The pill – what are young Australians asking about contraception?

What do I do if I miss a dose of the contraceptive pill? And can I take emergency contraception while breastfeeding? These are among the most-asked questions from young Australians to the NPS MedicineWise Medicines Line service.

“When it comes to contraception, it is important to ask questions and discuss with your health professional which method is most suitable for you and how to use it safely and effectively,” says Dr Jill Thistlethwaite, general practitioner and medical adviser at NPS MedicineWise.

A study of calls made to the Medicines Line made by people aged 19-30 in 2018 found that oral contraceptive pills and emergency contraception medicines were two of the top medicines enquired about by this age group.

“What might be right for one person may not be the best option for another. For example, the combined pill may not be the best contraception option for women who get migraines or those with high blood pressure,” says Dr Thistlethwaite.

“There are options to prevent pregnancy, including choices other than pills. This is why it is important to ask your health professional,” she says.

“People often call us asking what to do if they miss a pill,” says Nerida Packham, pharmacist and Medicines Line team manager.

“This can depend on where in the packet they are when they miss the pill, when they had sex, and other information. People unsure should refer to the leaflet that comes with the medicine (which you can also look up on the NPS MedicineWise Medicine Finder), speak to their pharmacist or doctor, or call the Medicines Line,” she says.

“People are also asking about the emergency contraception pill. Sometimes called the ‘morning-after pill’, people often don’t realise that there are preparations available that can be effective for up to 3-5 days after sex depending on the type of pill, although effectiveness can reduce with time since intercourse.

“Interaction with other medicines and the contraceptive pill is another common question to Medicines Line,” says Ms Packham.

“Some medicines can reduce the effectiveness of contraceptive pills, including some complementary medicines. For example, St John’s Wort that some people use for anxiety and depression may reduce the pill’s effectiveness,” she says.

“It’s important to ask questions before taking other medicines and complementary medicines with the contraceptive pill.

“It is also important to know the active ingredients of contraceptive pills as there are several different ingredients, strengths and generic brands on the market. You can check the active ingredient in you medicine on the NPS MedicineWise Medicine Finder,” she says.

Other questions top of mind for this age group are about medicines for depression and anxiety, medicines in pregnancy and breastfeeding and some pain medicines.

Medicines Line is a free service. For more information on prescription, over-the-counter and complementary medicines (herbal, ‘natural’, vitamins and minerals) from a health professional, call Medicines Line on 1300 MEDICINE (1300 633 424) for the cost of a local call (calls from mobiles may cost more). Hours of operation are Monday–Friday 9am–5pm AEDT (excluding public holidays).

Spokespeople are available for media interviews.

Soundbites are available to download for use on radio: Listen and download here.