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J Reprod Med. 2002 Nov;47(11 Suppl):967-73.

Oral contraception: trends over time.

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  • 1Genesis Fertility Centre, 550-555 West Twelfth Avenue, Vancouver, British Columbia V5Z 3X7, Canada.


Since their introduction in 1960, oral contraceptives have undergone an evolution in content and dosage. The doses of the steroid components of combination oral contraceptives have been dramatically decreased since the first formulations. Ethinyl estradiol is now used as the estrogenic component of most combination oral contraceptives. The majority of progestins currently used in combination oral contraceptives are derivatives of 19-nortestosterone. However, drospirenone, which is combined with ethinyl estradiol in a new combination oral contraceptive, is a novel progestin that is derived from 17 alpha-spirolactone and is an analogue of spironolactone. The extremely low failure rate with ideal use of combination oral contraceptives is seldom duplicated in actual usage. Women often discontinue combination oral contraceptives within the first 2 months due to side effects that would likely have decreased over time. Although there are some areas of increased health risk with combination oral contraceptives, the benefits far outweigh the potential risks. In addition to providing effective contraception, combination oral contraceptives are sometimes used for their many noncontraceptive health benefits--e.g., treatment of menstrual irregularities and management of premenstrual symptoms. The most practical solution to the problem of poor compliance appears to lie in providing adequate education and counseling to women using combination oral contraceptives so that they know how to use them properly and what side effects they might expect. Patients also need to be given the facts about potential increases in the risk of certain conditions to help correct any misperceptions.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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