The Contraceptive Cheat Sheet

A new posse of birth control pills tackles everything from acne to unwanted hair off-label. Confused? Consult MC's ultimate guide to pills with benefits

Liz Von Hoene
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Problem Solution Pill
ACNE, UNWANTED HAIR Higher estrogen, lower androgen Brevicon, Mircette, Modicon, Ortho-Cyclen, NuvaRing, Ortho Tri-Cyclen, Yaz, Estrostep Fe (the last three are FDA-approved for acne)
BREAKTHROUGH BLEEDING (SPOTTING), OVARIAN CYSTS Higher estrogen, higher progestin, lower androgen Desogen, Ortho-Cept, Ovcon 50, Yasmin, Zovia 1/50E, NuvaRing
BREAST SORENESS Lower estrogen, lower progestin pill, or progestin-only pill Alesse, Yaz, Loestrin 24 Fe or Loestrin 1/20, Mircette, Ortho-Micronor
DEPRESSION, MOODINESS, IRRITABILITY Lower progestin Alesse, Brevicon, Levlite, Modicon, Ortho-Cyclen, Ortho Tri-Cyclen, Ovcon 35, Tri-Levlen, Triphasil, Loestrin 1/20, Yasmin, NuvaRing
ENDOMETRIOSIS (The uterine lining grows in the fallopian tubes or ovaries, causing bleeding and, potentially, cysts and scarring) Lower estrogen, higher progestin, or "no-period" pills like Seasonique, Seasonale, and Lybrel (which stop your period, or reduce its frequency) for continual hormones without fluctuation. Demulen 1/35, Levlen, Levora, Loestrin 1.5/30, Loestrin 1/20, Lo Ovral, Nordette, Zovia 1/35E. (Take these pills continuously, no placebos, to skip your period. For a light period, take placebos for four days.)
HEADACHES Low estrogen, low progestin; hormonal fluctuations can trigger headaches. For menstrual migraines, Seasonale or Seasonique keep hormones stable, stopping a migraine-causing "drop." Alesse, Brevicon, Levlite, Modicon, Necon 1/35, Ortho-Cyclen, Othro Tri-Cyclen, Ovcon 35, Tri-Levlen, Triphasil. (Tri-phasic pills can cause hormonal fluctuation, but not enough to notice.)
SEVERE MENSTRUAL CRAMPS Higher progestin or no-period pills, although most pills will help. Demulen 1/35, Desogen, Mircette, Loestrin 1.5/30, Ortho-Cept, Yasmin, Seasonale, Seasonique, Lybrel
IRREGULAR/PAINFUL PERIODS, PMS, PMDD Low progestin, low androgen pills, as well as no-period pills Yaz (FDA indication for PMDD), Loestrin 24 Fe, Seasonale, Seasonique, Lybrel
WEIGHT GAIN Low estrogen, low progestin Alesse, Levlite, Loestrin 1/20, Yasmin; any pill with less estrogen than your current one. (Yaz and Yasmin both help with bloat.)
POLYCYSTIC OVARIAN SYNDROME Low androgen, low progestin Ortho Tri-Cyclen, Yaz, Yasmin
BREAST-FEEDING, AVOIDING ESTROGEN Progestin-only pills, or mini pills, which contain no estrogen Ovrette, Ortho-Micronor
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