Your Ultimate Guide to Birth Control Pills in Hong Kong
13th September 2022
Birth control pills are widely used to prevent pregnancy. Wondering if this is the right birth control method for you? Here is a complete guide to birth control pills: which ones are available in Hong Kong, how they work, when to take them, side effects and where to buy them.
What are birth control pills?
Birth control pills, or contraceptive pills, are oral medications for pregnancy prevention. It is a reversible birth control measure with more than 99% effectiveness. In general, birth control pills contain synthetic hormones that alter women’s physiology to avoid pregnancy. In terms of hormonal composition, there are two kinds of oral birth control pills — combined oral contraceptive pills (also called combination pills, COC) and progestogen-only pills (also known as mini pill, POP).
How do birth control pills work?
Pregnancy is a complex process that starts when a fertilized ovum implants into the uterine lining successfully. It occurs only when ovulation, fertilization and implantation happen. Oral birth control pills work by introducing female sex hormones to inhibit one or more of these events.
A combined oral contraceptive pill consists of two types of female sex hormones, progestogen and estrogen, a combination of which inhibits ovulation. As there are no ova in the fallopian tube, fertilization, hence pregnancy, cannot take place.
On the other hand, progestogen-only pills contain progestogen as the only hormone. Upon stimulation by a high level of progestogen, cervical mucus is thickened and uterine lining development is suppressed. Thick cervical mucus obstructs sperm transportation, thus keeps sperms away from ova. Simultaneously, a thin uterine lining makes implantation of embryos almost impossible. As a result of both inhibition of fertilization and implantation, birth control is achieved.
Guidance on taking birth control pills
Birth control pills are usually available in 21 days or 28 days formulations. The first pill should be taken within the first 5 days of menstruation, followed by 1 tablet daily until the whole pack is finished. For a 21 days pack, you should take a 7-day break before starting the next course. No break is required for the 28 days formula since its last 7 pills are often free of active hormonal ingredients.
Desogestrel mini pill is the only available ‘progestogen-only pill’ in Hong Kong, which is a 28-day pack. Although you can start taking the minipill any time, be reminded that you need to take it within the same 3-hour window every day. If you missed the fixed window over 12 hours, additional contraceptives should be applied for the following 7 days.
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When should I take birth control pills?
In addition to pregnancy prevention, birth control pills can also be used to treat several medical conditions and symptoms, such as:
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
- Primary ovarian insufficiency (POI)
- Amenorrhea – lack of periods
- Dysmenorrhea – painful periods
- Premenstrual syndrome (a combination of symptoms like breast pain, weight gain, acne, mood changes)
- Anemia & iron deficiency
Birth control pills cope with either the conditions themselves or their symptoms, including irregular periods, pelvic pain and cramps, bone thinning, etc. It is best to consult with a doctor when you are looking for birth control pills for contraception or any of these conditions.
What are the side effects of birth control pills?
When it comes to birth control pills, there are many myths out there causing hesitation in pill taking. It is crucial to be aware of the actual side effects of birth control pills before taking any of them. The following are the potential risks of birth control pills that may concern you:
Both combination pills and mini pills may bring about common side effects, including:
- Nausea & vomiting
- Weight gain
- Fluid retention & oedema
- Breast tenderness
- Mood changes (such as depression)
- Menstrual disturbances (such as breakthrough bleeding)
- Sexual desire changes Most of these signs and symptoms are transient and will go away within a few weeks. Neither of these pills causes infertility.
Apart from the above common side effects, combined oral contraceptive pills also increase the risks of cardiovascular diseases like hypertension and thromboembolism. Progestogen-only pills on the other hand may lead to persistent menstrual irregularity or even amenorrhoea. As for minipills, they can induce a higher risk of ovarian cysts development.
Which birth control pill is the best?
Theoretically, as long as you take birth control pills correctly and consistently, they are all effective in contraception (over 99% effectiveness). The choice of birth control pills depends on factors including individual physiological condition, medical history, personal preference, treatment purpose, etc. To identify the most suitable pill for you, please visit a doctor.
Here are some essential considerations when picking a birth control pill:
- Pregnant women & Nursing mothers at the first 6 weeks of [postpartum](https://www.healthymatters.com.hk/post-pregnancy-birth-control-options/) —— are contraindicated for any birth control pills.
- Breastfeeding —— According to the UKMEC guidance, combined oral contraceptive pills can be taken by breastfeeding women safely after 6 weeks following childbirth. That being said, breastfeeding mothers should avoid the pills before such a period. (For your safety and babies’ health, it is best to discuss with your doctors and lactation consultants.)
- Smoking —— Heavy smokers, especially those aged 35 or above, should avoid taking combination pills.
- For Women aged 45 or above and patients with obesity, hypertension, diabetes, valvular heart diseases, hemicrania, jaundice —— combination pills are not recommended. Only take such pills under the supervision of healthcare professionals.
