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Women's Medication

The Contraceptive Pill Does Not Put Babies at Risk of Birth Defects

Posted Monday 29 February 2016 11:27 by Tim Deakin in Women's Medication

women's medicationThe contraceptive pill has been closely scrutinised ever since it first became widely available in the 1960s. As a medication that influences the hormone levels in the body, the pill can affect the body in a number of ways, including some minor but manageable side effects.

For many women who choose to take oral contraceptives, there is a long-standing fear that taking the pill when unaware of pregnancy may result in birth defects to their unborn child. Similarly, those women who take the pill for many years before coming off contraception to try for a baby have expressed concerns that this may somehow affect the health of any subsequent children.

Recent research has shown, however, that taking oral contraceptives does not increase the risk of children being born with defects. In fact, the number of birth defects recorded in the study found that those women who had never used oral contraceptives had the same likelihood of birth defects – roughly 25 in every 1000 – as those who had regularly used the pill.

There are a number of minor side effects traditionally related to the pill, including water retention, mood swings and decreased libido, as well as a slightly increased risk of blood clots due to the heightened levels of oestrogen in the body. However, this risk is relatively small. Any woman already at risk of blood clots or stroke – such as women over the age of 35 who are heavy smokers – are typically recommended to use alternative forms of contraceptives.

While it is unusual for women to continue to take the contraceptive pill during the course of pregnancy beyond the first trimester, when it is possible to be unaware of the baby, there are some cases where women have cause to continue with the medication. The oral contraceptive’s ability to manage hormones can be important to women with conditions such as acne.

What does this mean for women on the pill looking to conceive in the future?

The findings of the research into the oral contraceptive should reassure women that there is no proven link between the pill and birth defects in children. From this standpoint, the oral contraceptive can still be considered one of the most effective, convenient and safe solutions for women looking to control their cycle and fertility.

While the study also suggests that there is little reason for women to stop taking the pill during pregnancy, most medical professionals would still advise coming off the pill upon confirmation of a pregnancy.

Historically, it has been common practice for a woman to come off contraception a number of months before trying for a baby to avoid any adverse hormone effects. This study shows that there is no proven reason to do so, however, and so it may be considered safe to continue with the pill right up until a couple begin to try for a family.

Evidence does suggest, however, that conception is more likely if the menstrual cycle is given time to return to a more natural pattern, however, so this may still provide a reason to stop the oral contraceptive some months before trying.

If you require advice in relation to women’s medications such as the contraceptive pill, period-delay treatments or emergency contraception, get in touch with Express Pharmacy today on 0208 123 0703.

The Truth About Unwanted Facial Hair

Posted Sunday 28 February 2016 22:34 by Tim Deakin in Women's Medication

Unwanted facial hair can cause real problems for women. It is completely natural for a woman to have hair on the upper lip, cheeks, chin or neck, however, if that hair becomes thicker and more visible over time, it can be a source of embarrassment – resulting in low self-esteem.

For those women wanting to rid their faces of visible hair, the first step should be to ensure that the hair growth does not relate to a significant medical issue. The appearance of more coarse facial hair may be attributed to raised androgen (male hormone) levels in the body, which is known as hirsutism. Among the most common causes of hirsutism is PCOS - polycystic ovarian syndrome - while more rare cases may include cancers of the adrenal gland, cushing syndrome or the use of drugs such as anabolic steroids.

Once these issues have been discounted, it is possible to seek treatment in the shape of specific medications. At Express Pharmacy, we recommend using Vaniqa (or eflornithine hydrochloride). Vaniqa works by slowing the growth of facial hair during the production cycle. By disrupting an enzyme in the follicle that is essential to its growth, Vaniqa use typically starts showing positive results as soon as 4-8 weeks after twice-daily treatment begins.

Whilst hair removal treatments such as Vaniqa are perfectly safe, there are still some persistent myths surrounding hair removal and hair removal products that may cause concern among women thinking of seeking treatment.

