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Women's health

An update on combined hormonal contraceptive pills

Deborah Bateson, Mary Stewart, Kathleen McNamee

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Abstract

Latest developments in combined oral contraceptives (COCs) offer women more choice. Extended-cycle regimens are available and some COCs have non-contraceptive uses.

Article Extract

Although women in Australia are following the international trend of increasingly choosing more effective long-acting reversible contraception, combined oral contraceptives (COCs) continue to be used by about 33% of women.1 Clinicians should therefore be aware of the latest developments in COCs.

The earliest COCs contained the synthetic oestrogen ethinyl oestradiol (EE) or its prodrug mestranol combined with either of the progestogens levonorgestrel (LNG) or norethisterone (NET). They had high hormonal doses, high risks and troublesome side effects. Reduced dosages and new hormonal constituents and regimens have enhanced the safety and side effect profile of COCs and provided additional non-contraceptive benefits for conditions such as acne and heavy menstrual bleeding.2,3

Picture credit: Areeya_Ann/iStockphoto.com

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