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Choosing a Birth Control Pill

Millions of American women use the birth control pill every month.


There are many options available.

Conventional Pills
The most common type of combination pill contains either 21 active pills and seven inactive, or placebo, pills or 24 active pills and four placebo pills. Each month, you may have bleeding similar to a regular period while taking the inactive pills.

Extended-Cycle Pills

If you want fewer periods, your doctor may suggest an extended-cycle, or continuous-dose, pill. This pill contains 84 active pills and seven placebo pills. Generally, women who take this type of pill have four periods per year.

Low-Dose Pills

Low-dose pills contain less than 50 micrograms of estrogen per active pill. Low-dose pills are ideal if you are sensitive to hormones. They’re also a good option if you’re just starting birth control.

Although many women have great success with low-dose birth control pills, you may experience more breakthrough bleeding than you would with a higher dose of hormones.

Common combination pill brand names include:

  • Alesse

  • Apri

  • Aranelle

  • Aviane

  • Azurette

  • Beyaz

  • Caziant

  • Desogen

  • Enpresse

  • Estrostep Fe

  • Gianvi

  • Kariva

  • Lessina

  • Levlite

  • Levora

  • Loestrin

  • Lybrel

  • Mircette

  • Natazia

  • Nordette

  • Ocella

  • Low-Ogestrel

  • Lo Ovral

  • Ortho-Novum

  • Ortho Tri-Cyclen

  • Previfem

  • Reclipsen

  • Safyral

  • Seasonale

  • Seasonique

  • TriNessa

  • Velivet

  • Yasmin

  • Yaz


What Are Minipills?

Minipills are available in one mixture that’s progestin only. Because of this, the minipill is great for women with certain medical conditions and those sensitive to estrogen.

The level of the hormone is the same in each pill, and each pill contains active ingredients. The progestin dose in a minipill is also lower than the progestin dose in any combination pill.

Combination pills are significantly more effective at preventing pregnancy than the minipill.

Common minipill brand names include:

  • Camila

  • Errin

  • Heather

  • Jencycla

  • Jolivette

  • Nor-QD

  • Nora-BE

  • Orthoa Micronor

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