Though there is 30+ brands available in Australia, they fall into two broad categories;
1. The mini-pill:
A progesterone-only contraceptive that works by thickening the lining of the cervix, creating a barrier to prevent sperm from entering the uterus.
2. The combined pill:
Estrogen and progesterone work in combination not only to thicken the cervical lining, but also to stop ovulation.
There is no “one size fits all” when it comes to birth control pills because the molecular structure of one synthetic hormone may suit you better than another. So, in consultation with your doctor, there may be a bit of trial and error.
We’ve reviewed 10 of the best birth control pill brands on offer: We take a look at the costs, pros, and cons.
Cost: 4×28, $ 13.50
Overview: Progesterone-only pill, Microlut does not interfere with ovulation. Each pill contains a uniform dose of hormones to be taken every day, even when you have your period.
Benefits: Very safe and has minimal side effects. It does not present any of the risks, such as deep vein thrombosis, associated with the combination pill. They are great for nursing mothers as well as women who for various health reasons cannot tolerate estrogen.
Cons: To work, it must be taken at around the same time each day. For this reason, it may be less effective than a combination pill. It can also cause intermittent or irregular bleeding in some women.
Cost: 4×28, $ 12.39
Overview: Another progesterone-only pill, Noriday, like Microlut, delivers a steady dose of the synthetic hormone levonorgestrel.
Benefits: As with other mini pills, there are no known serious health risks. Noriday is slightly cheaper than Microlut and is therefore often the go-to choice for a general practitioner. It is also a good option for women with polycystic ovary syndrome.
Cons: It is crucial to take Noriday within a 3 hour window each day to avoid pregnancy. Noriday wears off after around 9pm, so timing is important
Cost: 3×28, $ 74.99
Overview: A relatively new addition, Yaz contains drospirenone, which is actually a diuretic that behaves like progesterone. Being a diuretic, it can be helpful in preventing symptoms of PMT, especially bloating, as it prevents water retention.
Benefits: Drospirenone has been linked to reducing hormone-related acne and excessive hair growth in some women. Yaz contains fewer placebos than its closest counterpart Yasmin (see below). This means that you will have slightly shorter periods.
Cons: Expensive compared to other combination pills because it is not subsidized by PBS. Not recommended for women who consume a lot of anti-inflammatory drugs (such as ibuprofen, diclofenac, naproxen, celecoxib). There are been legal Lawsuits against Bayer, makers of both Yaz and Yasmin, over insufficient warnings about the potential for blood clotting.
Cost: 3×38, $ 74.50
Overview: The other big name in birth control pills containing drospirenone. Like Yaz, Yasmin helps relieve symptoms of PMT and, while not a weight loss pill, avoids the initial weight gain sometimes associated with the pill.
Benefits: Known to reduce symptoms of PMT, hormonal acne and unwanted hair growth as well as bloating (ref Yaz).
Cons: Yasmin has 21 hormonal pills compared to Yaz’s 24, which means you can have slightly longer periods on Yasmin. Like Yaz, Yasmin is not supported by Medicare, which makes him a relatively expensive choice.
Cost: 3×28, $ 47.39
Presentation: A generic version of Yaz and Yasmin.
Pros: It’s the same as for Yaz and Yasmin. It is, however, significantly cheaper.
Cons: As this is the bioequivalent of Yaz and Yasmin, similar health warnings apply.
Cost: 4×28, $ 22.99
Description: Microgynon is one of a group of “monophasic” combination pills, which means that they deliver the same dose of hormones (levonorgestrel and etheinylestradiol) with each active pill (21 days). They are often the first stopover for general practitioners when a woman takes the pill for the first time.
Pros: Strongly tried and tested and suitable for a large number of women. It is also known to relieve acne.
Cons: Typical symptoms of PMT such as mood swings, breast tenderness, and nausea are known to occur in some women.
Cost: 4×28, $ 13.50
Overview: Another monophasic pill, Levlen is a proven, reliable and widely used birth control pill. Keeping a constant dose of estrogen and progesterone decreases the side effects of hormonal fluctuations.
Benefits: Reported to help regulate and ease periods as well as reduce period pain. One of the cheapest options on the market.
Cons: While it helps most women, some report nausea, weight change, headaches, and breast tenderness.
Cost: 3×28, $ 69.99
Overview: Diane 35, (also sold in generic form as Estelle, Brenda, Juliet, and Laila), is a version of the pill used to treat severe acne in women with excessive levels of androgens (male hormones such as testosterone).
Benefits: Works wonders for lightening skin and combating hirsutism (excessive hair growth).
Cons: There has been controversy around an increased incidence of blood clotting in some patients taking Diane 35. In 2018, the TGA conducted a review of its use in Australia and concluded that the benefits outweighed the risks. Although still available, it can only be prescribed by specialists such as dermatologists and gynecologists.
Cost: 4×28, $ 12.50
Overview: Norimin contains norethisterone, a well-established and recognized synthetic progesterone that can help lighten heavy periods and control acne.
Benefits: Helps regulate hormonal ups and downs throughout your cycle. A very affordable option.
Cons: Some women report worsening symptoms of PMT, although most of them work.
Cost: 4×28, $ 24.69
Overview: Popular in the 1980s, triphasic pills such as Triphasil, Trifeme, and Triquillar were considered revolutionary as the hormone dosage fluctuated throughout the month to closely mimic a woman’s natural cycle. The preface “Sorting” refers to three different doses of hormones administered as you progress through the pack.
Pros: A popular and inexpensive option.
Cons: Side effects of PMT such as headache, sore breasts, nausea, bloating and irritability.
Male contraceptive pill
A male version of the pill has yet to be developed. The idea is to target sperm production with a combination of testosterone and progesterone. The side effects experienced by the men led to the discontinuation of the trials. Even though there was a reduction in semen, the ripple effects of acne, mood swings, and increased libido were too severe for the participants.
If you have any concerns, you may have missed a pill (or a few) or you may have taken a medicine that is interfering with its effectiveness, the morning after pill is another medicine that can prevent pregnancy. Best taken 12 hours after unprotected intercourse, it prevents either the forthcoming release of an egg, fertilization or implantation. It is available by prescription and is effective in about 85% of cases.
You should talk to your doctor or healthcare professional when considering taking birth control pills.