Choose Your Weapon: The Pill

The expression, "Spoiled for choice," can be apt when applied to the many varieties of oral contraceptives confronting a woman today. There's such a dazzling array of birth control pills a woman doesn't even begin to know how to choose just one. In order to figure out which birth control pill is right for you, you'll need to know a bit about the different pills and why each type of pill is unique.

Real Knowledge

We've compiled a little tutorial just for this purpose. Once you read this article, you'll be able to make your decision from a place of real knowledge. That should avoid the necessity of playing, "Eeny, meenie, minie, mo," with oral contraceptives.

To start with, it only looks like there are many choices for oral contraceptives. In reality, there are really only two different types of birth control pills. Combination birth control pills contain both progestin and estrogen, while mini-pills only contain progestin.

The combination birth control pills are sold in various mixes of active and inactive tablets such as:

Inactive Pills

*Conventional pack—these pill packs will have 21 active pills plus seven inactive pills, or 24 active pills with four inactive pills. In either case, monthly bleeding occurs during the week in which you take the inactive pills.

*Extended cycle or continuous dosing—these pill packs usually contain 84 active pills and only four to seven inactive pills. That means that bleeding occurs only four times in the course of a year, during the time you take the inactive pills. It is also possible to purchase this pill in a formulation meant to eliminate all bleeding. These packs come with 28 pills only, all active.

Combination birth control pills come formulated in various ways, for instance:

Varying Formulations

*Monophasic—the active pills in the pack all have the same amounts of estrogen and progestin

*Multiphasic—the active pills in this pack contain varying formulations of the hormones.

*Low-dose pills—these contain less than 50 micrograms of the type of estrogen known as ethinyl estradiol. Some women find they have a rather extreme response to hormones in which case they might benefit from such a low-dose formulation. But there are drawbacks to this type of pill, for instance a higher risk for breakthrough bleeding which is spotting or bleeding between menstrual periods.

Just One

The mini-pill is easier in some ways, since it comes in just one type of formulation and all the pills in every pack are active.

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