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Mar 01, 2021
5 min read

What is Sprintec birth control?

Sprintec combines estrogen and progesterone to prevent pregnancy. Both hormones prevent ovaries from releasing an egg, making it harder for sperm to fertilize an egg if one does get released.

linnea zielinski

Reviewed by Yael Cooperman, MD

Written by Linnea Zielinski

Disclaimer

If you have any medical questions or concerns, please talk to your healthcare provider. The articles on Health Guide are underpinned by peer-reviewed research and information drawn from medical societies and governmental agencies. However, they are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

Sprintec is a kind of combination oral contraceptive, which is a fancy way of saying that it uses a combination of both synthetic progesterone and estrogen to prevent pregnancy. 

While progesterone is enough to prevent pregnancy, adding estrogen prevents something called breakthrough bleeding, which is bleeding in between periods. Both hormones work to prevent your ovaries from releasing an egg and also change the consistency of your cervical mucus, making it harder for sperm to reach and fertilize an egg if one does get released (Han, 2019).

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How does Sprintec compare to other birth control pills?

There are lots of options when it comes to birth control pills and Sprintec is just one of them. Sprintec uses norgestimate (a progestin) and ethinyl estradiol, but many other brands of birth control pills do, too.

That means the bigger name doesn’t necessarily have better benefits, especially when you consider cost. Ortho-Cyclen, another brand-name birth control pill that uses the same ingredients as Sprintec, costs roughly $348 for a six-month supply (GoodRX, n.d.-a). The same amount of Sprintec is roughly $15.57 (GoodRX, n.d.-b).

Does Sprintec have any side effects?

The most common side effects of Sprintec include headaches or migraines, abdominal pain, breast issues (like big, painful boobs), and mood changes. Sprintec can also change bleeding during your menstrual cycle, and can even cause your period to stop altogether (NIH, 2017).

The estrogen in combined oral contraceptives like Sprintec may prevent spotting in between periods, but it isn’t without its own side effects. This hormone increases certain side effects, such as breast tenderness, as well as the risk of dangerous blood clots (Tahir, 2020; Cooper, 2020). For that reason, people prone to blood clots should not use Sprintec.

If you have a family history of blood clots, smoke, or are over the age of 35, talk to a healthcare provider who can help you figure out the safest birth control option for you.

Sprintec drug interactions

Tell your healthcare provider about any medications or supplements you’re taking before starting Sprintec. Certain medications and supplements can make these birth control pills less effective. If you need to be on one of these medications, your healthcare provider may advise you to use backup birth control like condoms and spermicide to reduce your chances of getting pregnant (NIH, 2017). 

Certain medications, like atorvastatin and rosuvastatin itraconazole, may also increase blood levels of the hormones in birth control pills by interfering with how your body breaks them down. And it’s not just prescription drugs that can do this. Acetaminophen and even vitamin C can also have this effect (NIH, 2017). 

Hormonal birth control pills can affect how well thyroid medication works. If you’re taking thyroid medication, a healthcare provider may adjust your dose when you start taking Sprintec (NIH, 2017).

Who should avoid taking Sprintec?

More serious side effects are possible with Sprintec, and these health risks outweigh the benefits for some people. Here is who should use caution taking hormonal birth control pills, and who should avoid them altogether (Cooper, 2020):

  • People who have ever experienced a blood clot or those with health conditions that increase the risk for blood clots
  • Those at a higher risk of stroke
  • Smokers over the age of 35
  • People with diabetes
  • If you have uncontrolled high blood pressure

If you’re nursing, you should not take oral contraceptives that contain estrogen. Talk to a healthcare provider who may suggest other options for people breastfeeding, such as progesterone-only pills or an intrauterine device (IUD) (NIH, 2017).

If you can’t take Sprintec or other hormonal birth control, don’t worry—you still have options. 

Non-hormonal birth control options

Oral contraceptives are effective, but they’re not the only option for birth control. 

Another alternative is an IUD, which is inserted through the cervix (the opening of the uterus) and into your uterus by a healthcare professional. Though some IUDs contain hormones, there are also non-hormonal options. The copper IUD, for example, elicits an immune response that prevents sperm from functioning properly and makes the uterus an inhospitable place for a fertilized egg (Lanzola, 2020).

If you want to start trying for a baby but aren’t quite ready, condoms may be your best bet. When used properly, condoms are very effective at preventing pregnancy and most sexually transmitted infections (Mahdy, 2020). If you change your mind and decide to start trying, all you need to do is stop using them. This is a lot easier compared to removing an IUD, which needs to be done by a professional.

Some people stand by the rhythm method, which involves avoiding sexual intercourse during ovulation. Of course, this method isn’t as effective as IUDs or condoms. That’s because sperm can last a long time in your reproductive tract (ACOG, 2019). That means you can still get pregnant even if you don’t have sex when you’re ovulating. Many people get pregnant each year using the rhythm method, so it’s not your best choice for preventing pregnancy (Peragallo Urrutia, 2018).

Sprintec is one option if you can safely take birth control pills that contain estrogen. Your healthcare provider can help you weigh the pros and cons of this type of birth control or suggest other methods that are a better fit for you.  

References

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  3. Chang, C. L., Donaghy, M., & Poulter, N. (1999). Migraine and stroke in young women: case-control study. The World Health Organisation Collaborative Study of Cardiovascular Disease and Steroid Hormone Contraception. BMJ (Clinical research ed.), 318(7175), 13–18. doi:10.1136/bmj.318.7175.13. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9872876/
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  5. GoodRX. (n.d.-a). Ortho-Cyclen Prices, Coupons & Savings Tips. Retrieved January 04, 2021. https://www.goodrx.com/ortho-cyclen?dosage=28-tablets-of-0.25mg-0.035mg&form=package&label_override=ortho-cyclen&quantity=6&sort_type=popularity
  6. GoodRX. (n.d.-b). Sprintec Prices, Coupons & Savings Tips. Retrieved January 04, 2021, from https://www.goodrx.com/sprintec?dosage=28-tablets-of-0.25mg-0.035mg
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