Your contraception guide

How do I go back on the pill?

If you want to go back on the pill after a break from taking it, you should see your GP or contraception (family planning) nurse before starting to take the pill again.

Health check

You need to see a doctor or nurse so that they can check your general health and your blood pressure before advising whether the pill is still the best method of contraception for you.

This is because there are some risks associated with taking the combined pill or the progestogen-only pill. These risks are small and for most women the benefits of the pill outweigh the risks.

Risks of the combined pill

The oestrogen in the combined pill may cause your blood to clot more readily. It could cause a blood clot to develop in your leg (deep vein thrombosis) or in your lung (pulmonary embolism). It could also lead to a stroke or heart attack. The risk of getting a blood clot is very small, but your doctor will check if you have certain other risk factors that make you more vulnerable before prescribing the pill.

The pill can be taken with caution if you have one of the risk factors below, but you should not take it if you have two or more risk factors. Risk factors include:

  • being over 35 years old
  • being a smoker or having quit smoking in the last year
  • being very overweight (you should not take the pill if your BMI is over 40)
  • having migraines (you should not take the pill if you have severe or regular migraine attacks, especially if you get aura or a warning sign before an attack)
  • having high blood pressure
  • having had a blood clot or stroke in the past
  • having a close relative who had a blood clot when they were younger than 45
  • being immobile for a long time – for example, in a wheelchair or with a leg in plaster

If the doctor or nurse says that the pill is suitable for you, they will give you new supplies and make you appointments for regular check-ups (usually every three to six months).

Risks of the progestogen-only pill

Some women can develop fluid-filled cysts on their ovaries. These are not dangerous and do not usually need to be removed. These cysts usually disappear without treatment. In many cases, the cysts do not cause symptoms, although some women experience pelvic pain.

Breast cancer

Research is continuing into the link between breast cancer and the contraceptive pill (combined and progestogen-only pill). Research suggests that women who use any type of hormonal contraception have a slightly higher chance of being diagnosed with breast cancer compared with people who don’t use hormonal contraception. However, 10 years after you stop taking the pill, your risk of breast cancer goes back to normal.

If you have a family history of breast cancer, you may feel that this increase in risk (however small it is) is not worth taking. However, doctors do not think that using the contraceptive pill is likely to increase the risk in women who have close relatives with breast cancer.

Page last reviewed: 02/01/2015
Next review due: 31/12/2017