Tri-Sprintec is a tri-phasic combined contraceptive pill. This means that it is a type of birth control pill that contains both estrogen and progesterone and the levels of these ingredients fluctuate over the course of the pack. Tri-Sprintec can help you prevent pregnancy, but can also be used to treat acne, endometriosis and period pain.
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Reviewed by Dr Yasmin Aghajan, MD
Information last reviewed 07/07/19
Tri-Sprintec is a type of birth control pill known as a combined oral contraceptive - this means that it contains synthetic versions of both estrogen and progesterone. Tri-Sprintec is also a tri-phasic pill, meaning that the levels of the active ingredients vary between different pills in the pack. Tri-Sprintec is used primarily to prevent pregnancy, however it has a number of other applications including:
Tri-Sprintec works in three ways:
Tri-Sprintec and other hormonal contraceptives are 99% effective in preventing pregnancy. A more accurate success rate, which takes into account women who occasionally miss one or more pills, or who are late taking their pill, is approximately 97%.
Tri-Sprintec has three different phases of pills and a set of placebo pills. The differences are indicated by their colour. The dose of ethinyl estradiol (EE) - the synthetic estrogen - remains the same across all the active pills (35mcg), however the dose of norgestimate - the synthetic progesterone - varies across the pack, so the active ingredients are as follows:
The inactive ingredients vary slightly between the different colours of Tri-Sprintec pills. They are as follows:
The usual dosage of Tri-Sprintec is as follows:
Never start taking Tri-Sprintec without first obtaining a personal prescription from a doctor, and make sure to read the package instructions carefully before use. When starting Tri-Sprintec, you have 2 options:
Take your pill at the same time each day. To help you remember, try and make this a part of your daily routine: for example, take your pill in the morning when you brush your teeth. Follow the 28-day carefully, taking 1 gray pill for the first 7 days, then 1 light blue pill per day for 7 days, then 1 blue pill per day for the next 7 days, and finally, 1 white, inert pill for the last 7 days. While you are taking the white pills, you will experience a withdrawal bleed, a simulation of a natural period caused by the drop in your progestogen dose. This bleed will not necessarily last for 7 days, but it is important that you continue to take the inert pills for the full 7 days before starting a new pack. Always make sure you have new pack ready, as you will need to start it the day after finishing the old pack without leaving a break.
If you miss 1 active pill (grey, light blue or blue) take it as soon as you remember and then continue as normal, even if this means taking 2 pills in one day. If you miss 2 active pills in a row, take 2 as soon as you remember and then 2 the next day, before carrying on as normal. You should use an additional form of contraception for the next 7 days, as missing pills can reduce the effectiveness of Tri-Sprintec. You may experience some breakthrough bleeding or spotting in this event, but this is completely normal. If you are unsure what to do in the event of a missed pill, contact your doctor or health worker for advice.
Common side effects of Tri-Sprintec are:
There are a number of other less common side effects that you could experience, so it is recommended that you always read the patient information leaflet before taking any medication.
Combined contraceptive pills have a recognised risk of causing blood clots. Blood clots can lead to a number of conditions including strokes and heart attacks. Therefore, if you experience any of the following symptoms, you should seek immediate medical attention:
You should also be aware that it is possible to experience an allergic reaction in response to Tri-Sprintec. If you experience hives, breathing difficulties, or swelling of the face, mouth, lips, tongue or throat, you should seek emergency medical attention.
Do NOT take Tri-Sprintec if:
In addition, tell your doctor and take particular care with Tri-Sprintec if any of the following apply to you:
Before taking Tri-Sprintec, inform your doctor if you are taking or have recently taken any other medicines, including those purchased over the counter without a prescription. The following medications may interfere with the effectiveness of Tri-Sprintec:
There are many different types and brands of hormonal contraceptives and it is not uncommon for women to try a few different ones before finding the right fit for them. Different types contain different types of progesterone and estrogen supplements, and you may find that you are more sensitive to some than others. Women who are particularly sensitive to estrogens may be better suited to low-estrogen oral contraceptives, which help to reduce estrogen-related side effects such as breast tenderness and headaches. Alternatively, your doctor may recommend the progesterone-only pill, or the mini pill, which contains no estrogen and is taken continuously without a monthly break for a bleed.
Non-oral forms of hormonal contraceptive are also available, and are useful if you struggle to remember to take your pills each day. Non-oral hormonal contraceptives include the implant (Implanon, Nexplanon), the shot (Depo-Provera), and the intrauterine device (IUD, Mirena, ParaGard, Skyla, Liletta, Kyleena). The IUD in particular is suited to women with certain other health conditions, such as diabetes or hypertension, as it works locally to the reproductive system. For advice on which type of contraceptive might be best for you, speak to your doctor or health worker.
If you don’t want to use hormonal contraceptives, or have a contradictory health condition or medication, you can rely on barrier methods instead. These include cervical cap (FemCap) and condoms, which are the only form of contraception to offer partial protection from STIs.
Tri-Sprintec is considered to be a safe and effective form of contraception. Hormonal contraceptives in general have been linked to a very slight increase in risk of developing blood clots, heart disease, gallbladder disease, liver tumours, and estrogen-sensitive cancers such as breast cancer, ovarian cancer and endometrial cancer. It is important to remember that this risk is very small and far outweighed by the benefits. However, if you have a personal or family history of any of the above conditions, make sure you inform your doctor before starting an oral contraceptive, as it may not be suitable for you. See ‘Contraindications’ above or more information.
Yes, you will experience a monthly withdrawal bleed when taking the white, inactive pills, caused by the drop in your progesterone dose. This is a simulation of a natural period, and will not necessarily last for the full 7 days. When you first start taking Tri-Sprintec, you may experience some breakthrough bleeding or spotting, but this is normal and often stops in time. If you are worried that you are bleeding particularly often or heavily, speak to your doctor for advice.
No, Tri-Sprintec will NOT prevent you from contracting STIs and nor will any other form of hormonal contraception. The only contraceptive to offer partial protection from STIs is the mal condom.
While hormonal contraceptives are a form of birth control, they can also be prescribed to treat acne, and to relieve painful, heavy or irregular periods. Additionally, they have other health benefits; women taking oral contraceptives have less chance of developing ovarian cysts, decreased risk of ovarian or uterine cancer and additional protection against ectopic pregnancy, in which a fertilized egg attaches outside of the womb.
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