Oral contraceptives, commonly known as birth control pills, are most frequently used to prevent pregnancy. Oral contraceptives are also used for the treatment for acne, regulation of the menstrual cycle, and to help ease premenstrual symptoms. Oral contraceptives contain certain hormones which cause changes in the women’s reproductive system in order to prevent pregnancy.
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Written by Patrick Moser, FNP-BC
Information last reviewed 07/04/19
Sprintec is a combined oral contraceptive, or birth control pill. It contains a combination of synthetic versions of the female hormones estrogen (ethinyl estradiol) and progesterone (norgestimate). Each pack of Sprintec contains both active blue tablets and white placebo tablets to help you remember when you need to start your next pack.
The estrogen and progesterone in Sprintec perform three actions in order to prevent pregnancy:
When taken correctly, Sprintec is more than 99% effective at preventing pregnancy. This means that fewer than one woman out of 100 women who use Sprintec for contraception will get pregnant in one year. However, your risk for pregnancy may increase if you miss pills or forget to take the pills at the same time each day. Other forms of birth control, such as the IUD and implant, may be more effective than Sprintec.
A pack of Sprintec contains both active tablets and placebos. The active pills are coloured blue, whereas the placebos are white. The placebo pills do not have any active ingredients or effects and are only included to help you keep track of when to restart the active pills after your period.
The active ingredients in Sprintec (blue active pills) are: 35mcg ethinyl estradiol (EE) and 0.25mg norgestimate.
The inactive ingredients in Sprintec are: anhydrous lactose, FD&C blue no. 2 aluminum lake, lactose monohydrate, magnesium stearate, and pregelatinized corn starch.
The placebo pills contain: anhydrous lactose, hydroxypropyl methylcellulose 2208, magnesium stearate, and microcrystalline cellulose.
Sprintec is packaged in blister packs containing 28 tablets each, 21 active tablets and 7 inactive tablets. There are two ways to start Sprintec, the Day 1 Start and the Sunday Start.
Sprintec should be taken at around the same time every day. The pills should be taken in order according to the packaging. Your menstrual period should occur during the seven days of placebo, or inactive, tablets. This does not mean that your period will last seven days, although it can. Take Sprintec at a time of day when you are most likely to remember to avoid late or missed doses.
Common side effects of Sprintec are:
Nausea or vomiting
Abdominal pain, cramping, or bloating
Edema, or fluid retention
Amenorrhea (menstrual periods stop)
Breast tenderness, enlargement, or secretion
Swelling of the ankles or feet
Change in weight or appetite
Decreased serum folate levels
Aggravation of varicose veins
Irregular periods, especially in the first few months of use
Vaginal bleeding or spotting between periods
Mood changes, to include depression
Increased blood pressure
Contact lens intolerance
Seek immediate medical attention if you experience any of the following:
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
Some people may experience an adverse allergic reaction when taking Sprintec. This may become apparent with the following symptoms:
Swelling of the mouth, lips, tongue or throat.
If any of the symptoms occur, you should seek emergency medical attention. Allergic reactions can be life-threatening.
You should not take Sprintec if you:
Certain medications can change the way Sprintec works in the body. Medications which can decrease the effectiveness of Sprintec include:
If you are prescribed antibiotics while taking Sprintec, you should use a backup birth control method while taking the antibiotics.
Sprintec can interfere with the way certain medications work in the body. Sprintec can increase the plasma levels of:
Sprintec can decrease the effectiveness of the following medications:
Women who take thyroid hormone replacement therapy may require higher doses of thyroid hormone.
Co-administration of Sprintec with medications used to treat hepatitis C, specifically those medications containing ombitasvir/paritaprevir/ritonavir, can cause elevations in liver enzymes. These medications should not be combined with Sprintec or other combined oral contraceptives.
There are several different types of birth control pills available. You may have to try a few different ones before you find the pill that works best for you. You may have heard of the mini pill, which contains progesterone only. The mini pill is a good alternative if you are sensitive to estrogen. Progesterone-only pills are also used for women who are breastfeeding. Other alternatives include the implant, IUD (intrauterine device), and injections. These options have the advantage that you do not need to remember to take a pill every day. However, there are some side effects with these methods which can make them undesirable. Make sure you talk to your doctor and get the information you need to make the best decision for you.
There is a risk, although it is a low risk, for pregnancy when using oral contraceptives such as Sprintec. Even with perfect use (no missed pills and taking medication at the same time every day), the estimated risk for pregnancy is 0.3 percent. With typical use of oral contraceptives, the estimated risk is higher at 3.7 percent during the first year of use.
You can become pregnant as soon as you stop taking Sprintec. However, it usually takes a couple of months for your menstrual cycle to return to normal. Remember that every woman is different, and there may be other causes if you are not able to conceive. There is no evidence to suggest that use of oral contraceptives such as Sprintec causes infertility.
There is an increased risk of blood clots, or venous thromboembolism, associated with the use of Sprintec and other oral contraceptives. This risk is directly related to the amount of estrogen in the pills. Sprintec does have a lower estrogen dose compared to some other combined oral contraceptives. However, there is an increased risk for blood clots with any combined oral contraceptive. The risk is relatively low; pregnancy is approximately twice as likely to cause blood clots compared to using oral contraceptives. The risk for blood clots is higher in older women, over age 35 years, and in women who smoke.
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