Reducing the side effects of birth control pills (cheers in the gallery!) led to the reduction of the amount of synthetic hormones, estrogen and progestin, that they contained and to the development of the ‘new generation’, low dose birth control pills. “Low dose’ won’t have much meaning for you if you don’t know what this term refers to so the basic information below may help.
So How Low can I go with the dose of hormone ingredients to still be effective at preventing pregnancy?
Good question, as not all birth control pills contain exactly the same amount of estrogen and progestin. I thought a useful reference for you would be a list of low dose and ultra low dose pills so that you can at least discuss the pros and cons with your doctor and see if you are a good candidate to move from say, a low dose 0.035mg estrogen pill down to an ultra low dose 0.020mg estrogen pill. You may find you experience fewer or reduced side effects. Generic brands in low dose birth control pills are also available.
Birth control pills with the very lowest amount of estrogen, that is 0.02mg of estrogen (usually ethinyl estradiol) are classed as ‘ultra low dose’ contraceptive pills. 0.020mg 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 pills containing 0.030mg or 0.035mg of estrogen.
Here are some brand names of the “ultra low dose” birth control pills on the market , you may find a generic version on line now that you know what amount of estrogen to look for. The estrogen component is listed first and the progestin component second.
- Alesse (Aviane,Lessina,Lutera,Sronyx) contains 0.02 mg ethinyl estradiol and 0.1 mg levonorgestrel
- Mircette contains 0.02 mg ethinyl estradiol and 0.15 mg desogestrel
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
If you are a fan of triphasic pills, here are some low dose ones: Cyclessa
Phase 1: ethinyl estradiol 0.025 mg and desogestrel 0.1 mg
Phase 2: ethinyl estradiol 0.025 mg and desogestrel 0.125 mg
Phase 3: ethinyl estradiol 0.025 mg and desogestrel 0.15 mg
In a study of 5,654 women, over six menstrual cycles, some used the popular triphasic Ortho-Novum 7/7/7 and others used Cyclessa. It was found that women who used Cyclessa had significantly less breakthrough bleeding or spotting and experienced an average weight loss of 4lbs. versus an average weight gain of 2lbs. with those who took Ortho-Novum 7/7/7.
Ortho Tricyclen Lo : 3 types of pill in the pack
- each white tablet contains 0.025 mg ethinyl estradiol and 0.180 mg of norgestimate
- each light blue tablet contains 0.025 mg of ethinyl estradiol and 0.215 mg norgestimate
- each dark blue tablet contains 0.025 mg of ethinyl estradiol and 0.250 mg of norgestimate
(Ortho Tricyclen and Ortho-Cyclen, each with 0.035 mg of ethinyl estradiol, contain slightly higher amounts of estrogen in each type of pill than Ortho Tricyclen Lo)
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). On the down side, since Yasmin/Yaz can increase levels of potassium, it is not recommended for women with liver, adrenal or kidney problems but on the up side, Yasmin/Yaz appear to reduce water retention and therefore bloating and in some women gives a sense of well being. These pills also have a following among acne sufferers as they seem to improve this skin condition in a lot of cases.As with many other types of birth control pills, 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.
You will have heard of the ‘mini’ pill (progestin only pill or POP) which is usually prescribed for women who are breastfeeding or who have an intolerance to estrogen. A ‘Mini pill’ can be started immediately after childbirth or abortion. There is no 7-day break or dummy pills as there are with the combined pill and it must be taken at the same time every day. Micronor contains 0.35 mg norethindrone and NO estrogen whatsoever. In other countries some brand names include: Microlut 28, Microval 28, Locilan 28 and Noriday.
Pills that contain high amounts of estrogen or progestin are used for emergency contraception and are known as ‘the morning after pill’ or Plan B. One common pill is Preven -each blue film-coated pill contains 0.25 mg levonorgestrel and 0.05 mg (that’s MILLIGRAMS not micrograms) of estrogen – usually you take 2 doses, 12 hours apart. Plan B is a ‘morning-after’ pill that contains only one hormone, progestin (Levonorgestrel) Tablets, 0.75 mg.