Marvelon is an oral contraceptive pill that is taken to prevent pregnancy.

Pack of 63 Marvelon 150/30µg desogestrel/ethinylestradiol tablets
packet containing blister pack of Marvelon pills
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3 x 21 tablet(s) - £19.00

6 x 21 tablet(s) - £29.00

How does Marvelon work?

Natural hormones, like oestrogen and progesterone, are what your body uses to control your period. Combined contraceptives contain similar, lab-made hormones. These change your periods and help avoid pregnancy by:

  • stopping an egg from being released every month from your ovaries (ovulation)
  • blocking sperm by thickening the fluid around the entrance of your womb
  • thinning the lining of the womb to help stop a fertilised egg attaching to it
  • Each brand of the pill has different types and amounts of these two hormones. This does not change how effective they are, but it can affect how likely side effects will be, and how much your period or PMS symptoms change.

Marvelon, like all contraceptive pills, does not protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs). To avoid catching STIs, you’ll need extra protection, like condoms.

What is Marvelon?

Marvelon is a combined oral contraceptive pill that is taken to prevent pregnancy and treat heavy or painful periods. It contains a synthetic version of the two female reproductive hormones oestrogen (30mcg per pill) and progesterone (150mcg per pill). Each pill contains 30mcg of ethinylestradiol (a synthetic oestrogen) and 150mcg of desogestrel (a synthetic progesterone).

How to take Marvelon

You should take one Marvelon pill once a day with water. You can take the pill any time of day or night with a full or empty stomach. It’s best to try and take the pill around the same time each day to help you remember to take it. The pill does not interact with alcohol. The medication will come in strips of 21 tablets. Each tablet is labelled with the day of the week to help you to keep track of your daily dosage and to see if you’ve missed a dose.

Once you’ve taken all 21 pills and reached the end of the strip, you will usually take a break from the medication for 7 days. During the 7 day break, you’ll most likely have a ‘withdrawal bleed’ which will be similar to your period. Once the 7 days are up, you should continue taking Marvelon and start a new strip. If you’ve been taking Marvelon correctly before the break and start taking it again at the right time, you’ll be protected against pregnancy during these 7 days.

Some people prefer not to take a 7 day break. You can skip the 7 day break safely if you want to avoid having a breakthrough bleed for any reason (such as a special event or holiday). You can also take Marvelon regularly without a break or with a shorter break if you prefer. Speak to your doctor or message one of the ZAVA online doctors if you would like more information about this.

You can start taking Marvelon at any time of your menstrual cycle, but if you want immediate protection from pregnancy, you should start taking this pill during the first 5 days of your period. If you start Marvelon at any other point in your menstrual cycle, you’ll have to continue using protection during sexual intercourse for the next 7 days as you will not be protected against pregnancy.

If you miss one pill, you should take the missed pill as soon as you remember. It’s safe to take two pills at the same time if you remember your missed dose when your next dose is due. This should keep you protected from pregnancy. After this, you should continue the strip as normal. If you miss more than one pill then you might not be covered, depending where in the pack you are. Check the patient leaflet, or ask a doctor if you are not sure. If you’re sick or have diarrhoea within 3 to 4 hours of taking your pill, the hormones may not have absorbed fully, so you should treat this the same as missing a pill.

How does Marvelon work?

The two synthetic female sex hormones in Marvelon, known as ethinylestradiol (contains 30mcg) and desogestrel (contains 150mcg), are the active ingredients that prevent pregnancy when taking this medication. Marvelon is a combined pill and these methods of contraception override your natural menstrual cycle.

Your ovaries release an egg each month during a process called ovulation. If this egg is fertilised, you’ll become pregnant. If it is not fertilised, the egg will be disposed of during your period to make room for a new one next month. The artificial hormones in combined pills stop your ovaries from releasing this egg every month, which prevents pregnancy.

Marvelon and other combined pills also increase the thickness of your mucus at the neck of the womb, which will make it more difficult for sperm to cross into the womb from the vagina. The medication also thins the lining of the womb (endometrium), which will make it more difficult for a fertilised egg to successfully implant itself and grow.

How effective is Marvelon?

When Marvelon is taken correctly, the pill will be over 99% effective at preventing pregnancy. This means that less than 1 in 100 people who use this form of contraception will get pregnant within 1 year. Some medicines can make the pill less effective. If you take any other medicines, you should discuss this with your doctor or pharmacist. It’s important to remember that Marvelon does not protect you against sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

What are the side effects of Marvelon?

Most medications have side effects and everyone may experience different side effects from taking the contraceptive pill. Most women will experience little to no side effects when taking Marvelon. However, the hormonal changes that the combined pill causes can have side effects in some women, especially during the first 3 months of starting this treatment.

Some of the side effects of Marvelon are seen as positive and maybe one of the reasons the medication is prescribed to an individual. For example, the combination of hormones in Marvelon can help acne by reducing sebum production. The pill can also regulate your body’s hormones, which can help with heavy or painful periods.

