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What Is a Combination Birth Control Pill?

Combination birth control pills are an oral contraceptive that contains both progestin and estrogen. There are different types of combination pills that have different amounts of estrogen and progestin, depending on what the desired effects are. Birth control packs will come with a mixture of active and inactive pills, with breakthrough bleeding occurring when taking the inactive pills. Different pill packs you may be prescribed include:

  • Conventional pack – These are the most common type of combination pills and will come with 21 active pills and seven inactive pills to mimic a traditional 28-day cycle. There are some versions that will have 24 active pills and four inactive pills, to create a shorter period. Once you have completed a pack, you will start the next pack on the day following completion.
  • Continuous or extended dosing – These packs are for a three-month period and will contain 84 active pills and seven inactive pills. When taking extended or continuous dosing pills you will experience a period four times a year during each pack’s seven days of inactive pills.

How does it work?

Combination birth control pills help to prevent pregnancy through multiple means. They stop your ovaries from releasing eggs, cause changes in your cervical mucus to make it less habitable for sperm, and also alter the lining of your uterus to prevent an egg from attaching if one is accidentally released and fertilized. With perfect use, combination birth control has a 99% success rate. To be most effective, the pill should be taken at the same time each day.

What are the advantages of combination pills?

Combination birth control pills are prescribed for a number of reasons.

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  • They are an effective form of birth control that is easily reversible when you choose to conceive.
  • To decrease the risk of endometrial and ovarian cancers, ovarian cysts, and breast disease.
  • To prevent ectopic pregnancies.
  • To alleviate the symptoms of painful periods.
  • To reduce the production of androgens in those who are affected by polycystic ovary syndrome.
  • To create shorter, lighter, and more predictable cycles.
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