What are the birth control pills and how effective they are?

 

Written by Janna Mustafina MSN, FNP-C

May 13th, 2020.

Birth control pills (also called "the pill") are the medications that contain hormones to prevent ovulation and, therefore, prevent pregnancy.  Females take one pill by mouth every day. They are 99% effective. They are most effective if taken at the same time of the day (or within 3 hours time window).  More than 3 hours window is considered being late with the pill schedule. 

 

How does the pill work?

These pills contain estrogen and/or progestin. Both hormones are released into your body to prevent ovulation.  How does "the pill" work? 

  • They stop ovulation

  • They thick the cervical mucus to create a plug (door) to prevent sperm from entering the uterus

  • They thin the uterus lining so an egg is less likely to attach and get fertilized by the sperm.

What are other benefits of birth control pills?

 

Many young females take birth control pills for many other benefits such as:

  • Birth control pills (or other in other form) regulate menstrual cycles,

  • They can reduce lower abdominal cramps during the periods,

  • They can treat hormonal acne,

  • They can red,

  • By balancing your hormones, it can help you with pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS) and/or pre-menstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD),

  • They can reduce your anemia as you can skip 1-2 periods every 4-6 months.

Types of birth control pills:

 

Birth control pills can be divided into 2 main categories:

 - combined hormonal contraceptives (CHC) 

 -  progestin-only pills or "mini-pills" (POPs)

Information on hormonal ingredients, brand and generic names, doses. 

CHC pills contain both hormones - estrogen and progestin. CHC pills vary by the amount of estrogen in it. Generally, CHC pills contain from 10-35 mcg of estrogen (or 0.01-0.035 in mg). Pills that contain 20mcg or less of estrogen are considered low-dose pills. They are usually recommended for women with side effects such as nausea, mood swings. The lowest amount of estrogen you can find in Lo Loestrin Fe (only 10mcg). Lo Loestrin is a combination of Norethindrone (progestin) and Ethinyl Estradiol (estrogen). 

Other most common names of combined birth control pills with the same hormonal ingredients but higher dose of estrogen are:

  • Junel Fe

  • Loestrin Fe 

  • Taytulla 

  • Microgestin Fe 

  • Blisovi Fe 

  • Minastrin 

  • Larin Fe 

  • Hailey Fe 

  • Tarina Fe 

  • Mibelas Fe 

  • Loestrin Fe 

  • Junel 

  • Microgestin

  • Estrostep Fe

Another popular brand name of CHC pills is Yaz. Yaz is a combination of Drospirenone (progestin) and Estradiol (estrogen). Yaz is also one of the FDA approved CHC pills for acne treatment. 

The most common names of the same hormonal combination are below:

  • Loryna

  • Ocella

  • Gianvi

  • Yasmin

  • Nikki

  • Zarah

  • Syeda

  • Vestura

  • Zumandimine

  • Lo-Zumandimine

Next popular brand name of combined birth control is Sesonique. Sesonique is a combination of Levonorgestrel (progestin) and Ethinyl Estradiol (estrogen). 

Their equivalent brand names are:

  • Aviane

  • Lutera

  • Orsthia

  • Vienva

  • Sronyx

  • Portia

  • Jolessa

  • Lessina

  • Altavera

  • Camrese

  • Levora

  • Ashlyna

  • Daysee

  • Marlissa

  • Falmina

  • Kurvelo

  • Enpresse

  • Amethia

What is the best choice of birth control pills for me?

This is a very common question. The answer depends on what factors are important to you. Those factors can be the cost, acne control, chewable or to swallow, skipping periods, less spotting, lower risk of nausea or belly bloating, shorten or skipping periods. Once the provider knows what factors are important to you - she/he will propose you the best choice for your birth control. 

How do you benefit from low- or high-dose estrogen pills?

 

Though, side effects or adverse reactions from birth control pills are not very common, some females have higher sensitivity to estrogen than others, some have contraindications, or at higher risk for side effects.  The sensitivity to estrogen may be resulted in weight gain, nausea, headache, irregular bleeding, breast tenderness. More serious potential risk and side effects of estrogen contained pills are increase in blood pressure, stroke, blood clots, heart attack. 

Therefore, it is important to provide us full information about your past health history, height weight, your recent blood pressure, allergies, current medications, etc. Safe prescribing is one of our mission and we always ask our clients to disclose all the details in your health history to make to most appropriate clinical decision for each case. 

What are the "mini-pills"?

Mini-pills are progestin-only pills (POPs). Those pills do not contain estrogen at all. The examples are Camila, Heather, Errin, Nora-Be, Jencycla, Jolivette. POPs are recommended for smoking females 35yo and older, breastfeeding or recent post-partum moms, or those who have migraine with aura. POPs have lower risk for stroke, heart attacks, and blood clots.

The ring and patch.

Written by  Ashley Calta MS, APRN, FNP-C in June 2020

Both the birth control ring and the patch are combined hormonal contraceptives, meaning they
contain two hormones: estrogen and progestin. This combination of hormones stops ovulation
each month, which prevents pregnancy. People who find difficulty in remembering a daily
method of contraception like the pill, might be a great candidate for the patch or ring. They both
require little effort and require remembering something a few times per month instead of every
day.


The patch and the ring may help to clear up acne, regulate and lighten periods, and reduce
menstrual cramping and pms symptoms. They also might both cause breast tenderness,
nausea or vomiting, but these symptoms are typically temporary, resolving in a few months.

The Patch: A thin piece of beige plastic is applied to the skin once a week for three weeks.
Your fourth week is patchless, and you will typically get your period this week. (Skipping periods
on the patch is possible).


The patch may cause skin irritation at the application site. It may make some women
uncomfortable that their patch can be visible to others.

The Ring: A small, flexible ring that is inserted into the vagina. You leave the ring in for three
weeks, and remove during week four which is when your period will likely start (skipping periods
with this method is also possible).
The ring may cause increased vaginal discharge, irritation or infection. You also need to be
comfortable inserting the ring with your fingers (it is not much different than a tampon, but there is no applicator).

The dose of hormones is a bit lower with the ring, so side effects could be less
but benefits like acne control could be reduced as well.

If skipping periods is important to you, the ring and the patch both allow for this. To stop your
cycle when using the patch, skip your off week and replace your patch every three weeks.
When using the ring, it is left in place for four weeks instead of three to avoid a period. This can
lead to spotting with both methods, but that typically resolves in a few months.


Cost may be little to nothing with insurance coverage, but those without insurance can expect to
pay a little more that generic birth control pills. Going to a low cost clinic or using a prescription
coupon can help lower the price.


It is important to review the risks and benefits of contraception methods with your provider and
give them an accurate and detailed personal and family medical history. Women over 35 who
smoke, women with uncontrolled high blood pressure or who experience migraines with aura
symptoms should not use combined hormone contraception.

If you are ready to request a telemedicine appointment to discuss your birth control options and request a prescription for 12months click on the button below.

The articles above serves for informative purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

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