Cilest is a combined oral contraceptive pill that can help prevent pregnancy. As a combined pill, this means it contains 2 types of female hormones, a progestogen and an oestrogen.
Each pack of Cilest contains a 3 month supply (3 blister strips) of pills. Each blister strip of Cilest contains 21 pills. The strips are marked with arrows to help you keep track of your pills.
The active ingredients of Cilest are norgestimate (a progestogen) and ethinyl estradiol (an oestrogen). Each pill contains 250 micrograms of norgestimate and 35 micrograms of ethinyl estradiol.
Cilest is a branded medicine, and was discontinued from July 2019 for commercial reasons. The manufacturer of Cilest, Janssen, stated that there were no concerns about safety, efficacy or quality of Cilest. Janssen no longer makes contraceptive pills, which is why they stopped making Cilest.
If you are looking for an equivalent, there are 2 contraceptive pills available from ZAVA that contain the same active ingredients, and in the same amount, as Cilest:
There are other combined contraceptive pills available from ZAVA, containing different doses of oestrogen and progestogen, or progestogen only.
3 x 21 (tablets expire June 2020) - £11.45
What is Cilest?
Cilest is an oral contraceptive pill. It contains versions of 2 female hormones – an oestrogen and a progestogen. These hormones control your monthly menstrual cycle that’s responsible for ovulation (releasing an egg) and your period.
The main way Cilest works is by preventing your ovaries from releasing an egg. It also causes:
- thickening of the mucus in your cervix (the entrance to your womb), which makes it more difficult for sperm to enter the womb
- changes to the lining of your womb, making it more difficult for a fertilised egg to develop there
Cilest does not provide protection against sexually transmitted diseases or infections.
Cilest was made by Janssen until 2019.
How to take Cilest
To prevent pregnancy, you will need to take a Cilest pill each day for 21 days, followed by 7 days where you do not take any pills and may have a withdrawal bleed.
Take Cilest at the same time each day. Swallow your Cilest pill whole and do not chew the pill. You may find it easiest to take the pill with a drink of water.
You should not take Cilest if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
You should not drink grapefruit juice whilst taking Cilest.
Delaying a period
You can delay your period whilst taking Cilest by skipping the 7 day pill free break:
- after you finish your strip of pills, simply start your next strip the next day
- you may experience some bleeding or spotting over the next 7 days
- then continue taking your pill as usual, with a 7 day break after you finish the next strip of pills
When to take your first Cilest pill
If you are taking Cilest for the first time, or after a break from taking Cilest, take your first pill during the first 5 days of your period. You will have protection against pregnancy straight away.
As Cilest has been discontinued, you can switch from Cilest to another type of contraceptive pill or form of contraception.
Missing a pill
If you miss a Cilest pill and it is less than 24 hours since the usual time you take it, take the missed pill straight away. Take the next pill at the usual time. You will still have protection against pregnancy.
If it’s more than 24 hours since the usual time you take your pill, take the missed pill as soon as your remember and your next pill at your usual time. This might mean taking 2 pills together or on the same day, which is safe to do. You do not need to use extra contraception, and you will still be protected from pregnancy.
If you miss 2 or more pills, you may not be protected from getting pregnant. You need to take the last pill you missed, and your usual pill. Then you will need to use extra contraception, such as a condom, if you want to have sex during the next 7 days. You will need to speak to a doctor or pharmacist about getting the morning after pill to prevent pregnancy. If you’ve missed 2 or more pills from the last 7 pills in your strip, skip the 7 day pill free break or any placebo pills and go straight onto your next active pill.
If you miss a pill at any time and do not have a bleed in the next pill free break, you may be pregnant.
If you think you may be pregnant, you should speak to your doctor or a pharmacist for advice. In some circumstances, you may need to consider taking emergency contraception. For example:
- if you missed two or more pills in the first 7 days of a pack and you had sex during that week
- if you had a pill-free break longer than 7 days and you had sex during the last 7 days
Sometimes when taking Cilest, you may not have a monthly bleed. If you have taken every pill at the correct time, you are unlikely to be pregnant. However, you should do a pregnancy test before you start your next strip of pills.
Vomiting and diarrhoea
You may not be protected against pregnancy, if you have:
- vomiting or diarrhoea that start within 3 hours of taking Cilest or
- diarrhoea that lasts for 24 hours or more
- continue to take Cilest as usual
- use an additional method contraception for as long as you have symptoms and for a further 7 days
If you finish a strip of pills during this time, start the next strip without a 7 day break.
If you would like to get pregnant, you should stop taking Cilest. Consider using another method of contraception until you have a natural period. If you become pregnant, knowing the date of your last natural period is helpful to estimate when your baby is due to be born.
