The pill is one of the most popular forms of contraception in Australia, with up to 48% of women using either the combined pill or the mini pill as their primary form of birth control. There are many different options when it comes to the combined pill, including Femme-Tab.
The Femme-Tab pill is available by prescription only in Australia, so it’s important to understand how it works and how to best use it for your individual needs.
Femme-Tab is a combined oral contraceptive pill, containing a combination of estrogen and progestogen hormones. The estrogen component in Femme-Tab is ethinylestradiol, while the progestogen component is levonorgestrel.
There are two doses of Femme-Tab available: 20/100 and 30/150. The lower dose pill Femme-Tab 20/100 contains 20 mcg of ethinylestradiol and 100 mcg of levonorgestrel. Femme-Tab 30/150 contains 30 mcg of ethinylestradiol and 150 mcg of levonorgestrel.
The primary purpose of both versions of Femme-Tab is to prevent pregnancy. However, there are a few other positive benefits to combined oral contraceptive pills, such as lighter and shorter periods and improved acne.
Combined oral contraceptive pills all work in a similar way to prevent pregnancy. They prevent ovulation from happening, meaning there is no egg that is released that can be fertilised. They also make your cervical mucus thicker, making it difficult for sperm to enter the womb, while thinning the lining of your uterus, preventing any fertilised eggs from implanting. These 3 actions are how Femme-Tab works to stop pregnancy.
Each pack of Femme-Tab contains 28 pills: 21 pills with active medication and 7 pills with no medication. During the 7 days of inactive pills, or sugar pills, you’ll experience withdrawal bleeding similar to your period.It’s important to take Femme-Tab exactly as prescribed. Take one whole tablet at the same time every day. Taking your pill at the same time every day ensures your body has the correct level of hormones at all times.
However, there is some leeway with timing. With Femme-Tab and all other combined oral contraceptive pills, a pill is not considered missed until it’s been at least 24 hours, or 48 hours since you took the last one. If you missed a pill, take it as soon as you remember, even if it means you have to take two at the same time.
If you missed two or more pills, take the last one you missed as soon as possible and continue the pack as normal. Be sure to use condoms or backup contraception for 7 days.
Hormonal acne is common in both adolescents and adults. These types of breakouts are usually due to an increase in the production of androgens, or male sex hormones. Too many androgens causes your body to produce excess sebum, the oily substance that keeps your skin and hair soft - but also clogs your pores.
When you take Femme-Tab, you’re introducing synthetic estrogen and progestogen into your body. This counteracts the excess androgen, meaning there is less oil and sebum produced and therefore fewer breakouts. Not all women will have the same effects, but it is possible for Femme-Tab to help manage your acne. For some women, taking Femme-Tab may aggravate acne.
There are certain brands that have shown a greater response to managing acne, such as Diane-35, Yaz and Yasmin. However, these brands are more expensive than Femme-Tab and therefore some women might try to use Femme-Tab first to manage their acne. If you’re interested in using the pill to treat acne, talk to your doctor.
When you take oral contraceptive pills, the vaginal bleeding you experience is not quite the same as a regular period. Instead, it’s withdrawal bleeding from your body withdrawing from the lack of hormones for that week. Your body sheds the lining of your uterus, similar to how it does when you’re not taking the pill.
Because Femme-Tab thins your uterus, there is less to shed and so your period when taking the pill can be lighter and shorter.
Many women like to use the pill to skip their periods. While this is generally safe to do, speak to your doctor before you’re thinking about doing this for the first time.
You can skip the 7 sugar pills in your pack of Femme-Tab and start a new pack of active pills instead to skip your period. This maintains the level of hormones that are in your body so you don’t experience withdrawal bleeding.
The overall effectiveness rate of Femme-Tab and other combined pills is 99% when taken perfectly. However, this drops to about 92% with more typical use.
In addition to not taking the pill at the exact same time every day, other reasons the pill’s effectiveness might decrease include taking medications that interfere with it, vomiting or having diarrhea. If the pill isn’t taken at the same time each day to maintain the level of hormones in your body, or if it isn’t absorbed properly, the effectiveness rate decreases.
If you’ve missed two or more pills in a row, keep taking the pack and use backup contraception for 7 days.
Like any prescription medication, there are some side effects of Femme-Tab you should be aware of.
Mild side effects include:
- Stomach pain together with bleeding
- Headache, including migraines
- Mood changes, including depression
- Breast tenderness or pain.
More serious side effects are uncommon but can include:
- Pain in the chest, arm or below the breastbone
- Back pain
- Difficulty breathing
- Swelling, pain or tenderness of one leg
- Sudden weakness, numbness or bad ‘pins and needles’ of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
- Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
- Severe, sudden stomach pains
- Blood clots
- Breast lumps
If you experience any of the above, call 000 immediately. For breast lumps, review with your doctor as soon as possible.
If you’re starting the pill for the first time, it may take a little bit of trial and error before you find the best combination of hormones for you. When it comes to combined pills, Femme-Tab and other pills with levonorgestrel as their progestogen component are generally well-tolerated. Other brands of the pill in Australia with levonorgestrel as their progestogen component include Microgynon, Levlen, Loette, Nordette and Monofeme.
With two different dosages, your doctor may opt for one over the other depending on your medical history and needs.
In addition to the combined pill, there is also the mini pill. Mini pills only have progestogen in them, rather than both estrogen and progestogen. You might consider taking the mini pill if you shouldn’t have extra estrogen in your system.
Femme-Tab is a popular brand of birth control pill in Australia. It is prescribed to prevent pregnancy and can also help manage acne and lessen period symptoms. If you’re interested in trying Femme-Tab for the first time, talk to your doctor.
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∙ Femme-Tab ED 30/150 Leaflet (September 2017)
∙ Femme-Tab ED 20/100 Tablets Leaflet (December 2017)
∙ Family Planning NSW (September 2020) - Assessing prevalence and trends in contraceptive use of Australian women using a market research dataset
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