Borrowing birth control
November 29, 2009 9:08 AM   Subscribe

'Borrowing' my friend's birth control pills for a few months. Will it be ok?

So, I'm unemployed and uninsured. It's Sunday, I need to start a pack tonight, I can't get to a clinic or Planned Parenthood, and I also want to save some money and the hassle. So here's my solution:

My roommate/friend discontinued her pill this summer and has two left over packs that I'm thinking about switching to for the upcoming two months (with the hope that I'll be employed within those two months, and will then switch back to my old prescription). They are not expired.

Both kinds are monophasic.
What I'm taking now: Microgestin (Loestrin) 1/20 (20 µg ethinyl estradiol and 1000 µg norethindrone acetate)
Switching to, for two months: Ortho-cept (30 µg ethinyl estradiol and 150 µg desogestrel).

You are not my doctor, but with these specs that I picked up off wikipedia, could you tell me whether I will end up with bad side effects or, worse, ineffective birth control.

I have been taking BC pills for the past 11 years, I have taken many kinds, and have successfully switched without side effects or loss of effectiveness at least four or five times. I've just always switched under a professional's supervision.

So, bad idea? Or ok solution in the meantime?

Thanks for your help.
posted by greta simone to Health & Fitness (20 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
It's no big deal, go for it, but to be extra safe, I'd double up on contraception for the first month, just like you would if you were just starting the pill.

If you can go to Planned Parenthood tomorrow, though, (and get your preferred brand there) why not just skip today?

As far as all the research I've done, there is no way to actually know what the side effects of a particular pill will be until you take it because they vary so much from woman to woman.
posted by pick_the_flowers at 9:20 AM on November 29, 2009


Shouldn't be a big deal, but hers is a lower dose so I would double check that you're within the pill's weight restrictions for effectiveness. A lot of the low dose pills aren't effective on people over a certain weight (and that weight varies).
posted by Kellydamnit at 9:24 AM on November 29, 2009


We can't tell you about side effects, because, as pick_the_flowers says, the impact of different hormones in birth control affect every woman differently.

If you continue to take the pill when you normally do, you won't have any decrease in effectiveness. But you should probably just skip today's pill, use back-up contraception for a week (condoms) and go to planned parenthood tomorrow and get your own brand. This way, you'll get a refill for a whole year, too, and not have to worry about it again in two months.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:26 AM on November 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Any chance there's a generic version of your pill you could buy at Walmart or Target? I think Target has a $4 generic program.
posted by sully75 at 9:27 AM on November 29, 2009


It should be fine, but doubling up on birth control, especially for the first month, would be a good idea. Side effects are impossible to predict not just from person to person but also from pill to pill, so just pay attention to your body the way you would normally when starting a new medication.
posted by katemcd at 9:46 AM on November 29, 2009


Shouldn't be a big deal, but hers is a lower dose so I would double check that you're within the pill's weight restrictions for effectiveness. A lot of the low dose pills aren't effective on people over a certain weight (and that weight varies).

Um, no. Your friend's pill contains 10 micrograms MORE synthesized estrogen, from how you listed them, and a completely different kind of synthesized progesterone that can't be directly compared by dose. If you do have side effects, it will likely be because your body doesn't handle the new progesterone as well as the old one.
posted by slow graffiti at 9:47 AM on November 29, 2009


I'm not so much worried about side effects as I am effectiveness (at pregnancy prevention). I'm pretty tough and rarely have side effects from any drugs, and have never had side effects from switching the pill in the past.

My weight is 135 lbs.

I presently live in NJ (outside of NYC) and have no access to a car, so the journey of going to and from a Planned Parenthood or a Target even, is an all day journey, which is the hassle I'm trying to avoid.

So perhaps I'll start the friend's pills and double up with a condom for a week or two? Good plan?
posted by greta simone at 10:07 AM on November 29, 2009


Another option would be to call your former OBGYN and explain the issue. They should be able to at least tell you if it's a bad idea.

Also- I know you don't want to make the trip, but my OBGYN was willing to give me a few free samples of my NuvaRing for the months I was expecting to be uninsured. A lot of docs get samples of bc from the manufacturer, and I'd expect that if you're super nice to whomever you talk to on the phone, you have a good chance of getting some for when your current stash runs out.
posted by emilyd22222 at 10:12 AM on November 29, 2009


Don't skip the first day's pill! That's the most dangerous time to skip because you've already spent a week off.
posted by yarly at 10:16 AM on November 29, 2009


From Military OB-GYN: What to do if the particular pill she's using is not available. This happens to women who are deployed and can't get their usual pill.

