Contraception can be quite a complex subject.
Sometimes barrier methods might break or not work properly, and extra precautions might need to be taken.
Many couples who regularly use contraception might, at a time right for them, wish to stop and begin trying for a baby.
Sometimes, someone who has had a baby might want to start taking the pill again.
With this in mind, we thought we’d provide answers to those more commonly asked questions about pregnancy and birth control:
Can I still get pregnant whilst taking the contraceptive pill?
Yes, there is still a small chance that you may get pregnant when you are taking the contraceptive pill, even if you do so correctly.
It is an effective method of contraception for the majority of those that use it, but studies have found that approximately one woman out of 100 will get pregnant each year when taking either the combined contraceptive pill or the progesterone-only contraceptive pill.
Will a pregnancy test work if I’m on the pill?
If you are taking the pill and you think that you may be pregnant then you should take a pregnancy test to confirm this.
The contraceptive pill works by changing the balance of female hormones and making the body think that an egg has already been released into the fallopian tube.
The hormones used (oestrogen and progesterone) are not the same as those that indicate pregnancy and so they will not cause problems when using a pregnancy test.
Home pregnancy tests work by detecting the pregnancy hormone known as human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) in urine. This hormone usually becomes present in urine around 13 to 16 days after ovulation has occurred.
When should I stop taking the pill if I want to get pregnant?
Typically, around a month before you want to begin trying.
If you stop taking the pill there is a chance that you could get pregnant straight away.
However, it can take a while for some women for their natural menstrual cycle to return to normal. Your doctor may suggest that you wait until you have one natural period before you commence trying to conceive.
Are there any other reasons I should stop taking the pill?
If you are a smoker and reach the age of 35 you should speak to your doctor about contraception, as it may no longer be safe for you to continue to use the pill.
Also, if you develop thrombosis, heart disease, stroke, systemic lupus erythematosus, breast cancer, liver or gallbladder disease, migraines, diabetes or become immobile for long periods of time, you may have to stop taking the pill.
You should not have to stop taking the pill in order to give your body a break from the hormones, as they do not build up over time.
This means that if you are a healthy non-smoker, you should be able to use the contraceptive pill up to the age of 50.
Will the pill cause a miscarriage if I am pregnant?
The contraceptive pill is not an abortive method, and there is no evidence to suggest that taking it during early pregnancy will harm the foetus.
However, if you suspect that you have become pregnant while taking the pill, you should contact your doctor for advice. They may tell you to stop taking the pill pending further consultation.
Do I need to use contraception after giving birth?
After giving birth, many women have sex as soon as they feel comfortable doing so, and it is possible to become pregnant three weeks (21 days) after you’ve had your baby.
With this in mind, you need to think about what type of contraception you want to use.
Those who are not breastfeeding can choose from a variety of contraceptives ranging from barrier methods such as condoms to hormonal methods such as the pill, vaginal ring and implant.
The amount of weeks you may have to wait before you can use certain types of contraception can vary and so you should speak to your doctor when making a decision.
What contraceptives can I use when breastfeeding?
If you choose to breastfeed your baby you will be advised to avoid certain contraceptives such as the combined contraceptive pill, vaginal ring and implant. This is because hormones in these medications can become present your milk supply.
However, there are alternative options available for those who are breastfeeding such the progesterone-only pill, diaphragm, cap, injection, IUD, IUS and, of course, condoms.
Condoms and the progesterone-only pill can be used immediately following childbirth, whereas the injection, diaphragm, cap, IUD and IUS can be used around six weeks afterwards.