The very first birth control pill was introduced in 1960, and today, more than 60 millon women in the United States, and 100 million women around the world, use it. I am one of them! I don’t just use it to regulate my period or prevent pregnancy. I also use it to keep my skin clear. I’ve tried a few different brands, but right now, I use Ortho TriCyclen. All pills are not the same, and they don’t work the same for all women, so make sure you and your doctor choose one that’s perfect for you! Here are some choices, and how they’re different from each other.
Please note: if you smoke, you should not take birth control pills. Your doctor can talk to you about other risks, too.
1. Ortho Cyclen
Ortho-Cyclen is a mono-phasic combination pill, meaning that it contains a combination estrogen and progestin (a synthetic form of the progesterone), and that all 21 active pills in a pack contain the same amount of the hormones. These Ortho pills contain pills for a 28-day cycle. The 21 active pills are taken the Sunday when your period ends, and continue for three weeks, when you either stop taking the pills for a week, so you can menstruate, or take the placebo (fake) pills while you menstruate. There is an entire set of Ortho pills, and I’ll tell you more about the others later in this list.
2. Seasonale/Seasonique or Lybrel
These three are extended-use combination pills. They cycle of pills is a lot longer: Seasonale has an 81-day cycle (you would have a period every 90 days), the Seasonique has an 84-day cycle (you would have a period about every four months), and the Lybrel has an endless cycle (you would eliminate your period). I tried one of these and had a lot of spotting, and it seemed weird to me not to have a period, so I switched. But to you, freedom from a monthly period may sound like heaven, so ask your doctor!
3. Plan B
Plan B is the only birth control pill you can take AFTER you have had unprotected sex. It is available over-the-counter to anyone over the age of 18 (if you’re younger, you’ll need a prescription). It works by preventing ovulation, so you need to take it as soon as possible after unprotected sex. It comes in two doses, and contains a hormone called levonorgestrel. It’s effective up to five days after unprotected sex, but it’s more effective the sooner you take it.
4. Triphasel and Tri-Levlen
These are also combination pills, but they’re also tri-phasic, meaning that the hormone level changes every 7 days, increasing in dose every 7 days. The pills also darken in color as the hormone level increases. The tri-phasic Ortho brand pills are Orth-Novum 7/7/7 and Ortho-Tricyclen. I take the Ortho-TriCyclen because it also controls my acne.
Yaz has been in the news a lot because the makers claimed that this mono-phasic combination pill claimed it not only serves as birth control, but it also lessens the symptoms of PMS and PMDD. The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) asked that Yaz make its TV commercials more clear, and they have, so you might have seen them on TV. If you suffer from severe PMS or PMDD, ask your doctor about Yaz.
Mircette is another combination pill, like Ortho-Cyclen, but it contains two different doses of the hormones, which increase as your cycle progresses. It’s called bi-phasic pill because of the two doses. The pills are usually two different colors, with a pale color for the low dose, then a darker color for the higher dose. The bi-phasic Ortho brand pill is called Ortho-Novum 10/11 (ten days of the low dose, 11 days of the higher dose).
7. Micronon or Ovrette
What if you’re nursing, or can’t take birth control pills because you do smoke? Then you might want to try one of the mini-pills. The mini-pills don’t contain any estrogen, only progestin. All of the mini-pills in the 28-day cycle are active. Many women fear that the mini-pills aren’t as effective as the combination pills, but they can be, if taken correctly. The biggest stumbling block I’ve heard of is that the mini-pills MUST be taken at exactly the same time each day for them to work. And you absolutely can’t miss a pill! So you need to be perfect in taking your mini-pill.
Lybrel is the first FDA-approved combination birth control pill that eliminates your period for a full year. They're said to be best suited for ladies who experience heavy bleeding and painful periods. The way Lybrel differs from other birth control pills is that it provides a stable supply of ethynol estradiol and levonorgestrel that you take every day of the year without any pill-free or placebo intervals. Although this pill is FDA-approved, it's still controversial and there is the issue with breakthrough bleeding so there are some drawbacks but it's a huge help to those who have painful periods.
Seasonale is an extended cycle continuous birth control pill that decreases or stops withdrawal bleeding that occurs every 28 days due to a change in hormone dosage from birth control. In other words, with this pill you get a period or withdrawal bleeding every 4 months instead of monthly. It's really similar to traditional birth control pills except you take active pills for three months and the inactive pills a week after.
So many choices! There really is a pill for every woman. You might have found a pill on the list that sounds like exactly what you want, or it may seem like I’ve overwhelmed you. Before you make any decision, check with your doctor, since you’ll need a prescription for almost all of these anyway.
What pill do you take, and how do you like it? What did you try before the pill? Let me know! I’d love to compare stories!