1. There are two types of oral contraceptive pills: combination pills that contain both estrogen and progestin, and the progestin-only pill ("mini-pill"). Progestin-only pills, which are associated with more breakthrough bleeding than combination pills, are rarely prescribed except in lactating women. Combination pills are packaged in 21-day or 28-day cycles. The last seven pills of a 28-day pack are placebo pills.

2. Monophasic combination pills contain the same dose of estrogen and progestin in each of the 21 hormonally active pills. Current pills contain on average 30 to 35 :g. Pills containing less than 50 :g of ethinyl estradiol are "low-dose" pills.

3. 20 yg preparations. Several preparations containing only 20 :g of ethinyl estradiol are now available (Lo-Estrin 1/20, Mircette, Alesse, Aviane). These are often used for perimenopausal women who want contraception with the lowest estrogen dose possible. These preparations provide enough estrogen to relieve vasomotor flashes. Perimenopausal women often experience hot flashes and premenstrual mood disturbances during the seven-day pill-free interval. Mircette, contains 10 :g of ethinyl estradiol on five of the seven "placebo" days, which reduces flashes and mood symptoms.

4. Seasonale is a 91-day oral contraceptive. Tablets containing the active hormones are taken for 12 weeks (84 days), followed by 1 week (7 days) of placebo tablets. Seasonale contains levonorgestrel (0.15 mg) and ethinyl estradiol (0.03 mg). Many women, especially in the first few cycles, have more spotting between menstrual periods. Seasonale is as effective and safe as traditional birth control pills.

5. Yasmin contains 30 mcg of ethinyl estradiol and drospirenone. Drospirenone has anti-mineralocorticoid activity. It can help prevent bloating, weight gain, and hypertension, but it can increase serum potassium. Yasmin is contra-indicated in patients at risk for hyperkalemia due to renal, hepatic, or adrenal disease. Yasmin should not be combined with other drugs that can increase potassium, such as ACE inhibitors, angiotensin receptor blockers, potassium-sparing diuretics, potassium supplements, NSAIDs, or salt substitutes.

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