The most persistent is that removing facial hair will make it grow back faster. It's a piece of established wisdom that's as old as anyone can remember and has been accepted as truth for years. But, in reality, it's completely untrue. This particular old wives' tale seems to have it's roots in the shaving habits of teenage boys, with parents down the decades observing that their son would have a more quickly established and luxuriant moustache or beard as soon as they started shaving regularly.

Contrary to popular opinion however, this accelerated growth speed has nothing to do with the act of shaving or hair removal in general, and is in fact linked to the increasing and fluctuating levels of hormones. Body and facial hair grows at different rates for everybody, and unless you're increasing the levels of testosterone in your body there is no medical basis in the idea that removing hair will make it grow back at a greater rate.

Another common misconception is that removing facial hair can also make it grow back thicker. In fact the opposite can actually be true, with frequent hair removal through waxing encouraging follicles to grow back thinner and finer. Hair that has been cut by a razor may sometimes appear to be thicker as it grows back, but that is simply because hair tapers and the section of hair closer to the skin is thicker than the tips at the end of the hair's length.

As far as creams and treatments such as Vaniqa are concerned, however, there will be absolutely no change in the thickness of hair once it has grown back.

At Express Pharmacy, we believe that all women should have the choice of whether or not to deal with their facial hair without worrying about the consequences, especially when those consequences are just age-old fallacies.

Remove hair with confidence with Express Pharmacy and Vaniqa.

Levonelle vs ellaOne: Which Emergency Contraceptive Is Right for Me?

Posted Saturday 30 January 2016 23:41 by Tim Deakin in Women's Medication

Accidents happen in life from time to time and mistakes often need rectifying. But there are few mishaps with more serious implications than opening oneself to the possibility of falling pregnant.

Even the most conscientious of people can suffer an accident or make a misjudgment that leads to the possibility of conception. This may include those individuals who have:

  • Not used contraception during intercourse
  • Used a condom that has split or come off
  • Failed to withdraw as intended
  • Missed their contraceptive pill

A fast and effective solution to such occurrences is an emergency contraceptive – otherwise known as the ‘morning after pill’. Provided that the medication is taken a short period of time after the unprotected sex has taken place, emergency contraceptives can be a simple and hassle-free way to ensure that a woman does not fall pregnant.

At Express Pharmacy, we now stock two emergency contraceptives. Not surprisingly, we are regularly asked which option is best and so in this article we will compare and contrast Levonelle and ellaOne.


EllaOne is considered to be the most effective morning after pill on the market. The active ingredient is a chemical called ulipristal acetate, which comes in the form of a single tablet.

EllaOne is considered to be 95% effective when taken within five days of unprotected intercourse, offering a significantly longer window for treatment than Levonelle. It is important to say, however, that those not wishing to fall pregnant should take EllaOne as soon as possible after sex, rather than allowing the full 120 hours to elapse.

A drawback of ellaOne is that it may only be taken once during a single menstrual cycle, and may disrupt long-term contraception such as the combined pill during the cycle.

The result of this is that it is not always possible to continue sexual activity as normal during the subsequent menstrual cycle due to the increased likelihood of pregnancy.

Side effects

Whilst usually rare and not considered serious, there are a few potential side effects to be aware of when taking ellaOne. These may include:

  • Irregular bleeding
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Stomach pains

Should you take any other prescription medications for health conditions, it is important to seek the advice of a pharmacist or GP before taking ellaOne.


Levonelle is the most widely used emergency contraception pill on the market today. Although it is considered to be less effective than ellaOne and may only be taken within 72 hours of unprotected intercourse, it is a cheaper and more flexible option.

