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Women's Health

What does the combined pill actually do to your body?

Thu 6th February, 2020

Reviewed by: Dr. Vamsee Thalluri

Before you start taking the combined pill (oestrogen + progesterone), it’s worth understanding what it actually does to your body. We’ve looked through the research, read the articles, and delved into first-hand case studies to tell you what happens to your body on this amazing contraceptive.

Here’s what the combined pill actually does to your body.

Does the combined pill make your body think it's pregnant?

If you zoned out during your sex ed classes at school, you may be relying on pop culture to tell you what’s going on with your body.

However, as a grown woman who’s in charge of her body (and mind for that matter), we think you deserve to know what’s really going on down there. Cue quick science lesson...

The most commonly told story is that the combined pill makes you think your body is pregnant. While we’re not entirely convinced that it’s an accurate summary of the intricacies of the female menstrual cycle, it does have some truth to it. To break it down into simple terms: progesterone and oestrogen in your pill suppress the (big words coming up) Follicle-Stimulating Hormone and Luteinizing Hormone.

While these sound scary, they are actually some of the most natural hormones in the female body and are the two big contributors to triggering ovulation.

In short, when you block or alter these hormones you can stop ovulation, and that’s exactly what the progesterone and oestrogen in the combined pill does.

Editing the hormone balance in your body can make it think that it doesn’t need to release Follicle-Stimulating Hormone and Luteinizing Hormone and therefore doesn’t need to ovulate.

As this is similar to what happens during pregnancy (progesterone and oestrogen spike and ovulation stops) people sometimes like to say that the body is tricked into thinking it’s pregnant.

Does the combined pill give you an artificial cycle?

If you’re already on the combined pill, you’ll notice that you still bleed as if you’re having a period, however the truth is that the combined pill gives you an artificial cycle.

In essence, the constant high levels of progesterone and oestrogen replace the natural cycle which is then broken by a week of placebo pills. At that point, you have a breakthrough bleed which mimics the real bleed that occurs during a natural cycle.

This bleed is actually a withdrawal bleed, occurring because the progesterone and oestrogen in your body drops, causing the lining of the uterus to shed. This artificially induced period usually feels, looks, and seems exactly like a normal period but may be a little lighter.

If you're every curious about how your cycle might be affected by all this, it can always help to keep track of it using an app, or an old-fashioned calendar.

Do you ovulate on the combined pill?

No. The combined pill stops ovulation and therefore prevents you being able to get pregnant.

The main thing that the combined pill actually does to your body is top up the progesterone and oestrogen that stops the natural cycle in which your body prepares for egg release. In doing that, you shouldn’t ovulate and therefore shouldn’t get pregnant.

Learn more about the new way to manage your pill with Kin Fertility.​