When oral contraceptives, or as they are more commonly known ’The Pill’, hit the market in 1960, women became more empowered than ever before. Sexual liberation took place and women gained better control over the course of their own lives with the ability to avoid pregnancy.
Yet few of the 3.5 million women in the United Kingdom or the 100 million women worldwide who take the pill actually choose their own brand, let alone know what generation of the oral contraceptive they are on. The pill has been around for so many decades that several generations of oral contraceptives have been developed. More specifically there are four, maybe even five, generations.
In light of new research conducted both in the United Kingdom and Denmark, the fact that women are unaware of which generation of the pill they are consuming may put them at risk. Findings show that women using oral contraceptives of generations III and IV are twice as likely to get a venous thromboembolism, blood clots found in predominantly in leg veins that may travel to the lungs, in comparison to women using generation I or II.
Findings in a British Medical Journal article by Øjvind Lidegaard stressed that “users of oral contraceptives with desogestrel, gestodene, or drospirenone were at least at twice the risk of venous thromboembolism compared with users of oral contraceptives with levonorgestrel”. In layman’s terms, this means that generation III and IV put women at a higher risk due to their content of desogestrel, gestodene, or drospirenone.
Here is a brief overview of some of pills in the different generations:
Generation I: still exists but is rarely prescribed today.
Generation II: Neogentrol, Neogynon, Trinordiol, Triminetta, Triquilar, Gynartrol, Malonetta, Microgyn,
Microgynon, Fironetta, Rigevidon, Cilest.
Generation III: Desorelle, Femelle, Marvelon, Microdiol, Gracial, Femigen, Mercilon, Novynette, NUVARING, Gestinyl 30, Gestoden 30, Gynera, Lindynette, Milligest, Minulet, Milvane, Modina, Triminulet.
Generation IV: Yasmin, Yasmin 28, Yasminelle, Yasminelle 28, Yaz.
This is not a scare campaign, it is simply meant to be informative for you to assess your own health in regards to the pill. The pill is great for many things. Not only can it prevent pregnancy, but it can also clear skin, reduce period pains and provide you with a regular cycle. So, if you are taking generations III or IV you should not panic, but you may want to consult your local GP or gynaecologist.
Despite not being as relevant in Scotland where NHS covers the cost of oral contraceptives, generation II is in fact substantially cheaper as well. This has led to speculation as to whether generations III and IV are predominantly being prescribed and marketed instead of generation II for greater economic gains as many of the newer generations are still patented.
It has to be noted that pregnancy itself carries a higher risk of getting a blood clot than taking oral contraceptives. Moreover, it has been found that if you do not experience any problems during the first 6 months of taking the pill, which is when the risk of blood clots is the highest, you will probably be fine. But check with your doctor and enjoy the freedom and control the pill was designed to give you.