Levonelle contains the active ingredient levonorgestrel. It is recommended that Levonelle is ingested within 12 hours of unprotected sex for maximum effectiveness, but it is possible to take the medication with some reliability up to 3 days after intercourse. Reliability figures are as follows:

  • Up to 95% effective when taken within the first 24 hours after intercourse
  • Up to 85% effective when taken within the first 48 hours after intercourse
  • Up to 58% effective when taken within the first 72 hours after intercourse

An added benefit of Levonelle is that it is possible to take tablets more than once during the same menstrual cycle if you should require it. And unlike ellaOne, which can inhibit some forms of contraceptive pill, Levonelle allows women to continue using their usual pill-based contraception effectively throughout the remainder of the month.

Side effects

Much like ellaOne, side effects are rare with Levonelle. For those women who do experience some mild problems, the most common of these are:

  • Bleeding
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Stomach pains

It should be mentioned that neither ellaOne nor Levonelle have any effectiveness against the contraction of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Emergency contraceptions should never be taken as a replacement for protected sex and if unsure as to the likelihood of an STI being contracted, a condom should always be used.

Looking to purchase the morning after pill today? Visit our Emergency Contraception page now. More information is also available via the Family Planning Association.

How to Ease the Symptoms of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome

Posted Sunday 25 October 2015 09:36 by Tim Deakin in Women's Medication

polycystic ovariesPolycystic ovarian syndrome, or PCOS is a condition affecting the functionality of a woman's ovaries. It is thought that approximately one in every ten women in the UK suffer from polycystic ovaries, but as the problem can go undiagnosed for many years, it is impossible to determine exactly how many women are suffering from this issue.

Polycystic ovaries have three main symptoms:

  • Benign cysts of up to 8mm, which develop on the ovaries
  • Irregular and infrequent ovulation
  • high levels of adrogens "male hormones" in the body

While PCOS does not pose any threat to life, it does carry a cocktail of distressing symptoms with it, some which can unfortunately have a detrimental impact on a woman’s life. Some of the symptoms include: facial hair, Infrequent or absent periods, irregular or heavy periods, acne, weight gain, thinning hair, pelvic pain, anxiety, sleep apnea and infertility.

What causes PCOS?

The definitive cause of PCOS is unknown, although many experts believe the condition is hereditary. However, the main underlying cause seems to be a hormonal imbalance. When the levels of the sex hormones, oestrogen and progesterone, are out of balance this leads to the growth of the cysts.

It is also thought that insulin could be another factor in women with PCOS. Insulin is a hormone that controls the change of sugar, starches, and other food into energy. Many women with PCOS have too much insulin in their bodies, which then increases the production of androgen. High androgen levels can lead to: acne, excessive hair growth and problems with ovulation.

Is there a cure for PCOS?

Although there is no cure for PCOS, there are treatments and support available to help you deal with the symptoms. Treatments vary depending on the severity of the condition, and whether a woman intends to have children.

Lifestyle changes

Statistically, women who are overweight are more likely to suffer from PCOS. This puts more pressure on the body and adds to the list of symptoms associated with the condition. Making changes to your diet and incorporating exercise can go a long way towards easing the symptoms. This is because effective diet and weight management plays an important role in controlling insulin levels in the body and balancing numerous other hormone levels.

This includes limiting the intake of processed foods and foods with added and hidden sugars. Start adding more wholegrain products and add lots of fruits, vegetables, and lean meats to your diet.

These dietary changes, combined with regular exercise, should go some way to helping to ease your symptoms.

Birth Control Pills

Oral contraceptive pills contain two types of synthetic female hormones, progestin and oestrogen. There are various different kinds of oral contraceptives available.

They help by regulating the menstrual cycle so your periods aren’t so sporadic. The pill can also ease heavy periods so you don’t have to put up with the cramps and heavy bleeding associated with PCOS. Some pills can also help to reduce the symptoms of unwanted facial hair and acne.

Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about which contraceptive pill may be best for you. And remember, if you’re trying to get pregnant, this treatment wouldn’t be an option for you.

Medications for increased hair growth

One of the most concerning symptom for PCOS sufferers is the excessive growth of facial hair. This physical symptom can be devastating to a woman's self-esteem. However, there are medications out there to help.

