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Today’s Birth Control Pills

By Jeanne M. Wilton, RN, MS, WHNP-BC

Today’s Birth Control Pills

When birth control pills were first developed in the 1960s, they contained as much as 7 times the amount of estrogen in current oral contraceptives. Those pills could cause health problems including blood clots, breast tenderness and nausea.

With the advent of low-dose pills and newer progestins, it’s easy to see why it’s important to keep pace with the changes in “the pill.”

More benefits

Today’s pills can do more than just prevent pregnancy. Some are specifically designed to prevent break-through bleeding, decrease acne, and minimize the bloating and mood swings associated with your period. You can choose shorter cycles or to have only 4 periods a year.

There are now more than 50 different birth control pills on the market; it’s more important than ever to have a thorough conversation with your healthcare provider about your needs and wants when considering all forms of contraception. Here’s a look at some of the newest options.

Preventing birth defects

Two new pills aim to help women of childbearing age prevent the most common spinal cord birth defects by boosting blood levels of folate, which is known to help prevent these defects from forming in the earliest days of pregnancy—before you ever miss a period and suspect you may be pregnant.

Beyaz and Safyral both contain 451 micrograms of levomefolate calcium. Studies have shown that women on these contraceptives achieved the targeted folate levels shown to help prevent birth defects, and that the levels continued for at least 20 weeks after stopping the pills. This is significant since half of all pregnancies are unplanned.

To help control heavy bleeding, Natazia is a new formulation that steps up the progression of estrogen in the pill as it steps down the progestin, which has shown to reduce the amount of withdrawal bleeding. But the dosing regime has to be strictly followed.

If you struggle with nausea or other side effects related to the pill, Lo Loestrin Fe contains only 10 micrograms of estrogen. Researchers think this pill may be particularly beneficial if you suffer with endometriosis, are recovering from surgery for endometriosis removal, or if you have irregular cycles.

When to skip the pill

Not everyone can use oral contraceptives. If you smoke and are age 35 or older, or if you have a history of deep vein thrombosis or pulmonary embolism, you can’t take the pill. Smoking while using the pill increases your risks of these life-threatening events. If you’re nursing, you should know that the estrogens in oral contraceptives can reduce your milk production; talk to your healthcare provider about better contraception options to use while nursing.

Also Watch: Can I use an IUD for contraception during breastfeeding? 

Related article: Pzifer Oral Contraceptives Recalled

Jeanne M. Wilton, RN, MS, WHNP-BC, is a women’s health nurse practitioner at Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare Medical Group-All Saints in Racine, WI.

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