A Comprehensive Guide to the Contraceptive Pill Brands

Dr. Babak Ashrafi

Medically reviewed by

Dr Babak Ashrafi

Last reviewed: 18 Jul 2023

Contraceptive pills in the UK come under a variety of brand names from a number of different manufacturers. Most contraceptive pill brands are a unique combination of active ingredients and doses, but some are actually the same.

Figuring out what brands to choose can be confusing, so we’re going to try and shed some light on the differences between brands and what you need to know to make an informed choice about the right brand of pill for you.

Blisters of a contraceptive pill brand

What is meant by contraceptive pill brands?

A contraceptive pill brand refers to a contraceptive pill that is sold under a particular brand name. Different brands work slightly differently based on what hormones they have and how they’re taken. Different brands can have different manufacturers (companies responsible for making and selling them), but some manufacturers sell multiple brands of pill.

Unlike other medications that usually have branded and generic names, contraceptive pills are usually only sold under brand names. A generic is the non-branded name for a medication, which is normally the same as the active ingredient, like aspirin or paracetamol.

Part of the reason contraceptive pill names are usually branded is that there are a lot of different active ingredients and dosage combinations, especially with combined pills. Branded names are easier to recognise and search for, making it less complicated to find the right pill for you.

Branded medications are checked to the same safety standards as generic medications when licences are issued. In the UK, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency is in charge of regulating medications.

What different types of contraceptive pills are there?

There are a wide variety of contraceptive pill brands in the UK, but they can be sorted into a few different categories, which make them easier to compare. These include:

  • combined and mini pills
  • low-oestrogen combined pills
  • monophasic and phasic combined pills

How do different contraceptive pills work?

Most of the pills work in a similar way, with the main difference being whether they are combined or mini pills. Combined pills work by:

  • preventing the ovaries from releasing any eggs
  • making the mucus at the opening of the womb thicker
  • the womb’s lining thinner, so fertilised eggs can’t attach themselves

Mini pills work in a similar way, but some of them don’t prevent eggs from being released.

Even though they work slightly differently, combined and mini pills are both over 99% effective when taken properly. Contraceptive pills also have a few advantages over other types of contraceptives, including:

  • easy to stop and start
  • no need to interrupt sex to use them
  • can be delivered to your door with online doctor services like ZAVA
  • no insertion or injection like coils or the hormonal injection
  • some brands are available over-the-counter

What is the best combined pill brand?

All brands of combined pills are just as effective when taken properly. But, they do contain different ingredients and doses, which different people can react differently to.

bar chart with the best combined pill brand prescribed in England in 2015: Microgynon 30, Desogestrel 75mcg, Rigevidon, Cerazette 75mcg, Cerelle 75mcg.

Below are some popular UK brands of combined contraceptive pills for you to consider.

Rigevidon pill

  • Contains 150 micrograms of levonorgestrel and 30 micrograms of ethinylestradiol
  • Is a second-generation pill
  • Similar pills include: Levest, Ovranette

Levonorgestrel and ethinylestradiol pills like the Rigevidon pill were introduced in the 70s. It’s considered a second-generation pill because the progesterone levonorgestrel was discovered after the progesterones used in first generation pills and largely replaced them as a safer alternative. Unlike first generation pills, second-generation pills like Rigevidon are still widely used.

Microgynon 30

  • Contains 150 micrograms of levonorgestrel and 30 micrograms of ethinylestradiol
  • A second-generation pill
  • Similar pills include: Levest, Ovranette, Rigevidon

Microgynon 30 is a very similar pill to the one discussed above, Rigevidon. They both contain the same active ingredients in the same doses. Like the Rigevidon pill, Microgynon is a second generation pill containing levonorgestrel and is still widely used today.

Yasmin Pill

  • Contains 3 milligrams drospirenone and 30 micrograms ethinylestradiol
  • A fourth-generation pill
  • Similar pills include: Eloine, Lucette

The progesterone in Yasmin, drospirenone, was patented in 1976 but not used medically until 2000. Called a fourth-generation progesterone, it has less of an androgenic (male hormone) effect, making it less likely to cause acne but also less effective for treating endometriosis. On the other hand, drospirenone comes with a slightly higher risk of blood clots, although it’s still very low. Overall, drospirenone combined pills are generally safe and suit many women better in terms of side effects.

Marvelon pill

  • Contains 150 micrograms of desogestrel and 30 micrograms of ethinylestradiol
  • A third-generation pill
  • Similar pills include: Gedarel, Lucette, Mercilon

Marvelon contains the third-generation progesterone desogestrel, which was discovered in 1972 and became available for use in Europe in 1981. This progesterone causes less androgenic and estrogenic activity (involving male and female hormones), which means the side effects and benefits of both of these hormones may be reduced. But, like drospirenone pills, desogestrel pills come with a slightly higher risk of blood clots, although they’re safe and well-tolerated overall.

Lucette pill

  • Contains 3 milligrams drospirenone and 30 micrograms ethinylestradiol
  • A fourth-generation pill
  • Similar pills include: Eloine, Yasmin

Very similar to Yasmin pill, Lucette contains the same hormones in the same doses, including the fourth-generation progesterone drospirenone. This means it also has less androgenic (male hormone) effect and has a lower risk of some side effects, but like Yasmin, the drospirenone comes with a slightly higher risk of blood clots. Still, Lucette is safe if approved by a doctor.

