New Low-Dose Oral Contraceptive Just as Good as Higher Dose
WebMD News Archive
Nov. 24, 1999 (Cleveland) -- Newer, low-dose oral contraceptive (OC) pills
offer similar contraception but possibly less chance of side effects than older
OC pills that contain up to 75% more estrogen, according to a study in the
supplement to the November issue of the American Journal of Obstetrics and
Howard Reisman, MD, and his colleagues studied this lower-dose OC, known as
Alesse or Loette, in healthy women with regular menstrual cycles and found that
it was as effective in controlling menstrual cycles as older triphasic oral
contraceptives (Ortho-Novum 7/7/7 or TriNovum), which contain higher doses of
estrogen. According to Reisman, the less estrogen in an OC pill, the less
chance of side effects such as weight gain and breast tenderness, which cause
many women to discontinue this form of birth control therapy.
A big concern with lower-dose OC pills is also the breakthrough bleeding
that can occur. Breakthrough bleeding can consist of anything from light
spotting that doesn't need sanitary protection to heavy bleeding, which is
similar to a normal menstrual flow. According to this study, the bleeding with
this low-dose pill was the same as with the higher-dose triphasic pill.
"With this new low-dose formulation, we are not sacrificing anything.
The contraceptive efficacy is the same as for the higher doses, the bleeding
patterns are similar, and the cycle control is similar, but there's a chance
you'll have fewer side effects. This is important because many women stop
taking OCs because of the side effects such as weight gain and breast
tenderness, which are typically caused by higher estrogen levels," Reisman
tells WebMD. Reisman is a clinical investigator and in private practice in
- New, low-dose oral contraceptive pills are just as effective as older
pills, known as triphasics, but have fewer side effects.
- Triphasic oral contraceptives contain 75% more estrogen than the new pills,
and estrogen is associated with breast tenderness and weight gain.
- Breakthrough bleeding occurs at similar rates in women on the new and old