Pill Misconceptions Risk Health of a Million Women

  • 3.3 million have experienced side effects due to contraceptive pill but one in three have not reported them
  • Many have incorrect beliefs about how to take the pill effectively or are confused about latest guidance
  • Doctors at ZAVA are advising women to come forward with their concerns

15 March 2019, London UK: Almost a million UK women may be on the wrong contraceptive pill because of confusion about its use.

New research from Europe’s largest online doctor ZAVA reveals that more than 3.3 million women (80%) have experienced potential side effects from their contraceptive pill, but a third haven’t informed a health professional, meaning the medication could be unsuitable for them*.

Misconceptions about usage appear to be partly responsible for this, with women holding outdated or incorrect beliefs about the dosage and side effects of popular contraceptives like Yasmin, Cilest and Cerazette.

Many believe the monthly bleed is important – either to check you’re not pregnant (23%), that it’s good for your health (18%) or to make the pill more effective (12%), contrary to the latest guidance from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists which suggests that this break may not always be necessary.

One in five (19%) do agree that taking the pill continuously would help them remember to take it. This could even help to ensure it is effective at preventing pregnancy: not all women will remember to take it exactly according to instructions, so for a “typical user” the effectiveness might be around 91%. However, by taking it continuously, there are less likely to be long gaps without the right hormone levels, so the effectiveness could be boosted to 99% Despite this, for 17% of women, the new guidance has left them confused.

This confusion means that two in three women have remained on their current pill for five years or more** despite experiencing side effects including migraine, skin rash, nausea, vomiting or diarrhoea, irregular bleeding, changes in weight and mental health problems***.

Many women want to seek advice to clarify the best approach**** but don’t have the time to do so, struggling to get an appointment that works around their working hours (32%) or are simply too embarrassed to discuss the issue with a medical professional face-to-face (22%).

Experts at ZAVA are urging women to come forward with their concerns; the online platform offers fast, reliable access to qualified doctors who can provide expert, tailored advice about contraception choices.

Dr Louisa Draper, Medical Director at ZAVA said:

It’s clear that women need access to more information when it comes to their contraception. It’s a confused picture, supported by our own patients who often come to us after repeatedly suffering from contraceptive pill side effects.

The new guidelines give us the opportunity to start a renewed conversation about contraception. A woman’s contraception should suit her individual lifestyle and requirements, without a detrimental effect on her health. Whilst there are other methods of contraception available, the pill remains the most popular for British women, so if women want to take the pill, let’s make sure it’s the right one. At ZAVA we want to encourage conversation around which pill is best for each individual.

*Research conducted by Intrinsic Insight among 1,000 UK women aged 18-45 who take the contraceptive pill, February 2019.

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