Vaniqa is a prescription medication used for the reduction of unwanted facial hair in women. Going by the medical name eflornithine hydrochloride, it is a cream applied directly to the skin and works by slowing down the growth of hair. It can be a very effective treatment, as the reduced level of growth means that the need for hair removal procedures is significantly reduced.

Fertility medications

Although it’s not impossible to become pregnant when suffering from PCOS, it can make it more difficult to conceive naturally. This is because the ovaries don’t ovulate as regularly as they should.

There are various different medications available to stimulate the ovulation process, making it easier for the woman to conceive. If you’re suffering from PCOS and trying to get pregnant, talk to your doctor to discuss the options available to you in order to assess the right solution for you.

Can a period hamper athletic performance? Heather Watson breaks ‘the last taboo’ in sport

Posted Tuesday 27 January 2015 14:34 by Tim Deakin in Women's Medication

period delay treatment

The Australian reaches its conclusion this weekend, with the world’s top men and women fighting it out for the first Grand Slam title of the year. But it hasn’t just been the tennis that has hit the headlines over the past fortnight’s play.

Britain’s number one, Heather Watson caused a media storm when she admitted that her early exit from the tournament had more to do with Mother Nature than the current state of her game.

Following her recent win in Hobart, where she claimed her second WTA title, Watson arrived in Melbourne hotly tipped to do well. But after a display that was described by the Telegraph’s Jim White as ‘listless, underpowered, lacklustre’, Watson’s explanation of her performance was somewhat unexpected.

Following the game Watson was questioned about what exactly had caused this standard of play. Had her glandular fever made a return? Or perhaps the intensity of the Melbourne heat just happened to get the most of her? However, Watson’s response was simple: ‘It’s just one of these things that I have . . . girl things.’

For one too many women this is a familiar situation that creeps around the corner, seemingly at always the most inconvenient of times. Yet it is rarely openly spoken about. Generally, society maintains a certain level of silence around the female menstrual cycle; leaving many to claim that Watson’s openness has finally broken down one of ‘the last taboos’ in sport.

Though Watson didn’t explicitly state that it was her period that affected her performance, the allusion of ‘girl things’ was clear enough.

Subsequent media coverage included quotes from Annabel Croft to Paula Radcliffe to Dame Tanni Grey Thompson, each of whom had a different perspective on the effect and influence menstruation can have on athletic performance.


Is there scientific proof that a woman’s period can affect performance?

Mood swings, lack of composure, loss of coordination, increased susceptibility to injury, dehydration, stomach cramps, listlessness: these are just some of the symptoms women can experience as a result of getting their period. The problem for the sporting world in assessing the validity of Watson’s excuse at the Australian Open is that the effects can vary massively from woman to woman.

What research has shown is that menstrual cramps affect up to 50% of women. Furthermore, 15% of these women describe the pain they suffer as a result as ‘severe’.

These stats show that the intervention of these unwanted hormones are not just an issue for women playing high-level sport. Whatever walk of life women are from and in whatever industry they work, it is undeniable that the menstrual cycle can present both a challenge and, at times, an unwanted inconvenience.

But what happens when, as with Watson, these draining effects hit you on a day of great importance?

While it is possible to suppress the natural cycle through use of the contraceptive pill, implant or injection, it is also simply possible to delay a period by a matter of days with Norethisterone.

Norethisterone contains a hormone similar to progesterone produced by the body. By keeping the hormone levels at a high level for longer, the uterus lining is maintained and menstruation does not begin until the individual stops taking the medication. Norethisterone can be used to delay a period for a maximum of 17 days and needs to be taken 3 days before the start of a period.


Who should consider taking Norethisterone?

As a temporary period delay treatment, Norethisterone is convenient and simple. Whether anticipating a big occasions such as a sports event or simply planning a holiday, speak to your pharmacist today about gaining more control over your cycle.

Visit our Period delay treatment page now to find out how you can get a prescription delivered direct to your door.