Birth Control: The Combination Pill Vs. The Mini Pill

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Birth control pills have empowered women for generations, allowing them to effectively prevent pregnancy, take greater control over their periods and hormones, reduce premenstrual and menstrual symptoms, and more. Women can choose from two main types of birth control pills: combination pills and mini pills. Comparing these types of birth control can help you determine which will work best for you.

What’s in Each Birth Control Pill?

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Image via Flickr by Doctor4U_UK

As their name suggests, combination pills contain a combination of the hormones estrogen and progestin. Each pack of combination pills contains 21 to 24 of these combination pills, which prevent pregnancy, and between zero to seven days of an estrogen-only placebo pill. Manufacturers produce combination pills under several names, including Reclipsen, Ortho Tri-Cyclen, and Yaz.

Mini pills contain only progestin, which is why they’re sometimes called progestin-only pills or POPs. They contain a lower dose of progestin than combination pills. Camila, Errin, and Norethindrone are common brands of mini pill.

How Different Birth Control Pills Affect Your Body

Combination pills prevent pregnancy in several ways. First, estrogen prevents ovulation. Without an egg for fertilization, women can’t get pregnant. As an extra precautionary measure, progestin thickens the mucus around the cervix and thins the uterus lining. Sperm struggle to pass through the thick mucous layer and fertilize the egg. If fertilization did occur, the egg would be unlikely to implant itself in the thin uterus wall.

Mini pills thicken the cervical mucus and thin the uterus lining. While it’s not their primary aim, mini pills also suppress ovulation during roughly half of all menstrual cycles.

The Benefits of Combination Pills

Women choose combination pills over mini pills for several reasons. Because mini pills contain no estrogen and lower levels of progestin, their effects wear off after roughly 24 hours. Women must take mini pills at the same time every day for the best results. Combination pills are more forgiving, so they suit many women’s lifestyles better.

Combination pills also typically help women have shorter, lighter periods with fewer cramps and other side effects. Some varieties reduce acne so effectively teens take them even before they’re sexually active. Combination pills can also reduce your risk of developing endometrial and ovarian cancers.

The Benefits of Mini Pills

Because they don’t contain estrogen, mini pills help people sensitive to the hormone prevent pregnancy. Many people don’t experience nausea, tender breasts, and other side effects on the mini pill. Unlike the combination pill, the mini pill also suits people with high blood pressure or severe migraines, breastfeeding mothers, and smokers age 35 and over.

Readily Available Birth Control

Both combination and mini pills are easily available for women who want to prevent pregnancy, regulate their hormones, and more. Traditionally, women went to a doctor in person to get a birth control pill prescription, then picked their medication up at a pharmacy. The rise of telemedicine, however, has made obtaining birth control pills more convenient. Virtual health service providers such as Nurx allow women to order combination or mini pills online. Trained healthcare providers review online requests before dispensing birth control pills in unbranded packaging. This helps women maintain their privacy and saves them time.

Combination pills and mini pills can both prevent pregnancy effectively when used as directed. Consider the key differences between them when determining the right pill for you.