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The Pill

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Feature

The Pill is one of the most popular contraceptive methods in New Zealand. It is over 99 per cent effective in preventing pregnancy when taken correctly.

In the beginning

The Pill was introduced in New Zealand around 1961. This caused a significant shift in family planning. It was the first really reliable contraceptive method and women embraced the new technology.

Within five years of its introduction, 40 per cent of married, fertile women were on the Pill. By the mid-1960s married women on average were already having fewer children.

At first the Pill was supposed to be prescribed to married women only. Many doctors were reluctant to prescribe the Pill to unmarried women because of society’s moral objections to sex outside of marriage.

To get around this, clinicians at Family Planning clinics used to give unmarried women rings to put on their fingers when they visited!

Thankfully, the feminist movement in New Zealand and the work of a few liberal doctors in the 1970s led to the Pill becoming more accessible for all women, married and unmarried.

The Pill today

Today the Pill is easily accessible to all women in New Zealand. Some contraceptive pills are subsidised so cost only $5 for 6 months’ worth plus the cost of the clinic appointment.

Different forms of the Pill

The Pill comes in two forms. Both forms are simple and convenient, and are taken orally.

  • The Progestogen-Only Pill works in different ways depending on the dose of progestogen. Some thicken the mucus in the cervix to prevent the sperm from reaching the egg or stops the ovaries producing an egg each month. Others may stop the production of eggs.

There are a number of variations of both these forms. Some women will try more than one type before finding the right one.

Serious side effects are rare

There are no serious side effects from the Progestogen-Only form of the Pill. Studies show that serious side effects from the Combined Oral Contraceptive Pill are rare.

However it’s always good to know about the risks (and benefits) so you can make an informed decision about the contraception that’s right for you.

Use of the Combined Pill can increase the risk of blood clots in the leg. This risk is increased by pregnancy, a close family history of blood clots, being overweight and smoking.

The Pill and Cancer

Breast cancer research suggests that even if there is a link between Combined Oral Contraceptive Pill use and breast cancer, it is small.

Cervical cancer risk may be increased for women who carry the type of wart virus that causes cervical cancer. Make sure you keep up with your three-yearly cervical smears as recommended by the New Zealand Cervical Screening Programme.

Being on the Pill actually reduces your risk of getting cancer of the ovary or the endometrium (the lining of the cervix). A long term study in the United Kingdom showed that women who used a contraceptive pill were less likely to die than those who didn’t.

Right for you

The Pill that is right for you will depend on your individual circumstances. Talk to your doctor or visit a Family Planning clinic to discuss the best option and get a prescription for what you choose.

The Pill isn’t the right contraceptive method for everyone so you should explore the range of options available.

Family Planning has clinics located throughout New Zealand. Use the clinic finder to find your nearest clinic.

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