Birth control pills are a commonly used form of contraception that employs hormones to stop ovulation in order to prevent pregnancy.
Before getting on the pill or switching your brand of birth control pill, it’s important to know the options available out there and what you can expect with each one.
Birth control pills, also called oral contraceptives or just “the pill,” are prescribed under many different brand names today. It can be confusing and overwhelming to choose the right one for you—but we’re here to help.
In this article, we will compare some common brands of birth control pills and find out what makes each one unique; this will help you make a well-informed decision.
Birth Control Pill Brand Comparison
There are several different types of birth control pills available in the United States and across the world today.
As we touched on earlier, these medications help prevent pregnancy; they contain synthetic hormones—a combination of estrogen and progestin, or just progestin.
Because the pills vary, each carries its own set of side effects, benefits, and risks for each individual.
Pills that contain both estrogen and progestin are referred to as “combination pills,” while the progestin-only pill is called “pop” or the “minipill.”
No matter which type of pill you’re interested in, always address any health issues, questions, and concerns with a medical professional or doctor before deciding on a birth control option.
For example, there are some people that are at higher risk of complications from combination birth control pills.
Some examples of higher risk individuals include: smokers, people with migraines, and people with a history of blood clots to name a few.
Be sure to disclose all of your medical history and family history to your provider before starting a new oral contraceptive pill.
Combined oral contraceptives contain an artificial blend of the female hormones estrogen and progestin and are the most common type of birth control pill.
They act as a contraceptive by keeping your ovaries from releasing an egg; they also block sperm from joining the egg by inducing changes in the cervical mucus and the uterine lining.
The traditional way to take the combination pill is to swallow one every day for 21 days, and then take a break for seven days.
During this week without pills, the individual will bleed like they would on a menstrual cycle. The pill cycle then resumes again after seven days.
However, there are now a few different variations on the traditional schedule. Read on to learn more.
Conventional birth control pills come in various mixtures of active and inactive pills.
The most common types of conventional birth control pills contain 21 active ones and seven inactive ones in each pack.
With this kind of birth control pill, you will take one every single day and start a new pack every 28 days—that is, as soon as you finish the last pill and without a break in between.
The menstrual cycle, or breakthrough bleeding, will occur during the week that the inactive pills are taken.
A shortened pill-free interval option that contains 24 active pills and four inactive ones is also available—this can be useful for people who want to experience the breakthrough bleeding for less days than would be experienced with the seven inactive pills.
Monophasic birth control pills deliver the same level of hormones throughout the entire pill pack.
Each monophasic birth control pill contains an equal amount of estrogen and progestin.
Most of the time, monophasic birth control pills are taken by sexually active people to prevent pregnancy, but a doctor may also prescribe these to regulate the cycle and to aid with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).
Some common brands of monophasic pills include:
- Estrostep Fe
With multiphasic birth control pills, the levels of hormones in the active pills vary depending on whether you’re taking a biphasic or triphasic product.
Where you are in your menstrual cycle or pill cycle will determine the amount of active ingredients that are present in the pill.
For example, the dose of progestin is increased halfway through the cycle in biphasic birth control pills, but they contain the same amount of estrogen throughout.
In triphasic oral contraceptive pills, the levels of progestin and estrogen change approximately every seven days.
Some brands change the color of each dose to alert you when the pills change.
This can help you prepare for any side effects and changes in your body.
Some common brands of multiphasic birth control pills include:
Extended-cycle contraceptive pills, or continuous-cycle pills, are a type of combination pill but there’s a twist: These offer a way to not only prevent pregnancy but extend the time between menstrual cycles.
You continuously take active pills for months at a time, so you will bleed only once every three or four months.
The extended-cycle birth control pills are prescribed in either 91-day or 365-day packs.
Common brands of extended-cycle pills include:
Low Dose Pills
Low dose birth control pills contain lesser amounts of estrogen than their traditional counterparts.
Typically, a low dose pill has up to 50 micrograms (mcg) of estrogen per active pill.
Pills that only have 10 mcg of estrogen are known as ultra-low-dose pills.
Common brands include:
Progestin-Only Birth Control Pills (“Minipills”)
The progestin-only birth control pills, also called “minipills,” contain only progestin (norethindrone or drospirenone) and no estrogen.
Each pill in these packs is an active pill.
It is critical with minipills to take them around the same time each day.
Failing to stay on schedule increases the likelihood of pregnancy.
As with the combination pills, there is no break between each pack of minipills.
When you finish a pack of this birth control pill, you start the next one the next day.
With the progestin-only contraceptive pill, your menstrual cycle or bleeding may commence in the fourth week, but you may not get a period at all.
You may also experience spotting during the month.
Do not switch or stop your pills before consulting your provider.
Common minipill brands include:
- Orthoa Micronor
Choosing a Birth Control Pill
If you’re considering taking birth control pills or thinking of switching to a different brand, there’s plenty of help available.
Birth control pills are some of the most popular contraceptives, and you can reach out to your healthcare practitioner in order to fin the best one for you.
As with any medical and health decision, it is important to choose the right contraceptive method that suits your needs and lifestyle.
A lot of personal and external factors like your beliefs, frequency or dosage of the medication, financial or insurance considerations, and risks and benefits of each method will affect your decision when it comes to choosing the right birth control pill for you.
As I mentioned earlier in this article, it is imperative that you disclose all personal and family medical history to your provider before starting a new birth control pill.
The most important thing is to have a well-informed, educational discussion with your healthcare provider to discuss all the options available and suitable for you.
While abstinence from sexual activity is the only birth control method that is 100% effective, the pill can be nearly just as effective when used correctly.
How K Health Can Help
Always consult a doctor or healthcare professional before starting the pill or if you are considering switching between brands.
Did you know you can get affordable primary care with the K Health app? Our team of world-class doctors and clinicians will answer any questions you have about birth control pills.
Download K to check any symptoms, explore conditions and treatments, and, if needed, text with a doctor in minutes. K Health’s AI-powered app is HIPAA compliant and based on 20 years of clinical data.
K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.
K Health has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references.
Birth Control. (2021).
World Fertility and Family Planning 2020. (2020).
Birth Control Pill.
What You Should Know About Extended-cycle Contraception. (2006).
The progestogen-only pill. (2021).
Contraceptive failure in the United States. (2011).
Progestin-Only Pills. (2017).
Progestin-Only Contraceptives. (2000.)