From the pill and patch, to the ring and injection, you can likely find a birth control option that fits your family planning needs.
But there’s one other type of contraception you likely haven’t heard of: chewable birth control.
If you hate swallowing a pill every day, chewable birth control might be right for you. But is it effective and available? Learn the basics on this little-discussed form of contraception.
Femcon Fe was the first chewable birth control approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) in 2003. The medication was designed specifically for people who want to take an oral contraceptive but don’t like standard birth control pills.
It’s important to note that Femcon Fe is now
“There’s a certain group of people who don’t swallow pills,” says Jill Edwardson, MD, MPH, the director of the Kenneth J. Ryan residency program in abortion and family planning and an assistant professor of gynecology and obstetrics at Johns Hopkins Medicine.
Chewable birth control was also intended for the many people who forget to take their pill every day at the same time.
In theory, you may find it easier to tuck your chewable birth control pack in your wallet. Whether you forget to take your pill on time or are on the go and want to keep your medication discreet, you can pop a chewable birth control pill wherever you are, Ramanadhan explains.
Edwardson says that chewable birth control pills come in many formulations from a number of brands.
A few examples of commonly-prescribed chewable birth control pills are:
- Generess Fe
- Minastrin 24 Fe
- Wymzya Fe
- Zenchent Fe
- Kaitlib Fe
- Layolis Fe
According to Edwardson, all types of chewable contraceptives are combined birth control. That means they contain both ethanol estradiol, the synthetic form of estrogen, and progestin norethindrone, the synthetic form of progesterone.
Progestin prevents pregnancy by suppressing ovulation. Estradiol is added mainly to reduce the risk of unpredictable and breakthrough bleeding, Ramanadhan explains.
While standard birth control pills have progestin-only formulations, “progestin-only pills aren’t marketed as chewable,” says Jessica Kiley, MD, MPH, the chief of general obstetrics and gynecology at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine.
The major difference between various types of chewable birth control pills is simply the level of the estradiol and progestin they contain, she adds.
The original chewable birth control pill, Femcon Fe, is discontinued. However, you can still buy many other chewable birth control pills from other brands. They all have relatively similar formulas, Ramanadhan says.
Chewable birth control has the same effectiveness and benefits as other combined birth control pills, Edwardson says.
Some people find that combined birth control may result in:
- shorter and lighter periods
- improvement in menstrual cramps
- less acne
- less unwanted hair growth
- decreased risk of uterine, ovarian, and colon cancer
- treatment of certain disorders that cause heavy menstrual bleeding, such as fibroids or endometriosis
- fewer migraines
Another upside to chewable birth control: You can stop taking it any time you want. With some other methods, like birth control implants, you have to visit your doctor to have the device removed.
Although although combined birth control may help with some types of migraines, it should not be used by people who have migraine with aura.
Chewable birth control carries the same side effects as other combination birth control pills, Edwardson says. Most are mild and go away on their own within a few months of use.
Side effects may include:
The main downside specific to chewable birth control is the limited options compared with standard birth control pills. That gives doctors fewer possibilities to switch you to another formulation if you experience side effects.
All combined hormonal birth control pills, including chewable birth control, carry a very small risk of blood clots. This can lead to deep vein thrombosis, heart attack, and stroke. Estrogen is responsible for the increased risk of clots.
“Only 1 in 1,000 women on combined birth control get a blood clot,” Ramanadhan says.
Doctors don’t recommend combined hormonal contraceptives for people with certain conditions, such as:
- history of migraine headaches with aura
- high blood pressure
If you just gave birth, your doctor will also recommend waiting until 4 to 6 weeks to begin taking combined hormonal contraceptives, such as chewable birth control.
Some chewable birth control brands recommend drinking a full glass of water after you take the pill. This is to make sure the medication isn’t stuck in your teeth, Edwardson says.
“You need to make sure all fragments get swallowed and there’s no residue left in your mouth,” Ramanadhan says.
Be sure to check the label. Newer chewable birth control brands advise against taking tablets with water to avoid diluting the hormones they contain.
“It might change the estrogen levels, which might effect bleeding patterns but not efficacy,” Ramanadhan explains.
If you have health insurance, you should expect to pay your insurance medication copay for chewable birth control.
“At least one type should be covered by insurance,” Edwardson says.
“Usually, most insurers will cover an array of different pills, including chewable pills,” Kiley says.
If you’re planning to pay out of pocket, the cost will vary from brand to brand.
Reviews for chewable birth control on Drugs.com are generally positive. They range from an average 7 for Generess Fe to 5.1 for Minastrin Fe on a 10-point scale.
Some users say chewable birth control was effective at making their periods lighter and more regular and that it helped improve premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms, like mood swings.
However, other users link the pills to undesirable side effects, like nausea and anxiety.
If you’re purchasing birth control in the United States, OB-GYNs say they’ve never heard of specific issues with fake birth control pills.
If you’re not filling a prescription through your pharmacy, be sure to buy from a reliable source. The
- always requires a prescription
- is licensed with a state board of pharmacy
- has a physical U.S. address and phone number
- provides a pharmacist to answer your questions
For any type of birth control, it’s a good idea to get a prescription from your doctor.
“Be sure you’re talking to your provider to make sure you’re not at risk of side effects or contraindications,” Ramanadhan says.
Chewable birth control is a portable contraceptive designed specifically for people who find it difficult to swallow pills. It’s a combination of the synthetic versions of progesterone and estrogen, which prevent pregnancy and reduce breakthrough bleeding.
People who have just given birth or who have certain conditions, such as migraines with aura, should not take chewable birth control, because it contains estrogen.
Overall, chewable birth control is very comparable to standard combination birth control pills. “I think of chewable birth control pills as just another way to get birth control into the body,” Edwardson says. “It works the same way as a regular combined birth control pill, with the same side effects and benefits.”
Colleen de Bellefonds is a Paris-based health and wellness journalist with over a decade of experience regularly writing and editing for publications including WhatToExpect.com, Women’s Health, WebMD, Healthgrades.com, and CleanPlates.com. Find her on Twitter.