As you may or may not have realised – contraception is generally available by brand, and there are a fair few of them!
What you may not have realised is that many of these contraceptive brands contain exactly the same hormonal ingredients as each other, but are simply branded with a different name.
This is because once a contraceptive drug or product has been around for a long time it is made ‘off license’ which means it can be produced and marketed by lots of different companies. So, to help them stand out, all these different companies each give the same drug a different name, which just confuses everyone!
The Lowdown’s combined pill groups
To make it easier to understand the differences between all the combined pills, we put them into groups below:
|METHOD GROUP||OESTROGEN LEVEL||
|2||Low estrogen||Less-Androgenic||Mercilon, Gedarel 20/150|
|3||Low estrogen||Less-Androgenic||Femodette, Millinette 20/75, Sunya 20/75|
|5||Med estrogen||Androgenic||Levest, Microgynon 30/75, Ovranette, Rigevidon, Microgynon ED Tablets, Maexeni|
|6||Med estrogen||Less-Androgenic||Gedarel 30/150, Marvelon, Cimizt|
|7||Med estrogen||Less-Androgenic||Femodene, Femodene ED, Katya 30/75, Millinette 30/75|
|8||Med estrogen||Anti-Androgenic||Yasmin, Lucette|
|12||High estrogen||Less-Androgenic||Cilest, Lizinna, Cilique|
|14||Mestranol||Androgenic||Norinyl – 1|
As you can see, to make everyone’s lives easier we have grouped the brands of combined pill based on the type and level of oestrogen, as well as the type of progestogen.
What does low, medium and high oestrogen mean?
Traditionally every pill has used the same type of synthetic oestrogen (ethinylestradiol) in varying concentrations, however there have been some newer pills recently with a different type of oestrogen – the change in side effects from these are still being investigated. We can change the pill brand according to the concentration of ethinylestradiol (from low 15 to 20mcg, medium 30mcg or high 35mcg+) based on side effects you may be experiencing.
For example, a pill with a higher concentration of ethinylestradiol may help control bleeding more effectively and stop breakthrough bleeding. However if a woman is experiencing symptoms including bloating, breast pain, nausea, headaches or low libido we can reduce the oestrogen content using another brand to see if these improve.
And what does progestogen androgenicity mean?
The progestogen part of the combined pill can also cause women’s side effects to vary. Progestogen or progestins can be classed as more “androgenic” or less/anti “androgenic”. This means they have a greater or lesser effect on the male hormone (testosterone) receptors within the body. More androgenic progestogens can be associated with side effects such as acne and mood change. Anti-androgenic progestogens in combined pills may reduce libido and have a higher risk of blood clots. You can read more about this on our blog here.
Brands of pill in the same group have the same hormonal ingredients and should theoretically be no different. Some women could also switch between brands in different groups and not notice any change in side effects, whereas others will be sensitive to the level of oestrogen or the type of progestogen.
The Lowdown’s progestogen-only pill groups
The progestogen-only pill is a little bit simpler than the combined pill. Here we’ve grouped the progestogen-only pills according to the type of progestogen it contains.
|METHOD GROUP||OESTROGEN LEVEL||
|1||Less-Androgenic||Cerazette, Cerelle, Zelleta, Desogestrel, Aizea, Desomono, Desorex, Feonolla, Hana, Lovima|
The main difference here is:
- Group 1 pills contain desogestrel. Desogestrel progestogen-only pills must be taken within 12 hours of the same time every day.
- Group 2 and 3 pills are known as ‘traditional’ progestogen-only pills. They contain either norethisterone or levonorgestrel and must be taken within 3 hours of the same time every day.
If taken outside of this time window this counts as a ‘missed pill’.
Desogestrel is also less androgenic than levonorgestrel or norethisterone (see Desogestrel reviews here). Women may also experience different bleeding patterns if they switch between group 1 and group 2 or 3 pills. Whilst we’re not sure why this is, it is useful to know you could try switching to another group if your bleeding on one type of pills is problematic.
Whilst this may make contraception confusing for many, it is actually an advantage – having so many brands allows you to try alternatives if you don’t get on with one. It is possible to switch brands, depending on the types and concentrations of the hormones they contain, and ultimately find what’s best for you! See more information on switching your contraceptive here.