Low-Dose Birth Control Pills: Working, Pros, Cons And Risks


The aim of this article is to discuss the oral forms of low-dose birth control pills, as well as the risks and side effects associated with this type of medication.


Ever since the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) approved birth control pills in 1960, they have been the most common method for preventing pregnancy in the United States. They’re efficient, simple to use, and affordable.

For the most part, birth control pills are safe for most women. Not all birth control pills, however, are effective for everyone. Some people experience unpleasant side effects, particularly when hormones are administered in high doses. Some of these fatal side effects would be heart attacks, blood clots, and strokes.

As a result, your doctor can prescribe what’s known as low-dose birth control to you. Keep in mind, both combination pills (estrogen and progestin) and minipills (progestin-only) fall into the category of low-dose birth control pills.

What Are Low-Dose Birth Control Pills?

Low-dose birth control pills are the ones in which estrogen is present in low-dose pills in amounts ranging from 10 to 30 micrograms (mcg). On the other hand, ultra-low-dose birth control pills contain only 10 micrograms of estrogen.

Most birth pills control estrogen, which has been related to an increased risk of health problems including stroke and blood clots. The minipill is an exception. It consists of only one dose that contains 35 mcg of progestin and no estrogen.

When birth control pills were first introduced in 1960, they contained very high levels of hormones. It contained 150 micrograms of estrogen and 9.85 milligrams of progesterone in the first edition. However, estrogen levels in the latest ones range from 20 to 50 micrograms, and progesterone levels range from .01 to 3.0 milligrams.

How Do Birth Control Pills Work?

Hormones present in birth control pills inhibit ovulation (i.e., prevent eggs from being released every month) and thicken cervical mucus, making it more difficult for sperm to penetrate an egg.

Estrogen and progestin act to prevent pregnancy in various ways. Both function to prevent the pituitary gland from releasing ovulation-inducing hormones, regulate the menstrual cycle and prevent pregnancy.

Progestin thickens the mucus in the cervix, making it more difficult for sperm to penetrate any released eggs. This hormone also thins the uterine lining, making it difficult for the fertilized egg to implant. If the sperm fertilizes the egg, this makes it more difficult for it to implant.


Birth control comes in two major varieties:

Combination Of Low-Dose Birth Control

These pills comprise synthetic estrogen and progesterone, in small quantities. Combination birth control pills are 99.7% successful in preventing unintended pregnancy when administered correctly. The failure rate is about 7% with normal use, such as skipping a few doses.

High-dose combination drugs are rarely prescribed by doctors because low-dose pills perform just as well and have fewer side effects. Remember, combination pills come in a variety of labels and generic types.

Common brands for combination pills include:

  • Yaz
  • Apri
  • Aviane
  • Levlen
  • Yasmin
  • Ortho-Novum

These pills are normally taken for twenty-one days with a break of seven days or seven days of a hormone-free pill.

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Low-dose combination birth control pills come with a variety of side effects. Taking a low-dose combination pill has a number of advantages:

  • Frequent or regular period cycles
  • The possibility that the period cycles would be lighter
  • Less severe cramps
  • Decreases chances of serious premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
  • More immune to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
  • Decreased chances of ovarian cysts, ovarian cancer, and endometrial cancer

However, there are several drawbacks to taking a low-dose combination pill. This may include the following:

  • Higher chance of having a heart attack
  • Increased chance of stroke
  • Greater chance of blood clots

Minipill – Progestin-Only Low-Dose Birth Control

The progestin-only pill is commonly referred to as a “Minipill,” and it is 99.7% effective when used correctly. The average failure rate is around 7%. It contains only synthetic progesterone and it might be recommended if you have risk factors that prohibit you from taking estrogen.

The chances of pregnancy are higher if you miss a dose or fail to take the minipill at the same time every day than it is if you use low-dose combination pills. While side effects, such as bleeding or spotting between periods, are possible with minipills, they usually improve or dissolve after a few months.

For women who are breastfeeding or nearing menopause, a doctor can prescribe progestin-only pills. A mini-pill can be used for people who cannot tolerate estrogen. Around 40% of women taking progestin-only pills continue ovulation. This suggests that these pills prevent pregnancy by affecting the body in other ways.

Common brands for combination pills include:

  • Camila
  • Ovrette
  • Norethindrone
  • Jolivette
  • Errin
  • Heather
  • Nora-BE
  • r-QD
  • Micronor

These pills contain progesterone in the form of norethindrone.


Benefits of low-dose progestin-only pills:

  • Can be taken while breastfeeding
  • Shorter menstrual cycles
  • Lower risk of cancers, including ovarian cancer
  • Smaller risk of ectopic pregnancy
  • Reduced chance of ovarian cysts
  • Reduction of the chance of endometrial cancer or PID

The drawbacks of low-dose progestin-only pills may include:

  • Spotting between menstrual cycles
  • Irregular periods
  • Ovarian cysts
  • Weight gain
  • Migraine
  • Bloating
  • Sore breasts


Low-dose birth control users have a lower risk of heart disease than those who use high-estrogen pills. However, long-term hormonal birth control use may increase a person’s risk of certain cancers, such as breast and cervical cancers.

Combination birth-control pills should be avoided under given circumstances:

  • Pregnancy
  • Aged 35+ and prone to smoking
  • History of heart disease, stroke, or blood clots
  • History of breast cancer
  • Suffers from chronic migraine
  • Suffers from high blood pressure or obesity

Some side effects of low-dose birth control include:

  • Depression
  • Insulin resistance
  • Cholestasis or other forms of liver disease
  • Weight gain

The possibility of having these problems is influenced by a variety of factors, including one’s lifestyle and family medical background. As a result, it’s important to speak with a healthcare professional about the dangers and benefits of oral contraceptives.


Pregnancy can be avoided using a variety of safe and reliable methods. Hormonal contraceptives are around 91 per cent effective when used correctly, which may not always be the case. However, they are more than 99 per cent successful when used correctly.

Using a condom still remains the most secure and inexpensive option for couples who want to avoid any unwanted pregnancy.

Birth control methods may continuously change as a person gets older or their health or hormonal levels change. Therefore one should be consciously in touch with her doctor and update them about their lifestyle changes. People who use birth control for purposes other than avoiding pregnancy should pay particular attention to side effects.

A low-dose or progestin-only birth control pill could be right for you if you are cautious about taking your birth control pills at the same time every day. Alternative treatments such as contraceptive implants, injections, or intrauterine devices might be a better choice if you aren’t as conscientious about taking your pills at the same time every day.


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