Birth Control Pills / Contraceptive Pills – Types, Advantages & Risks

About Birth Control Pills

Oral contraceptive or the oral contraceptive pills contain hormones and are one of the most important and reliable methods of contraception.

They are of different types depending on what they contain

Combined Pills: These pills contain the female hormones estrogen and progestin. Estrogen is usually in the form of ethinyl estradiol while the progestin may be in different forms such as levonorgestrel, desogestrel, norgestimate or gestodene.

Combined pills are available in 2 different packs, the 21-day pack and the 28-day pack. The 28-day pack contains both the hormones in the first 21 pills and the last 7 pills have no hormones and are referred to as the spacer pills. In some packs, these spacer tablets contain iron. The pills are to be consumed daily at the same time. The common brands available in the US market are Levlite, Alesse, Mircette and LoEstrin while those in the Indian market are Mala D, Ovral, Novelon and Femilon.

Newer forms of combined pills are now available. Some contain hormones for a longer duration of 24 days and spacer pills for 4 days. These packs reduce the duration of bleeding. Chewable combined pills are available in some countries. Some hormonal pills can be taken continuously for 12 weeks followed by a week of spacer pills or very low dose estrogen. This results in bleeding only 4 times per year.

Phased Pills: Phased pills may be either biphasic or triphasic. In these pills the estrogen dose is kept more or less constant while the progestin dose is progressively increased in the later stages of the cycle. Common triphasic pills are Triquilar and 3-Phase.

Minipill: Minipills contain only a low dose of progesterone. They are not as effective as a combined pill. An example of a minipill is Ovrette.

Morning After Pill: This pill is used after sexual intercourse to prevent pregnancy. It contains a progestin either as 1 or 2 tablets. It is available in brands such as I-pill, Oops and pill 72.

Centchroman: Centchroman is a nonhormonal oral birth control pill developed and available in India. It does not have the side effects of hormonal contraceptives.

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