That said, going to a lower dose pill it's a good idea to use a back up. Pills are generally effective from the early doses, but why risk it and spend a month stressing about it. If you really do not want to get pregnant a week or two of double contraception is very little trouble in comparison to an unwanted pregnancy.
posted by 26.2 at 10:37 AM on November 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


I would double up for the first month, ovulation normally occurs on or around day 15 of a cycle but that can vary by a week or so, especially if your hormones are wacky. I would use condoms for the whole first month just to be extra sure. By switching to the lower dose, your hormone levels will be off and you might release an egg. Better safe than sorry. Good luck!
posted by pearlybob at 10:56 AM on November 29, 2009


There are a lot of responses here that misunderstand the basic mechanisms by which oral contraceptive pills work, and the information given is incorrect. Please consider, as PhoB said above, just getting to PP tomorrow or as soon as you can, then getting your own script.
posted by so_gracefully at 11:31 AM on November 29, 2009


A condom for a week or two isn't going to help. You could ovulate at any point in your next cycle thanks to the hormone hokey-pokey.
posted by Lyn Never at 12:13 PM on November 29, 2009


A condom for a week or two isn't going to help. You could ovulate at any point in your next cycle thanks to the hormone hokey-pokey.

Switching a pill at a new pill pack (IE, taking a new pill at your usually scheduled time) is not likely to make you ovulate, according to my gyno and the ladies over at vaginapagina. If you take your roommate's pills as you would normally take your own, you should be totally fine for contraception effectiveness. A back-up condom is necessary, though, if you skip even one at the beginning of your cycle. However, only a week of back-up protection is usually necessary, which is the case for starting a new combined pill from no birth control, too.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 12:50 PM on November 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


I would use condoms for the whole first month just to be extra sure. By switching to the lower dose, your hormone levels will be off and you might release an egg.

And it's not a lower dose pill--it's actually a higher dose pill.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 12:51 PM on November 29, 2009


What you are proposing to do is perfectly safe in terms of pregnancy prevention. It is possible you may have side-effects, since it's a different pill, but that's all.

There is no reason to "double-up" on contraception just because you are switching pills. As long as you take your first pill on time, you remain protected.

(And everyone? Even when you start the pill for the first time ever, you do not need two forms of contraception for a month! It's effective either immediately or within seven days, depending on when in your cycle you start it! The drug info inside the pill packs backs this up, and so does Managing Contraception. Stop with the misinformation, please.)
posted by Violet Hour at 1:34 PM on November 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


I don't see the problem with using a different brand as long as you don't skip (wow, there's a lot of misinformation out there!). I've needed to buy 6-12 months of pills at once because I was traveling and my doc often gave me up to 6 months of free samples. Free. It doesn't hurt to ask (for the future/after your roommate supply is up).

I don't think you'll have much luck for samples from somewhere like PP but if you go to an everyday gyno they will definitely get freebies from the drug companies. My doc sometimes had some, sometimes not, depending on how recently the rep had been by. I also ended up trying newer, lower-dose pills this way because the drug reps give samples of the newest, most expensive brands.

If birth control is covered under the $4 plans its new to me—I've never seen even generic versions of older pills for less than $30 these days in my area and the kind I like are close to $70 out of pocket. As someone without a job or insurance I assume cost is going to be a factor. If you do buy them out of pocket call around to lots of different drugstores. I find that Costco or Sam's Club are the cheapest and you don't have to be a member to buy from the pharmacy, but they don't take most credit cards.
posted by Bunglegirl at 4:00 PM on November 29, 2009


The original poster is obviously concerned about pregnancy prevention. Since none of us are her Gyn and we can't know her EXACT hormone levels or how her body will react to a change in hormone dosage, I think that telling her that she needs no backup contraception is irresponsible. Plenty of pregnancies have happened when bc was used the "right" way. The chance is statistically small but it does happen. Better safe than sorry is always a good path to take.
posted by pearlybob at 5:30 PM on November 29, 2009


Pearlybob, it's true that hormonal contraception can fail even with perfect use, but starting a new pill pack after no more than seven days is perfect use. Her protection is not compromised just because she's changing brands. If someone wants two methods of contraception to be extra safe, that's fine, but hormonal birth control was designed to prevent pregnancy all on its own. It's not irresponsible to use it that way.

none of us are her Gyn and we can't know her EXACT hormone levels or how her body will react to a change in hormone dosage,

No doctor would know this either. It's not something you can test or predict. When people start taking birth control pills, we don't test their hormones before or after. There's no hormonal test you do to predict what pill would give you the least side-effects, and there certainly isn't any sort of test you can do to see if the pill is working.
posted by Violet Hour at 5:51 PM on November 29, 2009


Just coming back to report for future searches:

Switched for almost two months now. Seemed to work just fine--didn't get pregnant, so it did its job.

The only possible side effect that I may have noticed (which could or could not be a total coincidence) was slightly itchier skin. But tolerable.

So, all in all, an effective experiment.
posted by greta simone at 9:54 PM on January 9, 2010


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