Yasmin — What are the benefits and the side effects?

Originally Published: August 23, 2002 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: July 29, 2011
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Dear Alice,

I would like to know about the Yasmin birth control pill. What are the benefits and the side effects?

Dear Reader,

Yasmin, a low-dose birth control pill, was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in May 2001 and is available in the United States. It is over 99 percent effective in preventing pregnancy when used correctly, and works in the same way as other combination birth control pills. Each pill pack consists of 21 pills that contain the same amount of estrogen and progestin (taken once per day for three weeks), followed by seven placebo pills (taken once per day during the week when a woman gets her period). A newer form of Yasmin, called Yaz, has 24 active pills and four placebo pills.

Yaz contains the synthetic progestin known as drospirenone, making it an alternative for women who experience adverse effects from other oral contraceptives. A few different types of birth control pills contain drospirenone, including Yaz (generics Gianvi and Loryna), Yasmin (generics Ocella, Syeda, and Zarah), Beyaz, and Safyral. The Yaz (24-day) pill is FDA-approved as a method of birth control, as well as a treatment for premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) and acne. In terms of birth control, drospirenone prevents ovulation and also cause changes in uterine lining in order to prevent pregnancy.

Before starting any prescription, it is important to know the possible risks. Several recent studies report that birth control pills containing drospirenone pose a higher risk of non-fatal venous thromboembolisms (blood clots) compared to oral contraceptives containing levonorgestrel. However, other studies have not reported an increase in risk. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is currently evaluating the conflicting results from these studies in order to fully assess the risks and benefits of drospirenone-containing birth control pills. A recent safety review about drospirenone is available on the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research website. Other possible side effects or drospirenone include:

  • Headaches
  • Menstrual changes
  • Breast tenderness
  • Abdominal cramps and bloating
  • Nausea
  • Vaginal discharge

Let's get back to the birth control basics. Speaking with your health care provider is important in figuring out which birth control method is best for you. Women who smoke and/or have high blood pressure, diabetes, or high cholesterol need to take precautions if they take birth control pills containing drospirenone. Moreover, these types of pills are not recommended for women who:

  • Have kidney, liver, or adrenal disease, since drospirenone may increase potassium levels in the bloodstream
  • Take certain medications, especially those that increase potassium levels in the body.
  • Have a history of blood clots or stroke
  • Have a history of blood clots in the legs, lungs, or eyes
  • Experience chest pain
  • Have a history of or suspected cancer of the breast, lining of the uterus, cervix, or vagina
  • Have unexplained vaginal bleeding
  • Have a history of jaundice
  • Have a liver tumor

Health care providers consider a woman's medical history to evaluate which birth control method is appropriate. Columbia students can speak to a health care provider at Medical Services by making an appointment through Open Communicator or by calling x4-2284. As with any birth control choice, it's a good idea to talk with your health care provider to determine which option suits you best.

Alice