Birth control pills all rely upon hormones, but the amounts and even the hormones themselves may differ. One pill may cause weight gain, while another does not. Some pills are associated with a higher risk of serious side effects, like blood clots. Determining what is available and which pill you should choose can be confusing, but with some information and the advice of your health care provider, you can pick a pill with a low risk of side effects and still get the benefits you need.
Low-Dose Combination Pills
Low-dose combination birth control pills, like Loestrin and Ortho-Novum-Lo, are among the best choices for many women. These pills use a combination of estrogen and progesterone. The low dose of estrogen, under 35mcg, reduces side effects commonly associated with the pill, including serious side effects. Some low-dose pills use a single hormone dose throughout the 21 active pills, while others change the amount of hormones once or twice during the cycle to reduce side effects. The standard low dose pill is effective and well-tolerated, according to Planned Parenthood.
Yaz and Yasmin
Introduced in 2006, Yasmin relies upon a different hormone. Drospirenone replaces the progesterone commonly found in birth control pills. Yaz is an extended version of Yasmin, with 24 active pills instead of the usual 21. Like all birth control pills, Yaz will provide reliable contraception and lighter, more regular periods. Yaz also treats premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) and has been shown to be successful in managing moderate acne, according to Bayer Health Care, the manufacturer of Yaz at the Yaz website. Yasmin and Yaz do increase potassium levels and may not be appropriate for every woman. Lawsuits suggest that Yasmin and Yaz may have a higher risk than estrogen and progesterone-based pills of serious side effects, including blood clots and stroke.
Continuous Birth Control
If you have heavy or painful periods or are just looking to avoid the mess and inconvenience of that time of the month, continuous birth control pills may be the right choice for you. These are low-dose estrogen and progesterone pills that are taken for much longer than the usual 21 days, according to the Mayo Clinic. Seasonale consists of 12 weeks of active pills, followed by a week of spacer pills, for a total of four periods a year. Lybrel is taken 365 days a year. The risk of spotting or breakthrough bleeding is higher with continuous birth control; however, other risks and side effects are the same.