What are the side effects of Cilest?
Cilest may cause side effects. These are usually mild and not everyone taking Cilest will experience side effects.
Very common side effects of Cilest:
- feeling sick (nausea) or being sick (vomiting)
- change in your periods – painful periods or bleeding or spotting between periods
Common side effects of Cilest:
- dizziness or weakness
- increase in weight
- changes in mood, feeling nervous or depression
- difficulty sleeping (insomnia)
- vaginal discharge or infection
- no periods
- urinary tract infection (UTI)
- sore breasts
- stomach ache, feeling bloated, constipation or wind
- swollen hands or feet
- acne, rash or other skin problems
- muscle spasms
- painful hands, arms, legs or back
Uncommon side effects:
- breasts feeling full
- nipple discharge
- change in libido (sex drive)
- dry vagina
- muscular pain
- red or itchy skin, or patches or darker skin
- tingling or numbness in hands or feet
- appetite changes
- thinning of hair or excessive hair growth
- changes in weight and weight loss
- vision changes or dry eyes
- worried feelings
- feeling faint
- palpitations (feeling your heart beat fast)
- hot flushes
- stomach pain and changes to periods (this can be caused by a cyst on the ovary)
You may experience some bleeding or spotting whilst taking Cilest, particularly in the first few months. This usually stops after a couple of days. Taking Cilest at the same time each day can also help reduce bleeding or spotting. You should speak to your doctor if bleeding or spotting:
- continues for more than a few months
- starts after you have been taking Cilest for some time
- continues after you have stopped taking Cilest
If you are concerned about any side effects whilst taking Cilest, you should speak to your doctor or pharmacist. You can also use the MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare products regulatory agency) Yellow Card site to report any side effects.
Before taking Cilest, you should let your doctor know about any other medicines you are taking, have taken recently, or are planning to take.
Some medicines may make Cilest less effective, and these include:
- medicines used to treat epilepsy (including topiramate, carbamazepine, phenytoin, fosphenytoin, oxcarbazepine, felbamate, primidone, eslicarbazepine acetate and rufinamide)
- bosentan (used to treat high blood pressure in the lungs)
- some antibiotics including tetracyclines
- some antibiotics used to treat tuberculosis (TB) including rifampicin and rifabutin)
- treatments used to treat nausea and vomiting caused by some cancer treatments (aprepitant and fosaprepitant)
- medicines used for fungal infections (including griseofulvin, itraconazole, ketoconazole, voriconazole and fluconazole)
- some barbiturates (sedatives)
- modafinil for excessive sleepiness during the day
- the herbal remedy St John’s Wort
- some treatments for HIV
- etoricoxib used to treat arthritis
- charcoal used to treat wind and indigestion
If you are taking any of these medicines, you may need to use extra contraception. Your doctor can advise you how long you will need to do this for.
Cilest may change the effectiveness of some other medicines, including:
- ciclosporin (used to prevent rejection after transplants, for rheumatoid arthritis and for some skin problems)
- omeprazole (used to reduce stomach acid)
- prednisolone (used to treat inflammation)
- selegiline (used to treat Parkinson’s disease)
- theophylline (for asthma, bronchitis and emphysema)
- voriconazole (for fungal infections)
- clofibric acid (to treat high cholesterol)
- temazepam (for anxiety)
- tizanidine (a muscle relaxant)
- lamotrigine (for epilepsy)
- If you are taking any of these medicines, speak to your doctor for advice.
If you need to have a blood test or urine test whilst taking Cilest, you should let your doctor know as Cilest may interfere with some results.
You should not drink grapefruit juice whilst taking Cilest.
Alternative contraceptive pills
Is Cilest the same as Cilique?
Cilique contains the same active ingredients, and in the same amounts, as Cilest.
As Cilest has been discontinued, you can switch to Cilique or Lizinna as they are equivalent.
Dr Babak Ashrafi Clinical Lead for Service Expansion
Babak studied medicine at King’s College London and graduated in 2003, having also gained a bachelor’s degree in Physiology during his time there. He completed his general practice (GP) training in East London, where he worked for a number of years as a partner at a large inner-city GP practice. He completed the Royal College of GPs membership exam in 2007.Meet our doctors
Last reviewed: 31 Mar 2022
Cilest 250/35 microgram tablet (Patient Information Leaflet) [Sep 2014] [accessed Mar 2022]
Contraceptive pills are a reliable way of reducing your risk of getting pregnant from sex. ZAVA offers most common brands of pill, so you can order your preferred brand by visiting our contraceptive pill service page.
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