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What are Combined Hormonal Birth Control Pills?

Combined hormonal birth control pills, which is also referred to as “the pill”, are oral pills taken daily that have 2 hormones (estrogen and progesterone). Birth control pills prevent pregnancy.

How do Combined Hormonal Birth Control Pills work?

  • They prevent pregnancy by stopping the release of an egg (ovulation).
  • They also thicken the vaginal fluid and change the lining of the uterus to make pregnancy less likely.

How effective are Combined Hormonal Birth Control Pills?

The pill is a very effective method of birth control. It is 93% effective at preventing pregnancy. With typical use, 7 out of every 100 people using the pill will get pregnant in one year. But, with consistent and correct use, the pill can up to 99% + effective.

  • Less period cramping and bleeding.
  • Decreased symptoms of Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS).
  • Periods are more predictable/regular, lighter or some people have no periods.
  • Less anemia caused by iron deficiency due to heavy periods.
  • Less acne.
  • Some protection against non-cancerous breast tumours, ovarian cysts, and fibroids.
  • Decreased risk of ovarian and uterine cancer.
  • Sexual enjoyment may increase, as using the pill can reduce the fear of pregnancy.
  • May protect against osteoporosis and endometriosis.
  • Does not impact future fertility.
  • Easy to stop without lasting effects.
  • Need to remember to take a pill every day.
  • In the first few months of use, some people using birth control pills may experience some mild side effects. Some examples of side effects; spotting, nausea, breast tenderness, headaches or dizziness. For most users, these symptoms will get better after a few months.
  • Rare but serious complications of using the birth control pill include blood clots, heart attack, stroke, liver tumours. Risks increase with age when accompanied by certain other risk factors such as smoking, especially more than 15 cigarettes a day.
  • The possibility of high blood pressure.
  • No protection against STIs.
  • Other medications can interact with your birth control. Be sure to mention that you are using birth control to your health care provider or pharmacist. Some medications and over-the-counter herbal supplements (such as St. John’s Wort) may decrease the effectiveness of birth control. You may be advised to use backup birth control while on these medications.

There are some signs that all people using the birth control pill should be aware of as these may indicate a serious complication. Seek medical attention immediately if you have any of the following ACHES symptoms:

Abdominal pain, especially on the right side of your stomach, below your rib cage

Chest or arm pain, shortness of breath, coughing up blood

Headaches, severe and not relieved by over the counter pain medications

Eye problems, blurred vision, flashing lights, double vision, blindness

Swelling, redness, numbness, tingling or pain in the legs

Questions? We’re here for you!

We know it can be confusing to choose a method. We are here to help. Our Options for Sexual Health Clinics are staffed by health care professionals who are there to answer your questions about sex, sexuality, and sexual health.  They can help you learn how to use the method you choose and bring you back to check in on how the method is working for you.

Between visits or anytime you have questions about sex, sexuality, or sexual health, our Sex Sense team is there to answer your questions Monday-Friday 9 a.m.- 9 p.m. (PST) by phone (1-800-739-7367) or by email at

This is general information and should not be used in place of individual consultation with a qualified healthcare provider.

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