Comparing Combination and Progestin-Only Birth Control Pills

Birth Control in Rochester, NY

For women seeking contraception, there are a lot of options on the market these days. For those who wish to avoid hormones, there are products like condoms, diaphragms, gels, spermicides, and copper IUDs. If you’d prefer to go the hormonal route, you have pills, shots, patches, hormonal IUDs, rings, and implants. Even among each option, you often have a variety of different types of brands of that birth control to choose from.

If the birth control pill is your contraceptive of choice, then the first decision you’ll have to make is whether you want to take a combination pill or a progestin-only pill. These two types of birth control pills have different pros and cons, and work to prevent pregnancy a little differently. The answer as to which one is right for you will depend what you’re looking to get out of your birth control pill.

How do combination birth control pills work?

Combination birth control pills contain both estrogen and progestin (a synthetic of the natural hormone progesterone) hormones. These hormones work together to help prevent ovulation, thicken your cervical mucus, and thin the lining of your uterus. This way, your ovaries do not release a monthly egg and any sperm that enter the vagina would most likely not be able to get to an egg anyway.

With combination birth control pills, you take hormones daily for three consecutive weeks, then have a week of no pills or placebo pills with no hormones, when you will get your period. Alternatively, you can take your pills continuously to skip your period altogether or take extended-cycle pills that only give you a period every three months.

How do progestin-only birth control pills work?

Progestin-only birth control pills, as you might guess, contain only the hormone progestin with no estrogen. They work similarly to combination pills in that they prevent ovulation, thicken your cervical mucus, and thin your uterine lining, but ovulation prevention is less consistent. Pregnancy protection from progestin-only pills mainly comes from the cervical mucus thickening and uterine lining thinning, which prevent sperm from reaching any eggs.

Progestin-only pills are also taken daily, but unlike the combination pill, must be taken at the same time every day. There is no placebo week and hormones are taken continuously, often resulting in shorter or no periods.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of combination birth control pills?

Hormonal birth control, including both combination and progestin-only pills, affects every woman differently. Many women experience additional advantages to pregnancy prevention from the pill, but there are also possible negative side effects. Not everyone will experience these negative side effects, but it’s still important to know that they are a possibility.

Combination Birth Control Pill Advantages:

  • Easy, effective, and convenient pregnancy prevention
  • Lighter periods
  • Less period and/or ovulation pain
  • Improved hormonal acne
  • Reduced endometriosis symptoms
  • Help prevent ovarian and uterine cancers and uterine fibroids

Combination Birth Control Pill Disadvantages:

  • Bloating
  • Nausea
  • Breast tenderness
  • Spotting
  • Depression
  • Increased risk of hypertension and blood clots

What are the advantages and disadvantages of progestin-only birth control pills?

Progestin-Only Birth Control Pill Advantages

  • Easy, effective, and convenient pregnancy prevention
  • Few or no periods
  • Suitable for women not recommended to take estrogen (if you’re breastfeeding, over 35 and smoke, at higher risk for cardiovascular disease, blood clots, or migraines)
  • Begins working within two days

Progestin-Only Birth Control Pill Disadvantages

  • Must take at same time every day
  • Can cause irregular periods and spotting
  • Breast tenderness
  • Slightly less effective compared to combination pill
  • Body hair changes

In order to choose the right birth control for you, you need to be able to access accurate information about all of your options. At South Avenue Women’s Services, our medical professionals will tell you everything you need to know about your birth control options, answer your questions, and address your concerns, so you can make an informed decision. Once you’ve determined which type of birth control you want, we can set you up with the option you choose.

Contact us today to make an appointment for your birth control needs!