- Patients with venous thromboembolism, cerebrovascular diseases, severe migraine —— must not take combination pills. Mini Pills might be used instead upon doctor’s advice.
- Patients with ovarian cysts, malabsorption syndrome, history of ectopic pregnancy, severe arterial disease (such as severe hypertension), gynecologic cancer (like breast cancer and cervical cancer), severe hepatopathy, or undiagnosed vaginal bleeding —— should not take any birth control pills!
It is also important to note that birth control pills come in different hormonal dosages. You should visit a doctor or healthcare professional yearly to keep track of your physical condition. Moreover, it is often recommended that first-time users should undergo a healthcare professional consultation and physical examination to assess their suitability for birth control pills.
How do I get birth control pills in Hong Kong?
In Hong Kong, many birth control pills are available over the counter at local pharmacies and clinics without prescription needed. Some of them are also available in online shops:
- Bayer – Yasmin (優思明) No. of pieces: 21 Usage: Take the first tablet on the 1st–5th day of menstruation, followed by 1 pill daily afterwards. Take a 7-days break before the next course. Origin: Germany Online Shops: Watsons / Mannings / HKTV mall
- Bayer – YAZ (優悅) No. of pieces: 28 Usage: Take the first tablet on the 1st–5th day of menstruation, followed by 1 pill daily for 27 days. No break is needed between courses. (Take the pill around the same time every day.) Origin: Germany Online Shops: Watsons / Mannings / HKTV mall / MAMA730
- Marvelon (安意避) No. of pieces: 21 Usage: Take the first tablet on the 1st day of menstruation, followed by 1 pill daily for 21 days. Take a 7-days break before the next pack. Origin: Netherlands Online Shops: Watsons
- Mercilon – Ultra Low Dose Oral Contraceptive (美意避) No. of pieces: 21 Usage: Take the first tablet on the 1st day of menstruation, followed by 1 pill daily for 21 days. Take a 7-days break before the next course. Origin: Netherlands Online Shops: Watsons / Mannings / HKTV mall -Bayer Schering Pharma – Microgynon 30 No. voeof pieces: 21 Usage: Take the first tablet on the 5th day of menstruation, followed by 1 pill daily for 21 days. Take a 7-days break before taking the next pack. Origin: Germany Online Shops: Watsons / Mannings
- Wyeth – Nordette (娜迪) No. of pieces: 21 Usage: Take the first tablet on the 1st day of menstruation, followed by 1 pill daily for 21 days. Take a 7-days break before the next course. Online Shops: Watsons
- Harmonet (輕樂偶) No. of pieces: 21 Usage: Take the first tablet on the 1st day of menstruation, following with 1 pill daily for 21 days. Take a 7-days break before the next course. (Take the pill at the same time daily!) Online Shops: Watsons / Mannings
Emergency Contraceptive Pills
Another type of contraceptive pill, namely emergency contraceptive pills or morning-after pills, is prescribed by doctors for emergency contraception from unprotected sex and failure of other birth control methods. Emergency contraceptive pills prevent pregnancy by delaying or stopping ovulation. There are two kinds of morning-after pills available in Hong Kong, called Ulipristal acetate and Progestogen emergency contraceptive pills. They are meant to be taken within 120 hours and 72 hours (respectively) after sexual intercourse. Along with a 1–3% failure rate, morning-after pills are associated with common side effects, including headache, dizziness, fatigue, nausea, breast pain, abdominal pain, irregular vaginal bleeding. Emergency pill is regarded as a backup birth control measure only and is not recommended for regular use. Medical supervision and prescription are mandatory.
Emergency contraceptive pills are prescription-only medications in Hong Kong. They can only be found at the following places:
- ** Family Planning Association Hong Kong** For married women or who aged 26 or above, you can get emergency pills at any Birth Control Clinics of the Family Planning Association: Wan Chai Clinic (G/F) Ma Tau Chung Clinic (1/F) Wong Tai Sin Clinic Yuen Long Clinic (G/F) Tsuen Wan Clinic For unmarried women under the age of 26, morning-after pills are available at any Youth Health Care Centres of the association: Wan Chai Youth Health Care Centre Mong Kok Youth Health Care Centre Kwai Fong Youth Health Care Centre - Public hospitals & clinics You can also get emergency pills at Accident & Emergency Departments of governmental hospitals, or at the public Maternal & Child Health Centres. - Private Clinics Private physicians can prescribe and offer morning-after pills as well.
Refer to our in-depth guide for more information on morning-after pills in Hong Kong.
Remember that birth control pills cannot protect you against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), so extra precautions like condoms are still necessary for STDs prevention. If you have more questions regarding birth control pills in Hong Kong, please talk to a doctor or pharmacist.
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This article was independently written by Alea and is not sponsored. It is informative only and not intended to be a substitute for professional advice and should never be relied upon for specific advice.