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Should I go on taking the pill? HEALTH OUR expert Dr JOANNA LONGSTAFFE Clinical director of the Independent General Practice answers your medical queries.

Q I have been taking the contraceptive pill for more than 10 years and am worried that this is too long to be on any form of medication. Do you think it's time I tried a new form of contraception? A Many women have concerns about the contraceptive pill and whether the length of time they are on it has any effect on their fertility. To put your mind at rest, the pill does not have any effect on your ability to get pregnant in later life. However, there are a number of other contraceptive measures if you do have any concerns.

The combined contraceptive pill is the most popular form of contraceptive, especially for women in their 20s and 30s. It is a birth control method made up of a combination of the hormones oestrogen and progesterone which prevent ovaries from producing an egg, or ovulating.

To work effectively the pill must be taken every day for 21 days and then stopped for seven days where there is a period-like bleeding.

There are a number of different contraceptive pills to choose from and often women find that they are suited to some more than others.

In addition to preventing pregnancy, the pill can also help treat heavy periods, premenstrual syndrome or endometriosis.

Not all women can take the pill due to medical issues - high blood pressure, migraine, gall bladder problems or diabetes for example. Others find the pill merely does not agree with them. Those who are very overweight or regular smokers are also generally advised against taking the contraceptive pill.

As with most medications, there are both advantages and disadvantages to using the pill as a form of contraception. Some of the advantages include evidence suggesting it can reduce the risk of ovarian cancer, womb and colon cancers. It can also help in the treatment of acne, and make periods lighter, regular and less painful.

The pill is very effective if taken correctly and it is an easy method.

Some disadvantages include the possible side effects which some women experience, like breast tenderness, mood swings and headaches. Less common side effects include small amounts of weight gain, nausea, and spotting of blood. There is also an increased risk of high blood pressure when taking the pill; a GP will usually monitor this when renewing a prescription for the pill.

The pill does not protect against sexually transmitted diseases and this is often seen as a major disadvantage of this form of contraception. It has also been linked to increasing the risk of thrombosis and breast cancer in women.

To answer your question there is no reason why being on the pill for 10 years or more would have any effect on your health or your fertility. There is certainly no evidence to suggest that either of these would be affected by short or long term use of the pill.
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Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Dec 26, 2012
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