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Types Of Oral Contraceptive Pills To Prevent Pregnancy, And How To Choose Them

Oral contraceptive pills or birth control pills are among the most popular and frequently used methods to prevent pregnancy due to their effectiveness and easy-to-use properties. A study mentions that contraceptive pills are used by around nine per cent of women between ages 15-49 years and 18 per cent of women of reproductive age in developed countries. [1]

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There are many types of contraceptive pills available in the market and also for different medicinal uses, apart from preventing pregnancy. In this article, we will discuss different types of oral contraceptive pills and how to choose the best one for you. Take a look.

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Types Of Oral Contraceptive Pills

There are two main types of oral contraceptive pills (BCP): combined estrogen-progesterone or combined pills and progesterone-only or mini pills.

1. Combined estrogen-progesterone

As the name suggests, combined estrogen-progesterone pills contain a combination of the synthetic version of the female hormones: estrogen and progesterone, which are naturally produced in the ovaries. These are commonly prescribed by doctors to most healthy adult females.

Progesterone in the pills helps prevent pregnancy while oestrogen helps control menstrual bleeding. [2]

Oral contraceptive pills usually come in a pack of either 21 or 28 pills. Most of the pills are active, meaning they contain the hormones, while the remaining are inactive and do not contain hormones.

The 28 pills pack contains seven inactive pills that are taken after the completion of the 21 active pills. The remaining seven pills are inactive and only serve as a reminder to start the next strip.

Some of the types of combination pills include:

  • Monophasic pills: A pack of monophasic pills is made for a one-month cycle and comes with each active pill that gives the same dose of hormone. It is to be taken every day for 21 days and then, during the last week of the cycle, no pills are taken that lead to the start of the periods. [3]
  • Biphasic pills: They are also used in a one-month cycle, but provide different levels of hormones during the cycle. It typically contains two sections of pills of different colours in a single pack. Active multiphase pills are taken for 21 days followed by non-active pills during the last week of the cycle. They need to be taken in the right order for timely menstruation.
  • Extended-cycle pills: These are typically used in 13-week cycles. In this, active pills are taken for 12 weeks, and during the last week of the cycle, inactive pills are consumed to have menstruation. As a result, women on extended-cycle pills have periods only four times a year, only when inactive pills are taken. [4]

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2. Progesterone Only Or Mini Pills

The pills contain single artificial hormone progesterone produced by ovaries. They function by thickening the mucus from the cervix and thereby causing difficulty for the sperm to move through.

Mini pills are highly used among multiparous women, breastfeeding women, late age at menarche (delayed puberty), women with a history of ovarian cysts and postpartum women. [5]

Also, progesterone-only pills were found to be used more by women who smoke more than a packet of cigarettes in a day, compared to women who smoke less or do not smoke at all.

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How To Choose The Right Oral Contraceptive Pills?

Different women need different types of contraceptive pills. Some of the things which a woman should keep in mind before choosing the best formulation of oral contraceptive pills are:

  • It should contain the lowest dose of progesterone and estrogen to promote a timely menstrual cycle and provide effective contraception.
  • It should have a higher safety profile.
  • It should be well-tolerated by your body with no or minimal side effects., and that too for a shorter period.
  • It should be cost-effective

Some of the factors that could interfere with the pills include:

  • The health of your heart
  • History of heart abnormality in the near family.
  • Smoking habits and are 35 years or older
  • Pre-existing chronic diseases such as diabetes for longer periods.
  • Overweight
  • Other medications you are on.
  • Breast cancer
  • Some severe menstrual symptoms.
  • Severe migraine problems
  • Whether you are breastfeeding.
  • Disease of the liver of the gallbladder.
  • Any recent episode of miscarriage or abortion.

Due to the aforementioned factors, it is suggested to consult a doctor before starting on any contraceptive pills as they know which pills will work best for you.

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To Conclude

Oral contraceptive pills should never be consumed without a doctor's consultation. This is because, in some women, they can cause fatal side effects like blood clots, especially if you have a history of vein thrombosis in the family. They can also cause longer episodes of nausea, vomiting, headache and breast tenderness.

Therefore, if you are planning to starting on these pills, consult a medical expert before use and also look for signs and symptoms after using them.