Birth control has been a majorly hot topic in the past several months, with many women being understandably worried that soon their chosen method will no longer be available or covered by insurance. Luckily, we are getting closer to an over-the-counter option for the birth control pill, but until that happens, fingers crossed no major changes will occur with respect to accessibility. The pill is one of the most popular forms of BC, with 16 percent of women in the US between the ages of 15 and 44 using it. That’s a lot of people. It makes sense then that there are a ton of options for those who want to use birth control pills, including ones with different formulations, benefits and potential risks. Here, we’ve broken down everything you need to know about each kind of pill based on what you’re most concerned about.

Young woman holding birth control pills

Pills That Help With Acne

What They Are: While some types of birth control pills can make acne worse (more on that later), there is a class of them that can help clear up your skin. Combination pills, or ones that include the hormones estrogen and progestin, are the most common type of pill on the market.

Pros: While it may take weeks or months to see results, combination pills are scientifically proven to help with acne. Plus, this type of pill can also make your cramps less severe, make your periods lighter and reduce your risk of ovarian and endometrial cancers.

Cons: These are not ideal for those who are over 35 or smokers, as they’re at higher risk for blood clots, which combination pills can also increase your risk for. Combination pills are additionally not recommended for those who suffer from migraines.

Brands to Look For: Too many to name, but the ones that are FDA-approved for acne are Ortho Tri-Cyclen, Estrostep and Yaz.

Pills With No Estrogen

What They Are: Most birth control pill options contain both estrogen and progestin hormones. These progestin-only birth control pills are also sometimes called “mini-pills.”

Pros: While it’s fine for most women to take estrogen, it’s not a great option for everyone. These progestin-only pills are most suitable for women with certain medical conditions or risk factors that would make them more sensitive to estrogen, like being over the age of 35, having a history of breast cancer or having an elevated risk of blood clots. These pills are also less risky for women who are smokers, which can up the risk of stroke, heart attack and blood clots.

Cons: The progestin-only pill is very effective, but the combined pill is more effective. In order for it to work properly, you really do have to take it at the exact same time every day, whereas you have a bigger time window with the combination pill. This option is also more likely to cause acne and breast tenderness than the combination pill.

Brands to Ask For: There are many options available, but some of the most popular are Nor-Q.D, Micronor, Norethidrone, Camila, Errin, Heather and Jovilette.

Contraception pills

Pills That Give You Shorter Periods

What They Are: Most pill packs have 21 “active” pills and seven placebo pills. Your period occurs during the placebo week, but these pills reduce the number of placebo days so that your period will take up less of your cycle.

Pros: Um, shorter periods. Pretty much everyone can get down with that, right? While many birth control pills will make your period lighter and potentially shorter, these are more effective at doing it.

Cons: These are combination pills, and therefore carry the same downsides.

Brands to Ask For: Yaz, Loestrin 24 Fe, Ocella and Zarah.

Pills That Give You Fewer Periods

What They Are: Certain pills, which are usually called extended-cycle, have you skip the placebo week altogether and go on to the next cycle instead. There are versions where you get your period every three months and one where you only have one period per year.

Pros: If you really hate having your period, this is probably the best option for you. Women with PMDD (an extreme form of PMS) may find having fewer periods to be the best way to control their symptoms.

Cons: As of now, there’s no convincing evidence that it’s bad to skip your period or not have one at all, but some still contend that it’s not a great idea. It’s important to know that the period you have on the pill is actually “withdrawal bleeding,” not a true period, so it doesn’t make much of a difference if you don’t have it. Still, some women get peace of mind that their birth control is working from having their period each month.

Brands to Ask For: Amethyst, Seasonale and Seasonique. It’s also possible to do this on your own by skipping your period if you’re on a monophasic pill, where the hormone dosage is the same throughout your cycle.


What They Are: You may have heard people talk about how their pill made them gain weight, but science says this is really not possible. Most of the weight you gain from taking birth control pills is fluid retention, meaning you’re not actually gaining pounds of fat — just water. Pills containing drospirenone (a form of progestin) help with this fluid retention, as it acts as a diuretic.

Pros: Aside from the obvious, these carry all the benefits of other combination pills.

Cons: Some studies suggest that the risk for blood clot is increased in pills with drospirenone, and the FDA has issued a warning that all women taking these should be informed of the risk. Still, this is mainly concerning for those with the risk factors for clots that we mentioned earlier.

Brands to Ask For: Ocella, Yasmin, Beyaz, Yaz and Zarah.

Which kind of birth control pill you do prefer? Tell us what you think @BritandCo!

(Photos via Getty)