This oral contraceptive contains both estrogen and progestin to keep you from ovulating. These medicines prevent pregnancy and can have other benefits.
Combination birth control pills, also known as the pill, are oral contraceptives that contain estrogen and a progestin. Oral contraceptives are medicines used to prevent pregnancy. They can have other benefits too.
Combination birth control pills keep you from ovulating. This means that the pills keep your ovaries from releasing an egg. They also cause changes to the mucus in the opening of the uterus, called the cervix, and to the lining of the uterus, called the endometrium. These changes keep sperm from joining the egg.
Different types of combination birth control pills contain different doses of estrogen and progestin. Continuous-dosing or extended-cycle pills allow you to reduce the number of periods you have each year.
If you want to use combination birth control pills, your health care provider can help you decide which type is right for you.
Combination birth control pills are a reliable form of contraception that's easily reversed. Fertility can return almost right away after you stop taking the pills.
Along with preventing pregnancy, other benefits of these pills include:
Combination birth control pills come in different mixtures of active and inactive pills, including:
Conventional pack. One common type contains 21 active pills and seven inactive pills. Inactive pills do not contain hormones. Formulations containing 24 active pills and four inactive pills, known as a shortened pill-free interval, also are available. Some newer pills may contain only two inactive pills.
You take a pill every day and start a new pack when you finish the old one. Packs usually contain 28 days of pills. Bleeding may occur every month during the time when you take the inactive pills that are at the end of each pack.
By decreasing or stopping periods, continuous-dosing and extended-cycle pills might have other benefits. These can include:
Combination birth control pills aren't the best choice for everyone. Your health care provider might suggest that you use another form of birth control if you:
Based on typical use, about 9 out of 100 people taking combination birth control pills will get pregnant in the first year of use. With perfect use as directed, the pregnancy rate is less than 1 in 100 people every year.
Although taking combination birth control pills during early pregnancy doesn't increase the risk of birth defects, it's best to stop using the pills as soon as you suspect you're pregnant.
Combination birth control pills won't protect you from sexually transmitted infections. To help protect against these infections, practice safer sex.
Combination birth control pills can cause side effects such as:
Some side effects — including nausea, headaches, breast tenderness, bloating and breakthrough bleeding — might get better after you've taken the pill for a while.
Combination birth control pills increase the risk of certain conditions, which can be serious. They include:
Contact your health care provider as soon as possible if you're taking combination birth control pills and have:
You'll need to request a prescription for combination birth control pills from your health care provider. Your provider measures your blood pressure, checks your weight, and talks with you about your health and any medicines you're taking.
Your provider also asks about your concerns and what you would like from your birth control to help figure out which combination birth control pill is right for you. Health care providers often recommend pills with the lowest dose of hormones that will help prevent pregnancy, give you important benefits other than birth control and cause the fewest side effects.
Although the amount of estrogen in combination pills can be as low as 10 micrograms (mcg) of ethinyl estradiol, most pills contain about 20 to 35 mcg. Low-dose pills can result in more breakthrough bleeding than can pills with more estrogen. Some combined oral contraceptives contain other types of estrogen.
Combination pills are grouped based on whether the dose of hormones stays the same or varies:
To begin a combined oral contraceptive, talk to your health care provider about a starting date:
With quick-start or Sunday-start methods, use a backup contraception method, such as a condom, for the first seven days you take combination birth control pills.
For the first-day-start method, no backup method of contraception is needed.
To use combination birth control pills:
Follow your health care provider's instructions carefully. Birth control pills only work if you use them correctly, so make sure you understand the instructions. Because there are many different formulas of combined oral contraceptives, check with your health care provider about specific instructions for your pills.
If you're using the conventional type of combination birth control pills and want to have regular periods, you will take all of the pills in your pack — the active and the inactive ones — and start a new pack the day after you finish your current one.
If you want to avoid monthly periods, continuous-dosing or extended-dosing options reduce the number of periods in a year. Ask your health care provider about how to take the pills and how many active pill packs you take in a row.
Know what to do when you miss pills. If you miss one active pill, take it as soon as you remember — even if it means taking two active pills in the same day. Take the rest of the pack as usual. Use a backup method of contraception for seven days if you missed your pill by more than 12 hours.
If you miss more than one active pill, take the last pill you missed right away. Take the rest of the pack as usual. Use a backup method of contraception for seven days. If you've had unprotected sex, you may consider emergency contraception.
Talk to your health care provider to decide if combination birth control pills are right for you. Also talk to your provider if you have any concerns or if you'd like to change to another method of birth control.