522 Oral contraceptives (bir th control pills)
Oral contraceptives (birth control pills)
Most birth control pills contain 2 hormones similar to the hormones that a woman’s
body normally makes. These hormones are called estrogen (ethinyl estradiol) and
progestin (levonorgestrel). Birth control pills come in different strengths of each
hormone and are sold under many different brand names. We list only a few brands in
the chart below.
Usually, brands that contain a smaller amount of both hormones are the safest and
work best for most women. These “low-dose” pills are found in Groups 1, 2, and 3.
Group 1 - Triphasic pills
These contain low amounts of both estrogen and progestin in a mix that changes
throughout the month. Since the amounts change, it is important to take the pills in
Group 2 - Low dose pills
These contain low amounts of estrogen (35 micrograms of the estrogen “ethinyl
estradiol” or 50 micrograms of the estrogen “mestranol”) and progestin in a mix that
stays the same throughout the month.
Brevicon 1 + 35
Noriday 1 + 50
Norinyl 1 + 35, 1 + 50
Ortho-Novum 1/35, 1/50 Perle
Group 3 - Low dose pills
These pills are high in progestin and low in estrogen (30 or 35 micrograms of the
estrogen “ethinyl estradiol”).
To assure effectiveness and minimize spotting (small amounts of bleeding at other times
than your normal monthly bleeding), take the pill at the same time each day, especially with
pills that have low amounts of hormones. If spotting continues after 3 or 4 months, try one
of the brands in Group 3. If there is still spotting after 3 months, try a brand from Group 4
(see the next page).
As a rule, women who take birth control pills have less heavy monthly bleeding. This
may be a good thing, especially for women who are anemic. But if a woman misses her
monthly bleeding for months or is disturbed by the very light monthly bleeding, she can
change to a brand with more estrogen from Group 4.
For a woman who has very heavy monthly bleeding or whose breasts become painful
before her monthly bleeding begins, a brand low in estrogen but high in progestin may be
better. These pills are found in Group 3.
Where Women Have No Doctor 2012