Women of child-bearing age who want to prevent pregnancy, regulate their periods, or treat hormonal acne often turn to oral contraceptives like the birth control pill. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that approximately 64.9 percent of women between the ages of 15 and 49 in the United States are currently using contraception. Of these women, 12.6 percent are using oral contraceptive pills, making oral contraceptives the second most popular option after female sterilization. Women who choose to take oral contraceptive pills have many different options, including Tri-Sprintec, but what is Tri-Sprintec and what are its side effects?
What is Tri-Sprintec?
Tri-Sprintec is a brand name prescription hormone medication that contains two types of hormones, a progestin, called norgestimate, and an estrogen, called ethinyl estradiol. Tri-Sprintec was first approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2003, and it is also sold in a generic form called norgestimate and ethinyl estradiol tablets - triphasic regimen. Approximately 12 million prescriptions were written for generic and brand name forms of the drug in 2017, making it the 62nd most commonly prescribed medication in the United States.
What is Tri-Sprintec used for?
Tri-Sprintec is a hormonal oral contraceptive that is primarily used to prevent pregnancy. Although most women take Tri-Sprintec in order to avoid unwanted pregnancy, there are also other applications for the medication. Tri-Sprintec is also used to treat hormonal acne in girls and women aged 15 and older who are menstruating. Women who have painful or irregular periods may also take Tri-Sprintec in order to regulate their menstrual cycles, decrease blood loss, and diminish cramping and pain. Use of Tri-Sprintec can also decrease a woman’s risk of developing ovarian cysts. While Tri-Sprintec is effective at protecting against pregnancy, it is not designed to protect against sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV, chlamydia, or gonorrhea. Tri-Sprintec should be taken at the same time each day in order to prevent pregnancy.
How does Tri-Sprintec work?
Tri-Sprintec works to prevent pregnancy in three main ways. First, the hormones contained in the medication work to prevent the body from fully developing and releasing an egg each month, which is a process called ovulation. The medication also thickens the mucus at the base of a woman’s cervix in order to prevent sperm from reaching the egg in the event that the body does release a viable egg. Finally, the hormones cause the lining of the uterus to thin, which helps to prevent a fertilized egg from attaching to the uterus, causing a pregnancy. When taken correctly, birth control pills like Tri-Sprintec are highly effective at preventing pregnancy, but it is possible to get pregnant while taking the pill.
What are the side effects of Tri-Sprintec?
Like many hormonal oral contraceptives, Tri-Sprintec is associated with both common and serious side effects. Common side effects associated with Tri-Sprintec usually do not require medical attention and may diminish or disappear after a patient’s body adjusts to the medication. Common side effects associated with Tri-Sprintec include:
- Breast enlargement or tenderness
- Feelings of sadness or emptiness
- Itching of the vagina or genitals
- Pain during intercourse
- Thicker than usual vaginal discharge that is white and curd-like in appearance and may have no odor or mild odor
- Difficulty concentrating
- Trouble wearing contact lenses
- Blotchy spots on the skin
- Feeling discouraged
- Loss of interest or pleasure
- Stomach cramps
- Trouble sleeping
Other side effects that may occur while taking Tri-Sprintec can be serious and require immediate medical attention. Talk to your healthcare professional if you experience any of the following side effects while taking Tri-Sprintec:
- Absent, missed, or irregular periods
- Change in vision
- Chest pain or discomfort
- Clay-colored stools
- Itching skin
- Loss of appetite
- Pain, tenderness, or swelling of the foot or leg
- Pounding in the ears
- Redness of the skin
- Slow or fast heartbeat
- Sudden loss of coordination or slurred speech
- Changes in skin color
- Dark urine
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Hives or welts
- Large, hive-like swelling on the face, hands, legs, feet, genitals, or throat
- Medium to heavy irregular bleeding from the vagina between menstrual periods
- Pain or discomfort in the arms, jaw, back, or neck
- Pain in the chest, groin, or legs
- Severe headaches that come on suddenly
- Stomach pain
- Sudden troubled breathing
- Unusual tiredness or weakness
- Vomiting of blood
Can the side effects of Tri-Sprintec be prevented or avoided?
You may have noticed that some of the common side effects listed above, including feelings of sadness or emptiness, feeling discouraged, irritability, and loss of interest or pleasure are symptoms of depression. While the link between depression and birth control has yet to be conclusively established, depression is the most common reason why women stop taking hormonal birth control. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) has concluded that hormonal contraceptives such as Tri-Sprintec can be responsible for nutritional deficiencies of vitamins and minerals such as vitamins B2, B6, B12, C, and E, folic acid, magnesium, selenium, and zinc. From a nutritional standpoint, lower levels of vitamin B6 are linked to depression in women taking oral contraceptives. Research also shows that people with low folate levels are much less likely to respond to treatment with antidepressants than people with high folate levels, so folate deficiency may also play a role in depression for women taking oral contraceptives. Other common side effects of oral contraception, such as difficulty sleeping, low libido, headaches, and fatigue can also be attributed to nutritional deficiencies caused by the hormones contained in the medication.
Because of the way hormones contained in medications like Tri-Sprintec can affect nutrient absorption and biochemistry, women have unique nutritional needs while using birth control. Women who are taking hormonal forms of contraception, such as Tri-Sprintec, may be able to prevent, diminish, or avoid side effects of the medication with support from a dietary supplement that is designed to mitigate the nutritional deficiencies that can be caused by the prolonged use of hormonal contraception. Women who receive the vitamins and minerals that have been depleted are less likely to experience potential side effects from hormonal contraceptives, including depression, low sex drive, mood swings, headaches, weight gain, and fatigue.
Are there any risks associated with Tri-Sprintec?
There are several risks associated with the use of Tri-Sprintec, but the most significant is the increased risk of severe cardiovascular side effects in women who smoke. Women who smoke while taking hormonal forms of birth control are more likely to suffer from serious cardiovascular events like stroke, blood clots, heart attack, and high blood pressure. The risk of experiencing these side effects increases as women age, so it is especially important that women aged 35 and older do not smoke while taking Tri-Sprintec. The risk also increases with the number of cigarettes smoked, so heavy smokers are at increased risk of side effects.
Additional risks include an increased risk of blood clots, so it is important to tell your doctor if you have ever had a blood clot or have a blood clotting disorder. Tri-Sprintec can affect blood sugar in patients with diabetes, so women with diabetes who use the medication should check their blood sugar regularly.