Best birth control pill: How to choose
Best birth control pill: How to choose
If you're considering taking birth control pills, you may have various options. To help choose the best birth control pill for you, consider the following questions.
What are the different kinds of birth control pills?
There are two different kinds of birth control pills — combination birth control pills, which contain estrogen and progestin, and minipills, which contain only progestin.
Combination birth control pills come in different mixtures of active and inactive pills, including:
Combination birth control pills also come in different formulations, including:
Combination birth control pills that contain less than 50 micrograms of ethinyl estradiol, a kind of estrogen, are known as low-dose pills. Women who are sensitive to hormones may benefit from taking a lower dose pill. However, low-dose pills may result in more breakthrough bleeding — bleeding or spotting between periods — than do higher dose pills.
The minipill doesn't offer as many choices. There's a single mixture and formulation, and all the pills in each pack are active.
How do different kinds of birth control pills work?
Combination birth control pills suppress ovulation — keeping your ovaries from releasing an egg. Combination birth control pills also thicken cervical mucus and thin the lining of the uterus (endometrium) to keep sperm from reaching the egg.
The minipill thickens cervical mucus and thins the endometrium — preventing sperm from reaching the egg. The minipill also sometimes suppresses ovulation. Unlike combination birth control pills, the minipill doesn't contain estrogen. The progestin dose in a minipill is also lower than the progestin dose in any combination oral contraceptive pill.
Are all kinds of birth control pills appropriate for everyone?
Birth control pills aren't appropriate for everyone.
Your health care provider may discourage use of combination birth control pills if you:
Your health care provider may discourage use of the minipill if you:
Be sure to talk to your health care provider about any health conditions you have or any medications you're taking before taking the combination birth control pill or the minipill.
How effective are different kinds of birth control pills?
An estimated 8 out of 100 women who use combination birth control pills for one year will get pregnant.
An estimated 1 to 13 out of 100 women who use the minipill for one year will get pregnant. Given the low dose of progestin, the failure rate of the minipill in highly fertile women is higher than that of other hormonal contraceptive methods.
What if I forget to take my birth control pill?
Combination birth control pills are most effective when taken at the same time every day. If you miss an active combination birth control pill, take it as soon as you remember — even if it means taking two active pills in the same day. Take the rest of the pack as usual, and use a backup method of contraception for seven days. If you miss a pill, you may experience breakthrough bleeding. If you miss more than one active pill, take the last pill you missed right away. Take the rest of the pack as usual, and use a backup method of contraception for seven days.
Timing is even more important for the minipill. For maximum effectiveness, you must take each pill at the same time every day. If you take the minipill more than three hours later than usual, avoid sex or use a backup method of birth control for at least two days. If you miss a minipill, take the missed pill as soon as you remember — even if it means taking two pills in one day. Use a backup method of birth control for at least two days.
If you've missed birth control pills of any type and had unprotected sex, consult your health care provider about emergency contraception.
What are the pros and cons of each type of birth control pill?
Combination birth control pill
What's the bottom line?
You have many options for birth control. If you choose to take birth control pills, work with your health care provider to decide which type of birth control pill is best for you.
Last Updated: 2010-01-23
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