by Dr Daniel Atkinson, GP Clinical Lead on August 02, 2022. Next review due on August 01, 2024.

How we source info.

When we present you with stats, data, opinion or a consensus, we’ll tell you where this came from. And we’ll only present data as clinically reliable if it’s come from a reputable source, such as a state or government-funded health body, a peer-reviewed medical journal, or a recognised analytics or data body. Read more in our editorial policy.

How effective is hormonal contraception?

All four of the main types of hormonal birth control (combined pill, mini pill, patch and ring) are over 99% effective when they’re used exactly right. That’s what clinicians call “perfect use”. This 99% effectiveness means that if 100 women use one of these types of birth control for one year, fewer than one will get pregnant.

“Typical” use is a bit less perfect and a lot more realistic. If you use contraception but make occasional mistakes, like forgetting a pill or putting a patch on too late, the effectiveness drops to between 91% and 94%. That means that six to nine women out of a hundred would become pregnant over the course of a year.

The best way to make sure your birth control is as effective as possible is to take it exactly as directed, which is why it’s important to find the method that works best with your lifestyle.

What does birth control do?

Hormonal birth control reduces your chances of pregnancy by changing the normal hormonal cycle in your body. It prevents ovulation, when the ovary releases an egg into your fallopian tube.

The hormones in birth control also keep the walls of your uterus from growing thicker with your cycle. When the uterine wall is thin, it’s more difficult for an egg to attach to it and grow.

The progestogen in hormonal birth control also changes the thickness of cervical fluid. This time, the hormones make it thicker. And sperm have a harder time making it through to an egg as a result.

What forms of contraception are available?

There’s the combined pill, which usually comes in a pack of 21 pills, though some brands may vary slightly (and contain 24 or 28 pills for example). With a 21 pill pack, you’ll take a tablet a day for the duration of the pack (the first three weeks of your cycle) then have a week off — that’s when you’ll get your period. This is the most widely used type of hormonal birth control. It’s called the combined pill because it contains two hormones: progestin and oestrogen.

The patch is a combined treatment too, but instead of taking it orally you stick it on your skin like a sticker. Don’t worry – it’s designed to be worn through showers and even swimming without coming off. For three weeks a month, you’ll wear the patch for a week and then change it. Then you take a weeklong patch-free break, after which you put on a new patch and the cycle is repeated again.

The vaginal ring is also a combined method of birth control. It’s a soft, flexible piece of plastic that is inserted into the vagina for three weeks. Then you remove it, take a weeklong ring-free break and insert your next ring.

Progestogen-only pills, also called mini pills, are taken once a day continuously (without a break). They’re different from combined options because they only carry one hormone, progestin. Progestin-only pills are recommended for women who may get side effects when taking oestrogen.

What about contraceptive injections and contraceptive implants?

Several birth control options need to be injected, inserted or administered by a clinician. These include the birth control injection, which is progestin-only and given in the arm. Depo-Provera is a popular brand of the contraceptive injection. There’s also a contraceptive implant that’s placed into the arm.

The IUD, which stands for intrauterine device, is inserted through the vagina into the uterus by a clinician or gynecologist and left in place for up to five years. There’s a hormone-free copper version (usually just called the copper IUD) and hormonal versions which are made of plastic, like the Mirena.

And we all know the condom and the diaphragm. These are called ‘barrier methods’ because they physically stop sperm from reaching an egg to fertilise it.

FAQ: Contraception

Have something specific you want to know? Search our info below, or ask our experts a question if you can’t find what you’re looking for.

What are the side effects of contraceptives?

Side effects can vary depending on the type of birth control you’re using. Irregular bleeding is quite common when you first start using a new birth control, but it normally stabilises after a couple of months.

Other common side effects are tiredness, mood swings, vaginal dryness or changes in sex drive. If you experience these side effects and they’re not going away on their own, drop our clinician a message and they can help you find a different birth control.

