A look at birth control options


Due to recent changes, accredited pharmacists are now permitted to supply a selection of oral contraceptives to certain women. This is an exciting change to improve convenience for women who fit the criteria of:

  • Aged between 16 and 39 years (up to 52 years for progesterone only pill)
  • Have seen their doctor within 3 years and have been prescribed the oral contraceptive at least twice
  • Are tolerating their current oral contraceptive well
  • Have a body mass index less than or equal to 35 kg/m2
  • Have a blood pressure reading less than or equal to 140/90
  • Do not suffer from or high risk of health conditions including heart disease, diabetes, migraines, breast cancer and others.

For women choosing to use birth control, there are a number of options available through your pharmacy. Before discussing these, it is timely to note the importance of being checked for sexually transmitted infections and practicing safe sex. Rates of STI’s are increasing in New Zealand and regular checks are recommended with your doctor. Many infections won’t have any symptoms but if you notice breakthrough bleeding on the pill, pelvic pain or urinary frequency, please see your doctor.

As far as contraceptive options, there are single use, daily, long-acting reversible, hormone and natural methods. How well these methods work can vary, and you may find some more convenient than others. Condoms, when used correctly and consistently, offer a very effective method of protection against STI’s. They are 85-98% effective at preventing pregnancy, depending on how well they are used.

Daily contraceptives include the combined oral and progesterone only pills. Progesterone only pills are used for women who cannot use estrogen and work primarily by thickening the cervical mucus. They are 96-99% effective and include Noriday, Microlut and Cerazette. Every tablet in the pack is an active tablet and must be taken within 3 hours of the same time each day (12 hours for Cerazette). The combined oral contraceptive is a combination of a synthetic estrogen and progestogen. They work by preventing ovulation, changing cervical mucus and making a hostile environment for implantation. They are 91-99.7% effective and include Norimin, Brevinor, Ava, Levlen, Loette, Ginet, Yasmin and others. Depending on the progestogen used, the pills are classified into generations. Those from the first and second generation (including Norimin, Brevinor, Ava) and progesterone only pills are available through an accredited pharmacist. The packs are made of active and inactive tablets of a different colour. It is important to take them at the same time each day, following the instructions on the packet. Your pharmacist can help guide you if you forget to take a tablet. The pill offers no protection from STI’s.

Long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARC’s) have a >99% effectiveness and described as a “fit and forget” contraceptive. They can be a good option for women who struggle to remember to use daily or single use methods. They are suitable for most women including the young, those who’ve never given birth, are breastfeeding, have recently given birth and those with chronic health conditions. They can alter bleeding patterns from stopping periods all together or making them frequent or prolonged in some cases. Depo-Provera is a twelve-weekly progesterone injection into the buttock which suppresses ovulation. Jadelle is a progesterone implant in two small rods that are placed under the skin on the inside of the upper arm and stay in place for five years. Intra-uterine devices (IUD’s) can be made of copper and stay in place for ten years or plastic with a cylinder around the stem that contains slow release progesterone. These include Mirena and Jaydess and stay in place for five or three years respectively. IUD’s are fitted into the womb by trained doctors or nurses and it is not uncommon to have cramping or light bleeding for a short while afterwards. They are best fitted after your period.

As with all health matters, our pharmacists at Ahuriri Pharmacy are available to answer your health questions. Phone us on 06 835 7948 or book an appointment to see your doctor to discuss what form of birth control is best for you.


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