According to a study by University College London of contraceptive pill prescribing trends between 2000 and 2018, the percentage of people being prescribed the combined pill dropped from 26% to 14% during the 18-year period. They also found that the percentage of people being prescribed the mini pill went up from 4% to 11% during the same period.

What are the best mini pill brands?

Like combined pills, there’s no single mini pill brand that is right for everyone. Finding one that works for you can take some trial and error. Mini pills with a 12-hour window can be good for people who forget to take their pill on time.

Even so, all mini pills can be equally as effective. Below we go into detail on some of the more popular brands.

Cerelle pill

  • Contains 75 micrograms of desogestrel
  • A 12-hour window mini pill
  • Contains a third-generation progesterone
  • Similar pills: Cerazette, Hana, Zelleta

The desogestrel in Cerelle is a third-generation progesterone, which was discovered in 1972. Because it has less androgenic (male hormone) effect, it causes less oily skin and can be less likely to cause acne than some other mini pills. It also has a 12-hour window compared to some other mini pills with only 3-hour windows. This means you can be up to 12 hours late taking it and it will still work.

Cerazette pill

  • Contains 75 micrograms of desogestrel
  • Is a 12-hour window mini pill
  • Contains a third-generation progesterone
  • Manufactured by Organon
  • Similar pills: Cerelle, Hana, Zelleta

Cerazette contains the same active ingredient in the same dose as Cerelle. It works the same way, having less chance of causing acne and a 12-hour window for taking it.

Norgeston pill

  • Contains 30 micrograms of levonorgestrel
  • Is a 3-hour window mini pill
  • Contains a second-generation progesterone
  • No other pills have the same ingredients

Compared to third-generation progesterones, the levonorgestrel in Norgeston has an increased androgenic (male hormone) effect. This means it can make acne more likely, but it can also have a bigger positive effect on endometriosis and heavy periods.

Hana pill

  • Contains 75 micrograms of desogestrel
  • Is a 12-hour window mini pill
  • Contains a third-generation progesterone
  • Similar pills include: Cerazette, Cerelle

Just like Cerelle and Cerazette, Hana also contains desogestrel at the same dose. So it’s got the same reduced chance of acne and a 12-hour window for taking it.

Noriday pill

  • Contains 350 micrograms of norethisterone
  • Is a 3-hour window mini pill
  • Contains a first-generation progesterone
  • No other pills have the same ingredients

Noriday contains a first generation progesterone. While these aren’t widely used in combined pills any more, it works fine as a mini pill progesterone. It has less androgenic effect than second-generation progesterones, but more than third-generation ones. This means it falls somewhere in the middle on acne, endometriosis and heavy periods.

So which contraceptive pill brand is best for me?

Which pill is best for you will depend on:

  • your current and past health conditions
  • what side effects you’re looking to avoid
  • what benefits you want from your pill
  • if you’re likely to forget doses

If you’re still not sure which pill to choose, a healthcare professional can give you advice. ZAVA’s online doctor service can review your situation through our assessment and check whether the pill you request is right for you and suggest alternatives if it isn’t.

Frequently asked questions

Where can I get the contraceptive pill?

You can get the contraceptive pill over-the-counter for certain brands of mini pill, from a nurse or doctor at your GP surgery or a sexual health clinic or online from an online doctor service like ZAVA.

ZAVA lets you request treatment online without a face-to-face appointment through a simple online assessment, and if your request is approved, it’s delivered right to your door.

What is the most common birth control pill brand?

Pills can go in and out of fashion as people learn about and try different brands. Microgynon is generally the most widely used in the UK.

What is the best contraceptive pill for anxiety and depression?

There’s no one best pill brand for anxiety and depression. All brands of combined pills will be better at avoiding these side effects than mini pills. This is because these side effects tend to be worse when progesterone is used alone. The oestrogen in combined pills helps reduce this effect.

Can I take a different brand of birth control?

If you’re already on a brand of birth control, then switching is possible. A doctor can help you switch from one brand to another, even between combined pills and mini pills. You can also tell our doctors what pill you’re on during a ZAVA assessment and then can help you switch.

Is Rigevidon a monophasic pill?

Yes, Rigevidon is a monophasic pill. This means it only uses one dose of ingredients throughout the whole course of treatment. In this case, Rigevidon contains 150 micrograms of levonorgestrel and 30 micrograms of ethinylestradiol and these doses don’t change.

What are the top 5 contraceptives?

Different contraceptives suit different people so it’s hard to say what ‘top’ contraceptives will be for you. Many contraceptives are over 99% effective when used properly, although some can be less effective because people don’t always use them properly, like the pill.

Below are a list of the most effective contraceptives when you take into account people using some wrongly:

  • Male sterilisation, permanent but effective if the procedure is successful.
  • Female sterilisation, just like male sterilisation it’s very effective but permanent.
  • Intrauterine device, often called ‘the coil’ this contraceptive is very effective when inserted correctly.
  • Intrauterine system, similar to the coil and just as effective.
  • Contraceptive implant, inserted under the skin and effective and reliable.
Medically reviewed by:
Dr Babak Ashrafi Clinical Lead for Service Expansion
Accreditations: BSc, MBBS, MRCGP (2008)

Babak studied medicine at King’s College London and graduated in 2003, having also gained a bachelor’s degree in Physiology during his time there. He completed his general practice (GP) training in East London, where he worked for a number of years as a partner at a large inner-city GP practice. He completed the Royal College of GPs membership exam in 2007.

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Last reviewed: 18 Jul 2023

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