Birth Control: All You Need to Know about Hormonal Contraception

What is the most common birth control pill brand?

The most common combined oral contraceptives include:

AlesseAlesse is a new low-dose oral contraceptive) that contains two female sex hormones (levonorgestrel and ethinyl estradiol). Each package contains 28 tablets. 21 pink active tablets contain 0.10 mg of levonorgestrel and 0.02 mg of ethinyl estradiol. 7 light-green tablets contain no medicaiton.

LevlenLevlen is a low dose monophasic birth control pill. The package contains 28 pills (21 active pills each containing 30 mcg of ethinyloestradiol and 150 mcg of levonorgestrel; and 7 placebo tablets).

MircetteMircette is a combination hormone contraceptive taken orally to prevent pregnancy. The tablets contain two female hormones; progesterone (desogestrel) and estrogen (ethinyl estradiol). Each package contains 21 white active tablets each containing 0.15 mg desogestrel and 0.02 mg ethinyl estradiol, 2 inert light-green ttablets with inactive ingredients; and also 5 yellow tablets containing 0.01 mg ethinyl estradiol.

Ortho Tri-CyclenOrtho Tri-Cyclen is oral triphasic contraceptive that contains 2 types of female hormones, norgestimate and ethinyl estradiol. The drug is used as a contraceptive for preventing pregnancy and for treating acne (in some cases). The package may contain 21 pills (each pill containing 0.250 mg of norgestimate and 0.035 mg of ethinyl estradiol ) or 28 pills (+7 inert pills).

yasminYasmin is a low-dose monophasic drug which consists of 28 film-coated tablets that contain the ingredients specified for each tablet below: Each pack may contains 21 tablets (each containing 3 mg drospirenone and 0.03 mg ethinyl estradiol) or 28 tablets (21 active tablets each containing 3 mg drospirenone and 0.03 mg ethinyl estradiol) and 7 inert tablets.

OvralOvral is a combination oral contraceptive used for preventing pregnancy. It contains female 2 hormones: a progestin (norgestrel) and an estrogen (ethinyl estradiol). Each package contains 21 active pills each containing 0.5 mg of norgestrel and 50 mcg of ethinyl estradiol; and 7 pills with no medication.

What is birth control?

Birth control pills are hormonal contraceptives that are used to prevent unwanted pregnancy. They contain artificial versions of the female hormones estrogen and progesterone, which are naturally produced in the ovaries. Tablets are usually taken for contraceptive purposes but they can also be prescribed as a means to help ease menstrual cramps, premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and endometriosis. According to scientists, oral contraceptives are 97% effective.

Birth Control

Types of birth control

There are two types of oral contraceptives: combined (COC) – containing estrogen and progesterone, and progestin (minipill) – containing only an analogue of progesterone.

All drugs are distinguished not only by the qualitative composition – estrogen (ethinyl estradiol, estradiol valerate) and progestins (dienogest, drospirenone, desogestrel, levonorgestrel, cyproterone) but also quantitatively. Also, tablets can be monophasic (containing the same amount of estrogen and progesterone on any day of the menstrual cycle) two- and three-phase (containing varying amounts of hormones, depending on the day of the menstrual cycle).

The drugs are also classified by the amount of the estrogen component: high-dose (50 mcg per day), low-dose (30-35 mcg per day), micro-dose (15-20 mcg per day). Microdosing drugs are more suitable for young and nulliparous women, and high-dose drugs are used not only for pregnancy prevention but also for the treatment of some gynecological pathologies. Minipills are often prescribed to women during lactation or if the case when estrogen preparations are not suitable for some reason. The effectiveness of progestin contraceptives depends on strict adherence to the regimen of the drug.

Today, there is a novelty – tablets containing levomefolate calcium in the composition (a metabolite of folic acid). This option is suitable for women planning pregnancy in the near future.

How does it work?

Such drugs inhibit ovulation (maturation and release of the egg); help to thicken mucus in the cervix, making it impassable to sperm; change the lining of the uterus, making it impossible to attach a fertilized egg to it; reduce the motility of sperm in the fallopian tubes.

Watch the 3D medical animation about how these pills prevent pregnancy and how to use them correctly:

What birth control is best for me?

Before you buy it, you need to find out which option is best for you. For this, you need to visit a gynecologist. After examination and analysis, the doctor will select the drug individually, taking into account the age and condition of the patient. The whole algorithm for selecting a contraceptive should look like this:

  • gynecologist’s consultation;
  • pap smears;
  • mammologist’s consultation;
  • blood biochemistry;
  • ultrasound on day 5–7 of the period.

According to doctors, the best pills are those that are suitable for a particular woman and do not cause side effects. Everything is strictly individual, so you should not rely on the experience of your friends. The use of wrong oral contraceptives may negatively affect your health.

Emergency contraception

Emergency contraception refers to birth control methods that can be used to prevent pregnancy after sexual intercourse. Such methods are recommended to be used within five days after sexual intercourse, but their effectiveness is higher when used immediately after intercourse. Such tablets prevent or delay ovulation and do not cause abortions. Emergency contraception cannot interrupt an existing pregnancy or harm a developing embryo. Emergency contraception may be necessary for any woman or girl of reproductive age to avoid unwanted pregnancy. There are no absolute medical contraindications for the use of such medication. There is also no age limit for its use. These pills cannot be used on a regular basis. The interval between them should be at least 3 months.

