An oral contraceptive pill, otherwise known as "the pill" is the most commonly used form of contraception in Australia.
More than 33% of women who use contraception opt to take birth control pills every day.
The birth control pill revolutionised women's lives when it was introduced in the US in 1960 in the form of Enovid, which was released in Australia on February 1, 1961 under the name Anovlar.
These days, if used correctly the pill is at least 99 per cent effective at preventing pregnancy. However, if you miss a pill, vomit within two hours of taking a pill, have severe diarrhoea or take certain medications, it might only be 93 per cent effective.
There are so many variations of contraceptive pills, it's hard to keep up.
Some brands claim they are better for preventing side effects such as weight gain and others are supposedly better for treating acne.
And just to clarify, this article will not cover off the morning after pill or the male contraceptive pill!
We chatted to Dr Elizabeth Farrell, Medical Director and gynaecologist at Jean Hailes for Women’s Health, about birth control, how effective the method is and how to choose the best contraceptive pill for you.
How do you choose a birth control pill for yourself?
Dr Farrell: First of all, women should read up on all of the different forms of contraception because some other forms such as IUDs (intra uterine devices) or contraceptive implants (a small rod that’s inserted under the skin on the upper arm) might suit you better. Then go to speak to your health professional, either your local doctor or family planning clinic, to talk through the options.
Do they have any side effects?
Dr Farrell: The contraceptive pill can have different effects on women as they can respond differently to specific hormones that make up individual brands of the contraceptive pill. Your doctor will advise you depending on your situation, for example if you have acne they might choose one that can help your skin.
Are there any warnings to consider when taking birth control?
Dr Farrell: Birth control can mean any contraceptive. With the oral contraception the major risk--be it very small--would be thrombosis. So it’s important to look at your family history, such as a history of deep vein thrombosis or thrombosis of any type, and let your doctor know before they prescribe the pill. But the risk is very small.
What are some of the birth control pills available in Australia?
Product Name: Yaz
Cost: $26.99 per month
Overview: Contains Ethinyloestradiol and Drospirenone, Yaz contains fewer placebos and slightly less estrogen than it's sister pill Yasmin. It may it may prevent bloating due to the presence of Drospirenone which eliminates sodium from your tissues, preventing water retention. However, Drospirenone will allow you body to retain potassium, which can be dangerous if you're a heavy user of anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen or if you have kidney, liver, or adrenal disease.
Product Name: Norimin
Cost: $12.58 for 4 months
Overview: A cheap option, Norimin contains ethinylestradiol and norethisterone, two hormones which make your body think that ovulation has already occurred, so the egg does not leave the ovaries. However, Norimin is known to have cause nausea, and dramatic changes in moods.
Product Name: Yasmin
Cost: $26.99 for 1 month
Overview: (See Yaz above). Yasmin contains more placebos and slightly more estrogen than it's sister pill Yaz.
Product Name: Microgynon
Cost: $22.99 for 4 months
Overview: Microgynon is a Monophasic (which means each dose has the same amount of hormones) combined pill which contains levonorgestrel. The pill result in the hormone levels in your blood dropping, resulting in a withdrawal bleed similar to a period. A cheaper alternative, this is a good option for women who are also looking for acne treatment. However, side effects include breast tenderness, mood changes or nausea.
Product Name: Microval
Cost: $21 for 4 months
Overview: Microval is a mini pill or progestogen-only pill. Progestogen is similar to the female hormone progesterone. Given this pill doesn't contain oestrogen, it means Microval doesn't have some of the same possible side effects of combined pills such as deep-vein thrombosis. This makes it a good option for breastfeeding mums, women who can't have oestrogen, older women as well as women who smoke or have high blood pressure. The downside is that Microval may result in unpredictable bleeding patterns and must be taken at exactly the same time each day to remain effective.
Product Name: Diane
Cost: $25.69 for 1 month
Overview: Like Yasmin and Yaz, Diane is a combined pill containing drospirenone. It also contains cyproterone acetate (Diane, Brenda, Estelle) which means it can help with acne and excess hair. However, just like Yasmin and Yaz, this pill has a rare side effect of increased risk of blood clots.
Product Name: Levlen
Cost: $13.50 for 4 months
Overview: Like Microgynon, Levlen is a monophasic combined pill containing levonorgestrel, however it is considerably cheaper. Once again, a good option for women who are also looking for acne treatment. However, side effects include breast tenderness, mood changes or nausea.
Product Name: Estelle
Cost: $7.99 for 1 month
Overview: Similar to Diane, Estelle is a combined pill containing cyproterone acetate which means it can help with acne and excess hair. However, once again, the risk for blood clots is increased.
Product Name: Marvelon
Cost: $21.50 for 1 month
Overview: Like Diane, Estelle, Yaz and Yazmin, Marvelon is a combined pill containing drospirenone. However, unlike those options, Marvelon is a third-generation pill with gestodene or desogestrel which may help with breakthrough bleeding which is an issue for Diane, Estelle, Yaz and Yazmin, Marvelon.
Product Name: Zoely
Cost: $27.99 for 1 month
Overview: Zoely is a estradiol -containing oral contraceptive. Similar to Norimin it is known to have cause nausea, and dramatic changes in moods, however it is a more expensive option.