Low Dose Birth Control Pills Minimize Side Effects

Today’s birth control pills have been designed to contain much lower doses of synthetic hormones than in the 1960’s when ‘The PILL’ (with 50 micrograms of estrogen) first went onto the market. The reason for this is to reduce the side effects of hormonal contraceptives. “That’s still not helped me much”, you may be saying but here’s some information about low dose birth control pills that may help you to have a productive ( no pun intended!) discussion with your doctor if you’re not happy with your current birth control pill. Trial and error with different pill types is worth pursuing -bearing in mind that oral contraceptives are still not the perfect method of birth control for everyone. If you are on the ‘right birth control pill’ to suit your body, you should feel exactly the same way as you do normally, if not a little better.

Some women cannot tolerate the estrogen in combined low does pills so are prescribed progestin only pills. Estrogen seemed to be the main culprit where side effects were to blame so ‘low dose birth control pills’ were developed to minimise these. Pills containing 0.02mg- 0.035mg.of estrogen are classed as ‘low dose’ pills.

Here are some brand names of “low dose” birth control pills :

LoOvral contains 0.03 mg ethinyl estradiol and and 0.3 mg nogestrel

Nordette contains 0.03 mg ethinyl estradiol and 0.15 mg levognorgestrel

Ortho-Cept (Reclipsen, Solia) contains 0.03 mg ethinyl estradiol and 0.15 mg desogestrel

Desogen contains 0.03 mg ethinyl estradiol and 0.15 mg desogestrel

Levlen21 contains 0.03 mg of ethinyl estradiol and 0.15 mg of levonorgestrel

Seasonale/Seasonique contain 0.03mg of ethinyl estradiol and 0.15 mg of levonorgestrel

YASMIN and YAZ are two more low dose birth control pills containing 0.03 mg and 0.02 mg respectively of estrogen but they have a different type of progestin from the other pills called drospirenone (3.0 mg).Yasmin may not be suitable for you if you also take other over-the-counter pain relievers, potassium sparing diuretics, potassium supplements or specific medications so you MUST check this out with a physician first.

Changing hormone levels within your body can result in side effects which vary for every individual. Keeping hormones at a consistent level in your body is the job of oral contraceptives so that you do not ovulate, your uterine lining thins and your cervical mucous thickens. These three events work together to prevent pregnancy.

Pills such as ALESSE and MIRCETTE are called ‘ultra low dose’ pills as they contain only 0.02mg of estrogen. These oral contraceptives are effective at preventing pregnancy but some women find that they have more spotting and breakthrough bleeding with them than with pills containing 0.03mg or 0.035mg. (considered the norm today) of estrogen. Spotting and breakthrough bleeding often disappear after a few months on a low dose birth control pill.

0.02mg of estrogen is sufficient for contraception but the side effects of spotting and breakthrough bleeding are more common with these types of ultra low dose birth control pills than with low dose birth control pills containing 0.030mg or 0.035mg of estrogen. Women who prefer ALESSE ((Aviane,Lessina,Lutera,Sronyx) and MIRCETTE say they reduce headaches, mood swings, breast tenderness and bloating. These two brands also may be better for ‘first timer pill users’ as a ‘low estrogen start’ to introducing synthetic hormones into their bodies.

You’ve probably heard of Progestin only pills or ‘mini pills’

These oral contraceptives are 90-95% effective at preventing pregnancy compared to the 99% efficacy rate of combination pills. However, they do not cause the common side effects of estrogen pills such as nausea, breast tenderness and cramps. The risk of developing deep vein thrombosis and cardiovascular disease is lower with progestin only pills. Nursing mothers can use progestin only pills a few weeks after giving birth as progestin does not affect milk supply like estrogen does.

‘Mini pills’ must be taken every day at the same time with no break. If you miss just one pill or take it more than three hours past the regular time, you need to use a backup method of birth control for 48 hours after taking the late pill. Disadvantage of the ‘mini pill’ – apart from irregular spotting and breakthrough bleeding, is that it can increase the risk of ovarian cysts and ectopic pregnancy.

Latest Update

Low-dose birth control pills may increase risk for heart attack or stroke, especially in women who suffer from polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) or metabolic disorder. However, this risk disappears when you stop taking the low dose birth control pill (according to a Virginia Commonwealth University study published in the July issue of the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism). PCOS is a condition that can affect a woman’s menstrual cycle, fertility, hormones, insulin production, heart, blood vessels and appearance. “Despite the doubling of risk associated with the pill, the absolute risk for a cardiovascular event in an individual woman taking the pill is low – Women using the pill are not going to automatically have a heart attack, states John Nestler, M.D., professor and chair of the Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism in the VCU School of Medicine. “However, our findings do raise the issue of whether oral contraceptives are optimal therapy for certain groups of women who are at baseline risk or who are taking the pill for a longer time, such as women with PCOS.”

Source: Medical News Today

So if you don’t have PCOS and you think a low dose birth control pill may suit you better, read more about ALESSE and Mircette before asking your doctor which brand would ‘suit’ your own medical history. Don’t forget to tell him/her which other medications you are also taking. The on line suppliers I have recommended are accredited and also offer the best prices.Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Elizabeth Silverman, obstetrician-gynecologist at Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla. Dr. Pamela Deak, obstetrician-gynecologist at the University of California San Diego Medical Center.