On rare occasions, hormonal birth control can cause serious side effects. You should seek urgent medical attention if you get any breast lumps, persistent heavy bleeding, symptoms of an allergic reaction, symptoms of a blood clot such as a tight chest or tenderness in the back of the leg, jaundice or anything else that concerns you. Read the package insert that comes with your birth control for more information on side effects and when to get help.

What is low dose contraception?

There are different concentrations of hormones in birth control pills, rings and patches. Higher doses can help control symptoms like acne, while lower doses come with fewer possible side effects.

There’s no difference between higher and lower doses in terms of contraceptive effectiveness. They’re equally good at preventing pregnancy. Whether you should take a higher or lower dose has more to do with what added benefits you’d like in your birth control and if you’re sensitive to hormones.

Low dose versions are a great alternative for women who tried the regular version and experienced side effects. Femodette (20mcg) and Femodene (30mcg) are examples. In some cases, though, low-dose pills have completely different names than the regular versions. This happens even with pills made by the same manufacturer.

If you’re not sure which type of birth control is the best option for you, our clinician will be able to help you choose.

Can you take contraception for acne?

Some pills can be effective at reducing acne in addition to preventing pregnancy. The specific pills that excel at this usually have a high concentration of hormones, meaning they increase the risk of side effects and aren’t right for everyone. Our clinician can advise you on whether a pill that can help with acne is a good choice for you.

Can you take contraception to stop periods?

Yes. Women who take the progestogen-only pill often find that their periods stop or become much lighter. Sometimes this happens with the combined pill, too. Levest, Maexeni and Microgynon are less likely to cause heavy periods than other pills. The ring and the patch can also help reduce heavy periods.

If you’re looking to lighten your periods with hormonal birth control, let our clinician know during your consultation.

What’s the difference between contraception and plan B?

Hormonal birth control methods like the pill, patch and ring, as well as condoms, are primary contraceptives, or ‘plan A’. It’s when these fail for some reason that emergency contraception, also known as the morning after pill or plan B, may need to be considered.

An example might be a condom falling off during sex, or if you forget to take your pill and then have unprotected sex. Contraception emergency is given in the form of a one-off pill, and needs to be taken within a certain time period after unprotected sex to protect against pregnancy (normally 72 or 120 hours, depending on what you use).

The morning after pill works in a similar way in the body to hormonal birth control, but the two are not interchangeable. Plan A can’t be used in the place of plan B, and vice versa.

If you’re worried that you may be pregnant because your primary contraceptive method has failed, see a clinician right away as the emergency contraceptive pill might not be suitable.

Can you get non hormonal contraception?

Yes. Condoms, diaphragms and female condoms don’t contain any hormones. They’re called ‘barrier methods’ because they physically block sperm. There’s also a type of IUD called a copper IUD which doesn’t contain any hormones.

Currently, there aren’t any hormone-free pills you can take to prevent pregnancy.

Is there a male contraceptive pill?

Not yet. Male hormonal contraception is still in the clinical research phase. While recent trials of a contraceptive gel are promising, there isn’t currently anything on the market.

The most widely available option for men is the condom. A more lasting and absolute option is the vasectomy (known more informally as ‘the snip’), which is a reversible type of surgery that blocks the tube that carries sperm to the urethra.

Why should I buy contraception online with Treated?

We’re making contraception easy. Tell us about your health, and our clinicians will advise you on suitable and safe birth control options for you. Choose the contraception you want and we’ll prescribe your treatment.

And if you want us to deliver your birth control on your schedule, in the quantity you’d like, we’ll do that too.

Our clinicians will get in touch with you on a regular basis to find out how you’re getting on with your contraception. So if there’s anything you’d like to know about your treatment, or if there’s any adjustments you’d like us to make to your birth control, they’ll be on hand.

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Can you use Millinette for acne?

You can, but Millinette is prescribed as a contraceptive first and foremost, so if you want to use it for acne, let us know and we can advise you on this during your consultation.

The 30/75 Millinette pill can be particularly effective at treating acne, but you’re more likely to get side effects with it than the 20/75 dose.
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