Feature Article

An update on contraception. Part 1: oral and emergency

Christine Read, Kathleen McNamee



Oral contraceptive methods, including the combined pill and the progestogen-only pill, are reviewed in this article, the first in a series of three on contraception. Medical contraindications to the contraceptive pill, how to start it, what to do when problems arise and when to consider emergency contraception are also discussed.

Key Points

  • Oral contraceptives are reversible, effective and user friendly. More women in Australia use this form of fertility management than any other method.
  • New and clearer guidelines have been developed and published over the past decade to aid healthcare providers prescribe oral contraception safely and appropriately.
  • An important factor is the potential for use of the combined oral contraceptive pill to have an unfavourable or dangerous risk for women with existing medical or lifestyle conditions.
  • A practical problem with the oral contraceptive pill is side effects such as nausea and irregular bleeding, which can often be resolved by changing the type or formulation of the pill.
  • Hormonal emergency contraception prevents or delays ovulation and may affect implantation. It should be taken within 120 hours of unprotected sex.