For something we simply call “the pill”, there sure are a lot of variations of this medication: with low oestrogen, high oestrogen, no oestrogen, levonorgestrel, norethisterone, dienogest, drospirenone, and the list goes on.
This can make things a bit tricky to understand, especially if you're starting the pill for the first time or are looking for alternatives to your current medication. But we're here to help.
In today's article, we'll do a deep dive into what triphasic birth control pills are and explain what distinguishes them from your standard monophasic pills. Let's get into it.
What is the triphasic pill?
Triphasic contraceptive pills contain 3 different doses of hormones, so that the formulation changes approximately every week throughout your cycle.
One common triphasic pill has a cycle of 21 tablets with varying levels of Ethinylestradiol (oestrogen) and Levonorgestrel (progestin), to be taken at different stages of the menstrual cycle, as well as 7 placebo pills.
This is what it looks like:
When you take a triphasic oral contraceptive, the oestrogen component bumps up in the middle of your cycle (when you would normally ovulate), while the progestin component ramps up throughout your cycle.
They’re not all like this, but the general idea is that triphasic pills allow a lower dose of oestrogen (theoretically meaning fewer side effects), with a mid-cycle boost to prevent ovulation.
Meanwhile, the progestin dose is low at the start (as normal) but ramps up to simulate the natural increase following ovulation. You can see this in the graph below of the normal hormonal changes during the menstrual cycle.
How do triphasic pills differ from monophasic and biphasic pills?
The main difference between the 3 types of contraceptive pills lies in the dose of hormones they contain.
As we established, triphasic birth control pills have 3 combinations of oestrogen and progestin, while with monophasic birth control pills, each active pill has the same dose of oestrogen and progestin, and with biphasic birth control pills, each active pill contains 2 combinations of those same hormones.
Do triphasic pills work as well as standard pills to prevent pregnancy?
At this stage, there isn't enough reliable research to tell us definitively whether triphasic pills work as well as standard oral contraceptives to prevent pregnancy.
A research paper from 2011, which included more than 20 different studies, wasn't able to find any detectable differences in the effectiveness of the contraceptives.
But because the sample sizes of the trials were too small, more research will need to be done before medical professionals can be confident that one works better than the other, or that standard pills are the same as triphasic pills when it comes to their efficacy.
Do triphasic pills reduce spotting?
Some probably do, but it’s hard to say for sure.
Across the board, most studies on the triphasic pill showed that fewer women reported intermenstrual bleeding between their periods, compared to monophasic oral contraceptives . This makes sense as the hormone progestin, which stops your endometrium from breaking down, ramps up over time in these pills.
Do triphasic pills have more side effects?
There are some side effects linked with the oral contraceptive pill, like breast tenderness, nausea, and mood changes — and while for many women, the pros outweigh the cons, others might think twice before choosing this type of birth control. And there are definitely some women who say their PMS is worse on triphasic pill formulations.
But here’s some good news: on average, women taking triphasic pills report no additional side effects, cycle disturbances or medical problems than on standard pills .
This is great news for anyone thinking about making the switch. Still, it’s worth remembering that different pills have different effects on different women. So if yours is working for you, that’s what really matters.
If you want to give oral contraceptives a try, Kin's pill subscription makes getting your birth control easier than ever. A membership includes free and fast delivery of your contraception to your door 2 weeks before you run out (or earlier if you prefer) and yes, this means no more trips to the doctors or chemist.
Simply complete a text-based consult with our Aussie health practitioners and you'll have your pill in no time.