Pill dispenser for birth control

Some modern contraceptives may come in pill dispensers. These devices control the number of tablets in a container and can send text or telephone reminders to patients about the need to take medicine. Some studies have shown that these devices increase the degree of compliance with the timing of medication up to 95%. The device allows you to plan the medication for a whole month. A small electronic container in the form of a capsule will fit in your pocket and any purse, you will always have it at hand and comply with all the prescriptions of your doctor about the time of taking the medicine. Besides, it will be useful as a mini first aid kit in a long journey.

When do you get your period on pills?

After you start taking birth control pills, your menstrual cycle becomes 28-day. As a rule, COCs contain 21 (all active) or 28 tablets (21 or 24 active) per pack. After taking the last active pill, you will have your period (menstrual bleeding). However, the period does not always occur in a timely manner, especially in the first months of hormonal contraception — menstruation may begin earlier or later. The body needs time to get used to the drug. Sometimes the process of adaptation takes up to six months. You should know that the nature of menstruation also changes when you start taking pills – menstrual-like discharge may appear, menstruation may become more abundant or lighter, longer or shorter, etc.

What to know about placebo pills?

Almost all modern oral contraceptives contain 4–7 placebo pills at the end of the pack. They are inactive and contain no hormones. Such tablets are only needed to remind a woman about taking pills daily and to imitate menstruation (so-called withdrawal bleeding). It occurs due to the abrupt cessation of taking hormones. If you need to postpone withdrawal bleeding a bit, then in most cases, you can miss placebo pills and start a new pack immediately, which is convenient in trips. Skipping inactive tablets does not affect the effectiveness of the drug since they do not contain active substances.

What happens when you stop taking birth control pills?

You’d better stop taking oral contraceptives after you take the last pill from the pack. Full recovery of your “natural” periods occurs in 2-3 months. It is necessary to follow certain rules:

  • consult your gynecologist (there are situations when it is strictly contraindicated to cancel treatment, as this will lead to a deterioration of the general condition);
  • take tests to determine the level of sex hormones in the body.

If you stop taking the tablets in the middle of the cycle, this will be a big stress for your reproductive system and the uterus is likely to react with heavy bleeding, there will be a kind of cancellation effect.

It is important to understand that oral contraceptives are hormonal agents and they should be used only after a doctor’s consultation.

What are the best options while breastfeeding?

In the period of breastfeeding, a woman should NOT take combined contraceptive drugs because the dose of estrogen in breast milk will be too high in this case. As a result, there may be a failure in breastfeeding, a decrease in the amount of milk. Also, a large number of hormones will negatively affect the development of the baby.

Minipills that contain only one hormone (progesterone) can be used during breastfeeding. The hormone penetrates the milk in miserable amounts so that it does not affect the development of the baby and the amount of milk produced.

If you are breastfeeding, you should order birth control pills that contain only progestin. They come in several different forms:

  • progestin-only pill (mini-pill);
  • injection (Depo-Provera);
  • progesterone-releasing IUD (Mirena, Skyla);
  • implant (Implanon, Nexplanon)

Mini-pills for breastfeeding women have a lower contraceptive effect than combined drugs. However, if you strictly follow the instructions and do not miss tablets, you will have no ovulation and pregnancy will not occur. Taking these drugs gives 90-95% protection against unwanted pregnancy. However, condoms remain the most reliable and safe means of pregnancy prevention during breastfeeding (99%).

Which birth control pill will not cause weight gain?

A woman may gain weight from these pills only if she uses the wrong drugs that are not suitable for her hormonal levels. Experts note that a woman will never gain weight from hormonal contraceptives if they are chosen correctly and used in full accordance with the doctor’s recommendations. Nevertheless, we have made up a list of drugs that are often recommended to women who are afraid of getting fat:

  • Low-dose pills – Fayosim, Jaimiess, Lillow, Kurvelo, Quartette, Ayuna, Balcoltra, Ashlyna, Daysee, Myzilra, Seasonique, Triphasil, Seasonale, Camrese, Levora, and others;
  • Microdose pills – Lutera, Lo Loestrin Fe, Aviane, Viorele, Microgestin 1/20, Junel Fe 1/20, Kimidess, Minastrin 24 Fe, Loestrin 24 Fe, Beyaz, Mircette, Velivet, Kariva;
  • Mini pills – Cerazette, Cerelle, Micronor, Norgeston, Noriday, Camila, Ortho Micronor, Errin, Heather, Jolivette, Nora-BE.

How can you buy birth control over the counter?

Life is too busy to wait in a queue for your medication ot visit a doctor to get a prescription, especially you know for sure which drug you need. Good news! You may be able to buy birth control online and get them delivered to your house door. Online pharmacies make getting your medication easy and convenient. A nice bonus is that all packages are discreet. Besides, you may sign up for automatic refills—so you will never have to worry about remembering to order the next package. Even if the online service isn’t in your state, there is no need to worry – many web stores deliver goods around the world.