Birth Control Pill Types: An Overview
Many different types of birth control pills
) are available, as well as many different ways to classify them. Birth control pills can be classified by dose, hormone content, and phases.
One way to categorize birth control pills is by dose. Older birth control pills, including most of the early pills that are no longer available, usually have a high dose of estrogen (50 mcg or more). Most of today's birth control pills contain 35 mcg of estrogen or less (these are known as low-dose pills). A few have as little as 20 mcg of estrogen per pill (these are known as ultra-low-dose pills). To determine how much estrogen your birth control pill contains, look for the strength of "ethinyl estradiol," the estrogen used in most birth control pills.
Birth control pills can be divided into the following categories:
- Combined oral contraceptives -- Containing an estrogen and a progestin. These are the most effective and most commonly used birth control pills.
- Progestin-only contraceptives -- Containing only a progestin. These are less effective and are usually reserved for women who cannot take combined oral contraceptives, such as breastfeeding women or women with clotting disorders.