Healthy Living

Talking medicine: Understanding how family planning pills work

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Oral contraceptives. 

By Stella Nakakande

Posted  Monday, December 16   2013 at  02:00

This week let us talk about oral contraceptives, the drugs that are at the heart of most women and some men. They are made of hormones that may contain both oestrogen and progesterone or only progesterone. Oral contraceptives pills are largely used as a family planning method-to prevent pregnancy and should be taken daily. But what happens when a woman misses taking the pills?

Combined oral contraceptives
The recommendation is if you miss taking one or more tablets from the inactive set, you may not necessarily require any additional contraceptive precaution. In this case, you should go ahead with taking the tablet and ignore what you had already missed. But if it turns out that you have missed all the inactive tablets and the next pack is not started on time, then additional precautionary methods such as condoms should be used over the next seven days.

The most critical time is when you forget to take the pill at the beginning or end of the cycle. If there is a delay of more than 12 hours after the usual time of taking the pill, then the contraceptive protection in the cycle in question is reduced, and this increases a woman’s risk of becoming pregnant.

A missed pill can be defined as one that is late by 24 hours or more. If the woman misses one tablet, then they should take an active pill as soon as they remember, even if it means taking two tablets at the same time and then continue with the normal schedule later. When you miss two or more pills, especially among the first seven in the packet, the same guideline is recommended.
In this case however, additional contraception methods such as use of condom or abstinence for the next seven days are recommended.

Progesterone-only oral contraceptives
These should be taken at the same time every day. The recommendation for the use of other methods of contraception is extended to 14 days if the dose is delayed by three hours or more. The pill should be taken as soon you remember and then continue the normal schedule.
If you are changing from combined oral contraception, then start taking the progesterone-only pill on the day after stopping the combined oral method.
With progesterone-only pills, you can start on the dose three weeks after childbirth.

The writer is a pharmacist