List of Low Dose Birth Control Pills

Since its introduction in the 1960s, the birth control pill has been the most popular form of contraceptive on the market. Over the years, the dosage of hormones used in most birth control pills has been adjusted downward, which has improved safety while maintaining the pill's effectiveness.

A variety of birth control pill options are available today, including pills with a mid-range dose of estrogen, pills with lower estrogen, pills with a graduated estrogen dose, and those that contain progesterone-only 2. Some pills withdraw hormones for 4 to 7 days to induce menstruation and others maintain a steady dose of hormones to curtail menstruation.

Types of Birth Control Pills

Combination pills contain a form of estrogen called ethinyl estradiol and various forms of progestin.

A higher-dose estrogen pill might be useful in certain circumstances, because estrogen helps minimize menstrual cramping and heavy flow, reduce pelvic pain from endometriosis, and in some cases helps reduce PMS and acne.

Lower dose combinations can minimize side effects, such as headache and moodiness, as well as the risk for serious conditions. Many brands of combination pills offer versions with a range of estrogen doses so that women can experiment with which dosage minimizes unwanted symptoms and improves others. One example is Loestrin, which has 30 mcg estrogen, and its sister product Loestren Fe which contains 20 mcg.

More Types of Birth Control Pills

Multiphasic pills have graduated estrogen to minimize breakthrough bleeding. These pills increase estrogen throughout the month, such as by 5 mcg every 7 days.

Some versions of combination pills, such as Seasonique and Seasonale, are taken continuously for longer periods of time, suppressing menstruation for months.

Progestin-only pills, called the "mini-pill," are the best option for women at greater risk of side effects from taking estrogen, including women over 35, smokers, or those at risk for blood clots and stroke.

Different Progestins

A major difference between various combination pills is the type of progestin used. There are five or six different progestins that are used in most birth control pills today. The original progestins tend to be safer, and third and fourth generation progestins tend to have more potential for side effects. Studies show that the safest type of progestin is levonorgestrel. Lutera and Triphasil are two brands that use this type of progestin. Other kinds include Desogestrel (Ortho-Cept, Cyclessia), Norethindrone, Norgestimate (Ortho Tri Cyclen), and Drospirenone, which is contained in Yaz and Yasmin and is thought to pose a greater risk of blood clots. In 2012 the FDA conducted a safety review and concluded that drospirenone posed a higher risk of blood clots for women. (UMM 2)

Side Effects

Birth control pills can cause mild side effects that include breakthrough bleeding, headaches, breast tenderness, and nausea. More serious risks of birth control pills include Venous Thromboembolism (VTE), heart and circulation problems, cancer risks, and liver problems.

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