Hesperian Health Guides

Oral Contraceptives (The "Pill", Birth control pills)

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HealthWiki > A Health Handbook for Women with Disabilities > How to use the green pages > Oral contraceptives

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Interactions of oral contraceptives with other medicines: Some medicines make combined birth control pills (ones that contain both estrogen and progestin) work poorly or not at all. Do not use combined birth control pills if you regularly take:

  • carbamazepine (Tegretol)
  • phenobarbital (phenobarbitone, Luminal)
  • phenytoin (diphenylhydantoin, Dilantin)
  • valproic acid (Depakene)

See other information about which oral contraceptives (and other hormonal methods of family planning) should be avoided by women with certain disabilities. Birth control pills come in different strengths of each hormone and are sold under many different brand names. We list only a few brands in the chart below.

Usually, brands that contain a smaller amount of both hormones are the safest and work best for most women. These ‘low-dose’ pills are found in Groups 1, 2, and 3.

Group 1 - Triphasic pills
These contain low amounts of both estrogen and progestin in a mix that changes throughout the month. Since the amounts change, it is important to take the pills in order.
Brand names: Logynon Tricyclen Trinovum Triphasil
Synophase Trinordiol Triquilar
Group 2 - Low dose pills
These contain low amounts of estrogen (35 micrograms of the estrogen ‘ethinyl estradiol’ or 50 micrograms of the estrogen ‘mestranol’) and progestin in a mix that stays the same throughout the month.
Brand names:
Brevicon 1 + 35 Norinyl 1 + 35, 1 + 50 Ovysmen 1/35 Norimin
Noriday 1 + 50 Ortho-Novum 1/35, 1/50 Neocon Perle
Group 3 - Low dose pills
These pills are high in progestin and low in estrogen (30 or 35 micrograms of the estrogen ‘ethinyl estradiol’).
Brand names: Lo-Ovral Microvlar
Lo-Femenal Microgynon 30 Nordette

To assure effectiveness and minimize spotting (small amounts of bleeding at other times than your normal monthly bleeding), take the pill at the same time each day, especially with pills that have low amounts of hormones. If spotting continues after 3 or 4 months, try one of the brands in Group 3. If there is still spotting after 3 months, try a brand from Group 4.

But if a woman misses her monthly bleeding for months or is disturbed by the very light monthly bleeding, she can change to a brand with more estrogen from Group 4.
For a woman who has very heavy monthly bleeding or whose breasts become painful before her monthly bleeding begins, a brand low in estrogen but high in progestin may be better. These pills are found in Group 3.

Women who continue to have spotting or miss their monthly bleeding when using a brand from Group 3, or who became pregnant before while using another type of pill, can change to a pill that has a little more estrogen. These ‘high dose’ pills are found in Group 4.

Group 4 - High dose pills
These pills are higher in estrogen (50 micrograms of the estrogen ‘ethinyl estradiol’) and most are also higher in progestin.
Brand names:
Eugynon Neogynon Ovral
Femenal Nordiol Primovlar

Women who are breastfeeding, or who should not use regular pills because of headaches or mild high blood pressure, may want to use a pill with only progestin. These pills in Group 5 are also called ‘mini-pills.’

Group 5 - Progestin-only pills
These pills, also known as ‘mini-pills,’ contain only progestin.
Brand names:
Femulen Microlut Neogeston these brands can
also be used for
Emergency Family Planning
Micronor Microval Ovrette <–––––––
Micronovum Neogest
Nor-Q D

Progestin-only pills should be taken at the same time every day, even during the monthly bleeding. Menstrual bleeding is often irregular.