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Ethinyl estradiol and norethindrone


This combination oral contraceptive contains synthetic hormones similar to the female hormones estrogen and progestin. It works primarily by preventing the release of eggs from the ovary.

Ortho-Novum 7/7/7 may be prescribed in either 21 or 28-pill packets. Make sure you discuss the regimen with your health care provider so you understand exactly how to take it.

The proportions of norethindrone and ethinyl estradiol vary each week to simulate the natural fluctuations of hormones during a woman's cycle.

Side Effects and Interactions

Unexpected vaginal bleeding may occur during the first cycle or two on Ortho-Novum. Notify your physician if you continue to experience bleeding between periods after the second month on this medication.

Serious side effects are rare, but they may include high blood pressure, heart attacks, stroke, blood clots, visual changes, problems with liver or gallbladder, and birth defects.

In the unlikely event you become pregnant, do not continue taking Ortho-Novum.

Less dangerous reactions include headache, nausea, fluid retention, spotty darkening of the skin, changes in menstrual flow, depression, nervousness, breast tenderness, rash, vaginal infections and inability to wear contact lenses. Report any symptoms or suspected side effects promptly.

Ortho-Novum interacts with many other medications, especially antibiotics such as penicillin, tetracycline, rifampin and related drugs that may reduce its contraceptive protection.

This is also a potential hazard with barbiturates like phenobarbital or Mysoline, the antifungal medicine griseofulvin, and seizure medications such as Dilantin.

Antianxiety drugs such as Halcion, Valium or Xanax, asthma drugs containing theophylline or aminophylline, oral corticosteroids like hydrocortisone or prednisone, and caffeine, an ingredient common in many beverages and over-the-counter drugs, may all have more serious adverse effects if they are taken together with birth control pills.

Until the estrogenic activity of hops is further studied, taking this herb in combination with medicines such as oral contraceptives or hormone replacement therapy is an experiment best avoided.

The herb St. John's wort can speed elimination of birth control pills from the body, which could reduce their effectiveness.

In general, the herb chaste tree berry should not be combined with exogenous hormones such as oral contraceptives or menopausal hormone replacement therapies.

Saw palmetto berries, which have both estrogenic and antiestrogenic activity, are not recommended for women using female hormones for contraception.

Check with your doctor and pharmacist before taking any other medicine or herbs in combination with Ortho-Novum 7/7/7.

Birth control pills can alter results on a number of laboratory tests, so be sure the laboratory and the doctor are aware that you are taking Ortho-Novum before any tests are interpreted.

Special Precautions

Ortho-Novum, like other oral contraceptives, is quite effective. Some women are at greater risk of negative consequences, however.

Tell your doctor if you smoke cigarettes, have had phlebitis or other clotting problems, or if you or someone in your family has had uterine or breast cancer.

You will also be asked about asthma, diabetes, epilepsy, migraine, depression and certain other conditions that could be aggravated by oral contraceptives.

Taking the Medicine

Ortho-Novum should be swallowed at the same time every day to maintain consistent levels in the body.

If you forget one dose, take it as soon as you remember it, and take the next one at the usual time.

If you miss more than one dose, start taking your pills again at the usual time as soon as you remember and use additional contraceptive protection such as spermicidal foam or condoms for the rest of that cycle.

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.”.
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