Are low-dose birth control pills a good option?
Most birth control pills out there these days are considered low-dose birth control.
In addition to low-dose birth control pills, you may want to consider ultra-low-dose birth control pills.
Many birth control options that are low-dose are combined oral contraceptives.
Low-dose birth control is just as effective as high-dose birth control.
Chances are if you’ve thought about taking birth control pills before, you might have thought about how many hormones are actually in them. While this may matter more for some than others, most birth control pills have switched to low-dose. Meaning that most birth control pills contain fewer hormones than in the past.
Find out more about how low-dose birth control works, what types there are, and how to determine if it's a good fit for you.
How does low-dose birth control work?
Low-dose birth control pills simply refer to birth control pills with fewer hormones, 35mcg ethinyl estradiol, in each pill. Low-dose birth control works the same way that any birth control pills work: preventing ovulation and making cervical lining and mucus unfriendly to sperm and eggs. Both of these actions help prevent pregnancy.
Any disadvantages to low-dose birth control?
If you are considering low-dose birth control, you probably want to know what you are getting yourself into. But here is the thing, most birth control pills out there these days are considered low-dose. Over time, scientists have found that a lower dosage of birth control can still be effective and cause fewer side effects.
Thus, the question isn’t really what are the disadvantages of low-dose birth control, but is birth control right for me?
We will dig into some of those side effects below, but know that most birth control symptoms are mild and disappear if you continue using birth control. Or, some might find if they switch brands or pill formulations, symptoms improve.
What is the difference between high and low-dose birth control?
The first pill ever on the market in the United States was Enovid in 1960. Like many forms of birth control pills today, Enovid contained two primary ingredients—a form of progestin and estrogen. But a lot has changed since then. Enovid contained 150 micrograms of estrogen, while most birth control pills today contain 20-50 micrograms, and many of them contain less than 30.
What is the difference between low-dose and ultra-low-dose birth control?
Instead of high-dose vs. low-dose birth control pills, you are likely to find more options between low and extra low doses. Ultra low-dose pills work like other birth control pills, but they contain even fewer hormones, meaning they have just 10 micrograms of estrogen.
What are some low-dose birth control options?
There are three types of low-dose birth control pill options: combined oral contraceptives, ultra low-dose combined oral contraceptives, and a mini pill.
Combined oral contraceptive
The combined oral contraceptive (COC) is called that because it combines two different types of hormones (some type of combination of estrogen and progestin). Most pills you’ll see are combined oral contraceptives and are low-dose, meaning the amount of estrogen is typically equal to or below 35 micrograms of estrogen.
Ultra low-dose combined oral contraceptive
This is just a specific brand that is a COC but also ultra-low dose, meaning it has just 10 micrograms of estrogen. The only brand for this at this time is Lo Loestrin Fe.
The mini pill, unlike the COCs, does not have any estrogen in it. Instead, it is made up of just progestin. The mini pill contains either 0.35mg of norethindrone or 4mg of drospirenone.
While this is different from most combined birth control options (containing two different types of hormones), it can be a good option for breastfeeding women or those sensitive to estrogen.
Popular brands of mini pill include—
Who should consider low-dose birth control?
As most birth control out there these days is low-dose, the question of whether low-dose birth control is right for you is really whether birth control pills are right for you.
While only you and your healthcare provider can help determine that, here are some things you may want to consider.
What are the benefits of low-dose birth control?
Birth control pills not only work as a method of contraception but can also help improve heavy periods or irregular periods. They can also help with acne or some other pre-period symptoms.
Do birth control pills fit my lifestyle?
Birth control pills do have to be taken at the same time every day, so you’ll want to consider whether taking a pill around the same time every day is something you want to do.
What are the risks of birth control?
Birth control pills have been shown to cause a risk of hypertension for some, and some increased risk of blood clots. Another potential risk is stroke.However, low-dose birth control is considered the safest when it comes to chances of risk of stroke, or other adverse effects
Is low-dose birth control effective?
The amount of hormones your birth control has doesn’t determine its effectiveness. The pill's effectiveness is based on the usage case. For example, if perfectly taken, meaning used consistently and correctly every time, the effectiveness is more than 99%. However, with what some researchers call “typical use,” meaning sometimes taken incorrectly or inconsistently, the effectiveness is closer to 90%.
What are the side effects of low-dose birth control?
The most common side effect of birth control pills is breakthrough bleeding. Meaning bleeding that happens between your periods. Other common side effects include—
Increased vaginal discharge
If you smoke or have heart problems, birth control pills aren’t typically recommended.
Final Wrap up: the difference between high and low-dose birth control
Thanks to science, and the ways that the birth control pill has evolved, it is no longer much of a question of whether your birth control has to be high vs. low, but more of a conversation about what kind of birth control is best for you.
Are you looking for something specifically for acne? Or are you sensitive to estrogen? Or are you just looking for the lowest hormonal dosage? There are a variety of pills that might be the right fit. If you want to learn more about which birth control may be best for you, check out The Pill Club.