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Oral hormonal contraceptives: how they work and common side effects

Oral hormonal contraceptives: how they work and common side effects

From this CPD module you will learn about:

  • How oral contraceptives work
  • Different types of oral contraceptives
  • Common side effects
  • Useful resources to keep your knowledge up to date

Download a printable PDF of this module – including the five-minute test – here.

Contraceptive choices can be confusing for patients. As pharmacy professionals, it is important that we are able to explain the options clearly and support patients with any questions they may have.

How oral contraceptives work

Oral contraceptives are available in two forms:

Combined oral hormonal contraceptives (CHCs) contain both oestrogen and progestogen in varying combinations and strengths:

  • oestrogen: as ethinylestradiol, estradiol or mestranol
  • progestogen: as desogestrel, dienogest, drospirenone, gestodene or nomegestrol.

Progestogen-only pills (POPs) contain only progestogen as either desogestrel, levonorgestrel or norethisterone.

The traditional POPs containing norethisterone (eg Noriday),(1) or levonorgestrel

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