Birth control pills, also referred to as oral contraceptives, are taken to prevent pregnancy. They may also be used to treat hormonal acne, balance the menstrual cycle and lessen symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS). The pill contains hormones that induce changes in the female reproductive system. When taken daily, oral contraceptives have been shown to be an effective method to prevent pregnancy.
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Written by Patrick Moser, FNP-BC
Information last reviewed 06/21/19
Ortho Tri-Cyclen is a triphasic combined oral contraceptive and contains an estrogen component (ethinyl estradiol) and a progesterone component (norgestimate). Triphasic means that there are three phases, each of which contains a different amount of norgestimate. This is further explained in the “dosage” section below. Ortho Tri-Cyclen, when taken daily, is used to prevent pregnancy. It is also indicated for treatment of acne.
Ortho Tri-Cyclen contains estrogen and progesterone. These hormones suppress ovulation, thicken the cervical mucus lining and alter the lining of the womb. These three actions prevent the fertilization or implantation of an egg.
When taken correctly, Ortho Tri-Cyclen is more than 99% effective at preventing pregnancy. This means that fewer than one woman out of 100 women who use Ortho Tri-Cyclen for contraception will get pregnant in one year. Other forms of birth control, such as the IUD and implant, may be more effective than Ortho Tri-Cyclen because they do not require you to remember to take a pill every day. These might be better for people who have problems remembering to take medication daily.
The active ingredients in Ortho Tri-Cyclen are ethinyl estradiol (estrogen component) and norgestimatel (progesterone component).
The inactive ingredients in Ortho Tri-Cyclen are carnauba wax, croscarmellose sodium, hypromelloses, lactose, magnesium stearate, microcrystalline cellulose, polyethylene glycol, titanium dioxide, and water. The colored tablets also contain artificial coloring.
Ortho Tri-Cyclen is packaged in a Veridate tablet dispenser. Each dispenser contains 28 tablets. The 7 white tablets, for days 1-7, contain 0.035 mg of ethinyl estradiol and 0.180 mg of norgestimate. There are 7 light blue tablets, days containing 0.035 mg of ethinyl estradiol and 0.215 mg of norgestimate, 7 blue tablets which contain 0.035 mg of ethinyl estradiol and 0.250 mg of norgestimate. The remaining 7 tablets are dark green and do not contain hormones; these are the inactive pills. There are two ways to start taking Ortho Tri-Cyclen: Day 1 start or the Sunday start.
Ortho Tri-Cyclen should be taken daily around the same time and patients should follow the order in the packaging. You should get your period during the seven days when you are taking the inactive tablets. Period length can vary during this time. Try to find a suitable time each day to take the pill – one that you can remember easily to avoid missing a pill.
Possible side effects of Ortho Tri-Cyclen include:
Nausea or vomiting
Gastrointestinal symptoms (such as abdominal cramps and bloating)
Change in menstrual flow
Amenorrhea (Cessation of menstrual periods)
Temporary infertility after discontinuation of treatment
Melasma which may persist
Breast changes, which may include tenderness, enlargement, secretion
Change in weight (increase or decrease)
Interference with lactation if given immediately postpartum
Allergic reaction, including rash, urticaria, angioedema
Reduced tolerance to carbohydrates
Vaginal candidiasis (yeast infection)
Change in corneal curvature (steepening)
Intolerance to contact lenses
Ortho Tri-Cyclen and other oral contraceptives do not protect against sexually transmitted infections.
Do NOT take Ortho Tri-Cyclen if you have any of the following conditions:
Abnormal vaginal bleeding
Take extra care if you have any of the following:
Have a family history of blood clots
Have a history of migraine headaches
Have a history of gallbladder disease
Have a history of hepatic adenomas
Have a history of liver disease, to include hepatitis
Have a history of hereditary angioedema
Have a history of depression
Should you experience any of the following, find medical help immediately:
Severe abdominal pain
Severe headache, especially if you do not have a history of a headache disorder
Vision changes or eye pain
Severe leg pain or swelling
Below are known medications that can decrease Ortho Tri-Cyclen’s effectiveness. They include:
If you are taking antibiotics at the same time as Ortho Tri-Cyclen, make sure you use a backup birth control method such as condoms.
When it comes to choosing the best birth control pill, you have many different choices. To find the one that works for you, you may want to try different ones. If you are sensitive to estrogen or are currently breastfeeding, you can opt for the progesterone-only or ‘mini’ pill. Other hormonal contraceptives include the intrauterine device (IUD), injections and the contraceptive patch. They are advantageous if you worry that you may forget to take a pill. It’s best to consult your doctor when considering alternatives as their side effects may be different from those of the birth control pill.
Ortho Tri-Cyclen is indicated for the treatment of moderate acne vulgaris. Ortho Tri-Cyclen can reduce inflammatory acne lesions by up to 60 percent after six to nine months of use. Roughly 50 to 90 percent of women have a positive response to oral contraceptives when used to treat acne.
Perimenopause is the 2-8 years before menstrual periods stop completely. During this time, the production of estrogen decreases, and the menstrual cycle fluctuates. Many women experience hot flashes and night sweats. Heavy periods and growth of fibroids are more likely to occur early in perimenopause. Taking oral contraceptives such as Ortho Tri-Cyclen can help to reduce the hot flashes and ease other symptoms which commonly occur during this time.
A comprehensive review of studies revealed that oral contraceptives, including Ortho Tri-Cyclen, are as effective in overweight and obese women compared to women who are not overweight. The evidence did suggest that overweight and obese women are less likely to use any type of contraception. However, the reason for this was not specified in the review.
Disclaimer: This is not medical advice. You and your physician will determine if and how you should take any medication prescribed to you following a medical consultation.
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