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Types of birth control pills

We break down the differences and similarities between birth control pills

Although it is commonly referred to as The Pill, there are actually several types of birth control pills available to women. They all work to achieve the same end – contraception – but do so in different ways. Confused about which type of birth control pill you should look into? Let us break it down for you!

As WebMD details, there are three basic types of birth control pills. Here is a basic breakdown of each.

The Mini Pill

The mini pill, contains only one hormone – progestin. This type of birth control pill is recommended for women who are breastfeeding or who are unable to take estrogen. The progestin in the pill prevents pregnancy by blocking ovulation hormones, thickening the cervical mucus making it more difficult for sperm to reach an egg and changing the uterine lining so that fertilized eggs have a harder time implanting.

The mini pill is effective, but is only effective if you take it at the same time of day every day as it doesn’t last a full 24 hours. Like other birth control pills, it reduces menstrual blood and cramps, but they can cause irregular bleeding, missed periods and they will not regulate periods as other birth control pills will. In addition, the mini pill can cause side effects like abdominal pain, fatigue, nausea, headaches and dizziness.

The Combination Pill

The second type of birth control pill is the more commonly known combination pill. Unlike the mini pill, this type  pill contains both estrogen and progestin. The types of the aforementioned hormones can differ from brand to brand, but they always contain some form of estrogen and some form of progestin. The user is required to avoid taking the hormone for a period of seven days each month in order to have a normal period. This is either achieved by taking 21 pills each cycle followed by seven days or no pills, or by taking 21 days of active hormone pills followed by seven days of placebos. Although women are encouraged to take the combination pill at the same time of day every day, the schedule is not as rigid as it is for the mini pill. And combination birth control pills are even more effective than mini pills. When taken every day, they are 99 percent effective.

In addition to contraception, the combination birth control pill also aids in regulating period and menstrual flow, treating PMS symptoms, clearing acne and lowering the risk of ovarian and breast cysts as well as their respective cancers. Common side effects for the combination pill include nausea, vomiting, headaches, dizziness and irregular bleeding. There is also an increased risk of high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke, so women who are predisposed to these conditions are encouraged to not use combination birth control pills.

The Extended-Cycle/Continuous Use Pill

The third kind of birth control pill has gotten popular recently. It is known as an extended-cycle or continuous use pill. These birth control pills are like combination pills, but give you more doses of estrogen and progestin with fewer breaks from the pills which results in fewer or no periods. The benefits of extended-cycle/continuous use pulls are the same as those of combination pills plus the benefit of fewer periods. Unfortunately, their side effects are also the same as the traditional combination pills and there is also a chance of irregular menstrual bleeding.

There are plenty of options available for birth control pills. It is important, however, that you discuss these birth control pill options with your physician to find the best one for you.

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