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Starting on the Pill

Posted on: September 20, 2021

Starting anything new can be a bit daunting but being empowered with the correct information makes all the difference! We have done the homework for you, so here is everything you need to know about getting started on the contraceptive pill…

Before you start, read the insert

When you get your hands on The Pill for the first time, take a few moments to carefully read the small information pamphlet that is packed inside the box1. This will tell you everything you need to know about The Pill, including how it works, when is the best time to start taking it depending on your cycle, its possible side effects and what to do if you forget to take a tablet. Keep this pamphlet safe as it should be your go-to reference if you can’t immediately get in touch with your doctor to answer any questions you may have.

Timing is everything

The Pill needs to be taken every day (one tablet per day) at around the same time to work effectively2. You may think that it will be hard to remember to take The Pill at the same time each day. Well, the good news is there are certain “tricks” many young women use that you may find helpful too! Taking The Pill just before going to bed or while you are having breakfast, for example, makes it easier to remember. It also helps if you leave the pack next to your toothbrush or next to your breakfast bowl the night before; this way you are sure not to forget. You can also put a reminder on your phone so the alarm will go off at a certain time making sure you don’t miss taking The Pill.

Get expert help and advice

Research shows that many young people turn to their friends for sexual health advice3 rather than consulting with experts. In fact, as many as 49.5% of young people in South Africa say they discuss questions about sex and contraception with their friends4. and 83% of young people around the world admit that they go online for information4 .It is true that you can find information about anything on the internet these days but with so much info out there and so many dubious sources, it is easy to get confused, overwhelmed or even misled. The reality is, when it comes to medical advice including advice on sexual health, healthcare professionals are the best people to talk to. Your doctor can give you trusted answers to any questions you may have about The Pill or contraception in general.

Be sure to mention to him/her if you are taking any other medication (even if it is for a short period) as these could impact on how effective the pill is1. Your doctor can also explain what other precautions to take during this time to avoid an unplanned pregnancy.  

Don’t forget about the added benefits of folate

You may or may not be aware that your body needs folate or folic acid to make DNA5 and to keep your blood cells, brain6 and heart healthy7 . What’s more, when you do plan to have a baby, you will learn that folate is one of the most important essential vitamins when preparing for pregnancy. So, you would be correct in saying that folate plays an important role in women’s health. However, we can’t produce folate naturally5 so we need to eat foods that are rich in folate or we need to take folate supplements. Speak to your doctor about the options available and how best to introduce folate with contraception.

Is The Pill the right contraceptive option for you?

While The Pill is safe and suitable for nearly all women8, when it is time to renew your prescription you can always discuss other contraceptive options with your doctor. This ensures that you use the birth control that best suits your body, health and lifestyle.

Going onto The Pill for the first time does not have to be nerve-wracking. With the correct information and guidance from your doctor, you can take charge of your reproductive health by making sure that you plan for a pregnancy if and when you are ready to have a baby.

1. Guillebaud, J. Contraception today: a pocketbook for general practitioners and practice nurses. 7th ed. London: Informa Healthcare; 2012: 54-61.
2.Republic of South Africa, Department of Health. National contraception clinical guidelines: a companion to the national contraception and fertility planning policy and service delivery guidelines. Pretoria (ZA): Department of Health; 2012.
3. James S, Reddy SP, Taylor M, Jinabhai CC. Young people, HIV/AIDS/STI's and sexuality in South Africa: the gap between awareness and behaviour. Acta Paediatr. 2004; 93: 268.
4. Bayer AG. Youth and contraception report: a survey of global youth perceptions of sex and contraceptio. Berlin (DE): Bayer AG; 2017.
5. Greenberg JA, Bell SJ, Guan Y, Yu YH. Folic acid supplementation and pregnancy: more than just neural tube defect prevention. Rev Obstet Gynecol 2011;4(2):52-59.
6. Reynolds EH. Folic acid, ageing, depression, and dementia. BMJ 2002;324:1512–1515.
7. EFSA Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies (NDA). Scientific Opinion on the substantiation of health claims related to folate and blood formation (ID 79), homocysteinemetabolism (ID 80), energy-yielding metabolism (ID 90), function of the immune system (ID 91), function of blood vessels (ID 94, 175, 192), cell division (ID 193), and maternal tissue growth during pregnancy (ID 2882) pursuant to Article 13(1) of Regulation (EC) No 1924/20061. EFSA Journal 2009;7(9):1213.
8. World Health Organization Department of Reproductive Health and Research (WHO/RHR) and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health/Center for Communication Programs (CCP), Knowledge for Health Project. Family Planning:  A Global Handbook for Providers (2018 update). Baltimore and Geneva: CCP and  WHO, 2018.


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