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Table of Contents > Drugs >  Ethinyl Estradiol and Desogestrel
Ethinyl Estradiol and Desogestrel
Brand Names
Therapeutic Categories
What key warnings should I know about before taking this medicine?
Reasons not to take this medicine
What is this medicine used for?
How does it work?
How is it best taken?
What do I do if I miss a dose?
What are the precautions when taking this medicine?
What are the common side effects of this medicine?
What should I monitor?
Reasons to call healthcare provider immediately
How should I store this medicine?
General statements

(ETH in il es tra DYE ole & des oh JES trel)

Brand Names
Apri®; Desogen®; Mircette™; Ortho-Cept®

Therapeutic Categories

What key warnings should I know about before taking this medicine?

  • You should not smoke while taking birth control pills. Cigarette smoking increases the risk of serious heart and blood related side effects. This risk increases with age (greater than 35 years of age) and with heavy smoking (15 or more cigarettes per day). Birth control pills do not prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS or other sexually transmitted diseases.

Reasons not to take this medicine

  • If you have an allergy to ethinyl estradiol, desogestrel, or any other part of the medicine.
  • If you have any of the following conditions: Unexplained vaginal bleeding, known or suspected breast cancer, a history of blood clots, disease in the arteries of the brain, coronary artery disease.
  • If you are pregnant or think you may be pregnant.

What is this medicine used for?

  • This medicine is commonly used to prevent pregnancy.
  • Other uses include treatment of acne in girls older than 15; treatment of endometriosis, painful periods, unusual uterine bleeding, and female hypogonadism.

How does it work?

  • The ethinyl estradiol and desogestrel combination prevents pregnancy by preventing ovulation (egg release). It causes a variety of hormonal changes. To prevent pregnancy after intercourse, the medicine either prevents or delays ovulation (egg release).

How is it best taken?

  • Take with food at a similar time every day or as directed by healthcare provider.
  • Follow directions given by healthcare provider or read the package insert.
  • Avoid grapefruit and grapefruit juice.

What do I do if I miss a dose?

  • Take a missed dose as soon as possible and then return to your regular schedule.
  • Missed dosing information can be found in the package insert given to you or call healthcare provider for more information.

What are the precautions when taking this medicine?

  • Check medicines with healthcare provider. This medicine may not mix well with other medicines.
  • Limit alcohol intake (includes wine, beer, and liquor). Routine use may increase risk of breast cancer.
  • Avoid cigarette smoking. Persons older than 35 years of age and/or smoking more than 15 cigarettes per day are at risk for heart disease.
  • Limit caffeine (for example, tea, coffee, cola) and chocolate intake. Use with this medicine may cause nervousness, shakiness, rapid heartbeats, and anxiety.
  • Use caution if you have kidney disease, heart disease (including high blood pressure), liver disease, circulation problems (including history of blood clot in leg, arm, or lung). Talk with healthcare provider.
  • Do not use if you have a history of breast or endometrial cancer or a strong family history (sister, mother) of breast cancer. Talk with healthcare provider.
  • If you are on a blood thinner (warfarin), talk with healthcare provider.
  • Remind surgeons and other healthcare providers you are taking this medicine.
  • Do not use over-the-counter products that increase blood pressure. These include cough or cold remedies, diet pills, stimulants, ibuprofen or like products, and certain herbs or supplements. Talk with healthcare provider.
  • Tell healthcare provider if you are allergic to any medicine. Make sure to tell about the allergy and how it affected you. This includes telling about rash; hives; itching; shortness of breath; wheezing; cough; swelling of face, lips, tongue, throat; or any other symptoms involved.
  • Oral contraceptives do not prevent the spread of sexually-transmitted diseases. Take measures to prevent the spread of these diseases. Talk with healthcare provider if help is needed in choosing a method.
  • Do not use in pregnancy and do not get pregnant. Follow the directions in the package insert if doses are missed.
  • Tell healthcare provider if you are breast-feeding.

What are the common side effects of this medicine?

  • Headache. mild pain medicine may help.
  • Belly pain and cramps.
  • Swelling and bloating.
  • Nausea or vomiting. Small frequent meals, frequent mouth care, sucking hard candy, or chewing gum may help.
  • Breast enlargement or tenderness.
  • Vaginal bleeding (breakthrough bleeding, spotting) may occur.

What should I monitor?

  • Periodic breast (monthly self-exams) and gynecologic exams are important.
  • Check blood pressure regularly.
  • If you miss 2 menstrual periods in a row then do a pregnancy test before starting a new dosing cycle.
  • Follow up with healthcare provider at least every year.

Reasons to call healthcare provider immediately

  • Signs of a life-threatening reaction. These include wheezing; tightness in the chest; fever; itching; bad cough; blue skin color; fits; swelling of face, lips, tongue, or throat.
  • Severe headache.
  • Unusual vaginal bleeding. This includes lots of bleeding, spotting, or bleeding between cycles.
  • Severe nausea or vomiting.
  • Swelling/pain of a leg or arm, sudden shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, chest pain.
  • A lump in the breast.
  • Any rash.
  • A positive pregnancy test.

How should I store this medicine?

  • Store in a tight container at room temperature.

General statements

  • Do not share your medicine with others and do not take anyone else's medicine.
  • Keep all medicine out of the reach of children and pets.
  • Keep a list of all your medicines (prescription, herbal/supplements, vitamins, over-the-counter) with you. Give this list to healthcare provider (doctor, nurse, pharmacist, physician assistant).
  • Read the package insert for more details (given with the medicine).
  • Talk with healthcare provider before starting any new medicine, including over-the-counter or natural products (herbs, vitamins).

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  Substances depleted by this drug
View Depletions
  Interactions with herbs
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Red Clover
St. John's Wort
Wild yam
  Interactions with supplements
Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA)
Vitamin A (Retinol)
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)
Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)
Vitamin B9 (Folic Acid)
Vitamin D
Vitamin E

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