Frequently Asked Questions
Combined Oral Contraceptive Pills (COC)COCs are drugs that contain hormones (estrogen and progestogen) similar to those naturally found in a woman’s body. These drugs are taken daily to prevent pregnancy.
The combined oral contraceptives (COCs) contain low doses of two hormones, a progestin and an estrogen, which are like the natural hormones progesterone and estrogen found in a woman’s body. COCs prevent pregnancy by stopping ovulation (the release of eggs from the ovaries) or thickening cervical mucus thus blocking sperm from meeting an egg.
No. The pill works by preventing ovulation or the release of an egg from the ovaries and thickens cervical mucus to make it harder for a sperm to enter the uterus.
Evidence finds that the pill do not disrupt an existing pregnancy or cause a miscarriage. COCs should not be used to try to cause an abortion. They will not do so. In the rare instances when COCs fail to prevent pregnancy, there will be no harmful effects on the pregnancy.
No. Good evidence shows that COC will not cause birth defects and will not otherwise harm the fetus if a woman becomes pregnant while taking them or accidentally starts to take the pill when she is already pregnant.
Yes. There is no minimum or maximum age for pill use. Oral contraceptives can be an appropriate method for most women from onset of monthly bleeding (menarche) to menopause unless there are medical conditions the prevents its use.
Yes. Oral contraceptives are safe for women with varicose veins. Varicose veins are not dangerous. They are not blood clots, nor are these veins the deep veins in the legs where a blood clot can be dangerous (deep vein thrombosis). But a woman who has or has had deep vein thrombosis should not use COCs but can use POPs.
- Ovarian and Uterine Cancers – oral contraceptives has protective effect for 15 or more years after using.
- Breast Cancer – global studies are difficult to interpret. Slight increase of risk after > 10 years of use but breast cancers hit both women who are using and not using. The key prevention is early detection with screening.
Breast cancers in pill users are caught early because pill users are checked on regularly and non-users do not.
- Cervical Cancer – usually caused by sexually transmitted infection, the Human Papilloma Virus. Pill use of more than five years indicates a temporary slight increase in risk.
No. Taking a “rest” from oral contraceptive use can lead to unintended pregnancy. The pill can be safely used for many years without having to stop taking them periodically. The fluctuations in hormone from starting and stopping pill use can cause side effects to reappear and increase the risk of an unintended pregnancy, which poses a bigger health risk than using the pill.
A woman’s fertility return as soon as she stops taking oral contraceptives. She can become pregnant as quickly. The menstrual pattern she had prior to using the pill generally returns after she stops taking them. Some women may have to wait a few months before their usual menstrual pattern returns.
No. Most women do not gain or lose weight due to COC use. Weight changes naturally as life circumstances change and as people age. Because these are so common, many women think that the pill cause these weight changes. Studies have shown that, on average, oral contraceptives do not affect weight. A few women experience sudden changes in weight when using the pill. These changes reverse after they stop taking the pill. It is not known why these women respond to the pill in this way. Women experiencing some weight gain might need to review lifestyle changes first (exercise, diet) before advising them to switch to other modern family planning methods.
Generally, no. There is no evidence that COCs affect women’s sexual behavior. The great majority of pill users do not report any such changes, however, and some report that both mood and sex drive improve. It is difficult to tell whether such changes are due to the pill or to other reasons.
COCs help protect against risks of pregnancy, cancer of the lining of the uterus (endometrial cancer), cancer of the ovary and symptomatic pelvic inflammatory disease. They may also help protect against ovarian cysts and iron-deficiency anemia; reduce menstrual cramps, menstrual bleeding problems, ovulation pain, excess hair on face or body, symptoms of polycystic ovarian syndrome (irregular bleeding, acne, excess hair on face or body) and symptoms of endometriosis (pelvic pain, irregular bleeding).
A woman can avail of COCs in the following facilities:
- All city and municipal health centers provide combined oral contraceptives for FREE.
- Government hospitals with family planning facilities.
- Private birthing homes or lying-in clinics.
- Private doctors and clinics.
Source: “Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on Modern Family Planning Methods: Stop Rumors, Myths And Misconceptions with Correct Answers to Everyday Questions About Modern FP Method” by the Philippine DOH, USAID and JHPIEGO