Some of the most common side effects affecting up to 1 in 10 people include:

  • breast tenderness
  • headaches
  • low mood and mood swings
  • nausea or stomach pain
  • weight gain

Some uncommon side effects that can affect up to 1 in 100 people include:

  • larger breasts
  • low libido
  • migraines (seek medical attention if severe)
  • rash/hives
  • sickness or diarrhoea
  • swollen hands, feet or ankles

Some rare side effects that may affect up to 1 in 1000 people include:

  • a milky fluid secreted from the nipples
  • bruise-like swelling to the shins (erythema nodosum)
  • eye discomfort for those who wear contact lenses
  • harmful blood clots
  • increase in libido
  • irregular bleeding or changes in vaginal secretions
  • skin eruption with a lesion (erythema multiforme)
  • weight loss
  • for very rare side effects, refer to the package insert

If you have any common side effects and they do not seem to go away after 3 months or get worse over time, then you should speak to a medical professional. You should also contact your doctor if you think you’re having side effects that are out of the ordinary, that are not listed above, or that are listed above and are worrying you.

Who can take Marvelon?

Marvelon will be suitable for many women. However, as this medication contains hormones, you’ll have to discuss your situation and suitability with a doctor or pharmacist before you can start taking the combined pill.

You should tell a medical professional when requesting a prescription for Marvelon if:

  • you’re over 35 years old or over and you smoke.
  • you’re over 35 years old or over and you quit smoking less than a year ago.
  • you’re very overweight.
  • you suspect or know you’re pregnant and/or breastfeeding.
  • you take other medication.
  • you have or you’ve had blood clots.
  • you have had a stroke.
  • you have a heart abnormality.
  • you suffer from severe migraines.
  • you have or have had breast or cervical cancer.
  • you have or have had a disease of the liver or gallbladder.
  • you have or have had diabetes

You must disclose any of the above information with your doctor or pharmacist due to some of the risks associated with taking Marvelon. Marvelon can increase your risk of blood clots, which can lead to deep vein thrombosis, pulmonary embolism, a heart attack, or a stroke. It can also slightly increase your risk of developing breast or cervical cancer.

Marvelon interactions

Some medications can interact with Marvelon, which can reduce its effectiveness. If you take other medicines or herbal products, you should tell your doctor or pharmacist when requesting Marvelon. This also applies to any medication that is prescribed to you while you’re taking a combined oral contraceptive.

Medicines that can interact with Marvelon include:

  • medicines that treat epilepsy (primidone, phenobarbital, phenytoin, fosphenytoin, carbamazepine, oxcarbazepine, and barbiturates)
  • medicines that treat tuberculosis (TB) like rifampicin and rifabutin.
  • HIV treatment (ritonavir, efavirenz and nevirapine)
  • Hepatitis C treatment (glecaprevir and pibrentasvir)
  • blood pressure treatment (warfarin)
  • Herbal remedies that contain St John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum)

Your doctor or pharmacist will be able to recommend another method of contraception if you take any of the medicines listed above, or any other medication that could interact with the combined pill.

Alternative treatments

Marvelon will not be suitable for everyone, whether it’s due to the side effects, your age, or your medical history. You may need to find an alternative treatment. Fortunately, there are many contraceptives on offer to women who want to prevent pregnancy. Alternatives to Marvelon include other types of combined pills, the Evra Patch, NuvaRing, low-dose pills and mini-pills (progesterone only). Condoms are an effective method of contraception and they also protect you from STIs.

Long-lasting contraceptives that will be available through your GP or a family planning clinic include implants, injectable contraception and the coil.

Every method of contraception does come with potential side effects and something that may not work for one person may work well for someone else. A medical professional will be able to offer you the best advice and will take your current health status and other prescriptions into consideration.

What happens if I miss more than one dose of Marvelon?

If you miss 2 or more doses of Marvelon, then you should take your pill as normal once you remember the missed dose. However, you might not not be protected from pregnancy, so you should continue to use additional contraception, like condoms, during sexual intercourse for the next 7 days.

What happens if I have unprotected sex after I’ve missed a dose?

If you’ve missed one dose and you remember to take it before or alongside your next dose, you should be protected against pregnancy. If you’ve had unprotected sex since missing two or more doses of your pill, you should contact your doctor or a pharmacist about emergency contraception.

Can Marvelon be used as emergency contraception?

No, Marvelon cannot be used as emergency contraception. Marvelon is used to prevent the fertilisation of an egg in the first place, whereas emergency contraceptives are taken to stop the development of pregnancy after unprotected sex has occurred.

What are the chances of developing a blood clot while taking Marvelon?

The oestrogen in Marvelon can make your blood more likely to clot. This is said to occur in 9 to 12 women out of 10,000, which is a low statistic. Your risk decreases after you’ve been on Marvelon for over a year and goes back to normal a few weeks after stopping this treatment.

Does Marvelon increase your risk of cancer by much?

Research suggests that the combined pill, like Marvelon, can slightly increase your risk of developing breast or cervical cancer in the future. However, once you stop taking the medication, your risk will go back to normal after 10 years.

Medically reviewed by:
Dr Kathryn Basford

Dr Kathryn Basford is a qualified GP who works as a GP in London, as well as with ZAVA. She graduated from the University of Manchester and completed her GP training through Whipps Cross Hospital in London.

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Last reviewed: 13 Jan 2022

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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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