• You Won't Find the 'Low-Cost, No Weight Gain' Sophia Pills in PH Anymore

    This hormone combination was popular for Filipinas but manufacturing was discontinued two years ago.
    by Kitty Elicay .
You Won't Find the 'Low-Cost, No Weight Gain' Sophia Pills in PH Anymore
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  • When used correctly, birth control pills are effective up to 99.9% in preventing pregnancy. But many women are wary about the potential side effects like weight gain, headaches, nausea, and rare but potentially fatal blood clots. It's why it's important you talk to a doctor before taking one. There is one type of oral contraceptive that we get asked a lot about — under the brand name Sophia — because they've heard it's a low-dose alternative without the weight gain.

    Sophia pills, manufactured by DKT Health, Inc. was also a popular choice among women because it was cheaper than other brands at around Php200 per pack. Unfortunately, it was phased out in 2016. Sophia users turned to Bayer's Meliane, which contains the same combination of synthetic hormones as Sophia's, and costs Php512 a pack at Mercury Drug.

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    How 'ultra low-dose estrogen' contraceptives work

    The pill is a combined low-dose oral contraceptive containing synthetic hormones gestodene (a progestogen) and ethinyl estradiol (an estrogen). These two hormones stop ovulation from happening by preventing a woman’s ovaries from releasing an egg. It also thickens cervical mucus, making it harder for sperm to reach the egg, and thins the lining of the uterus to prevent embryo implantation.

    According to WebMD, the more estrogen you take, the more likely you are to experience common side effects associated with birth control pills. But today’s pills have 35 micrograms or less of estrogen, categorized as “low dose.” Meliane has 20 micrograms of ethinyl estradiol, an “ultra low-dose” of estrogen, which may make it ideal for women who are prone to experience side effects with other progestogen-containing pills.

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    How to use ultra low-dose estrogen

    Before starting on this oral contraceptive (or any brand for that matter), it is important that you consult with your doctor first. Side effects will vary among women and each type of pill has different contraindications and precautions. It is important that your doctor has complete knowledge of your medical history so she can prescribe the right kind for you.

    Meliane consists of 21 pills, which you take once a day, beginning on the first day of your menstruation. You can also start on Days 2 to 5 of your period, but you should use a backup method of birth control, such as condoms, for seven days to avoid unplanned pregnancy.

    Remember to take the pill at the same time every day for 21 days. After finishing the pack, do not take any pill for the next seven days — these serve as your resting days and will complete the 28-day menstrual cycle. You can expect to bleed within these seven days.

    According to the leaflet provided with the pills, vomiting and “persistent severe” diarrhea may interfere with its efficacy. If vomiting occurs within two hours of taking a pill, another pill should be taken as soon as possible. If at any point the side effects is stopping you from 

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    What happens if I miss a pill?

    As with any birth control pill, the key to effective contraception is following the recommended dosage consistently. If you miss one pill, you must take it within 12 hours after the 24-hour lapse. Take your next pill at your usual time.

    Missing two or more pills will continuously increase your percentage of getting pregnant. Take the most recently missed pill as soon as you remember and discard all remaining previously missed pills. Resume taking the next scheduled pill and use condoms as a backup method for the next seven days. More information on missed pills is included on the leaflet.

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    Can I take these pills while breastfeeding?

    It is not recommended because this type of pill can reduce the volume of breast milk. Progestin-only pills, like Daphne, may be more suitable.

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    Common side effects

    Though your ob-gyn may prescribe this brand to you to lessen side effects, it does not mean that you would not have any adverse reactions. Some women may still experience the following:

    • Nausea
    • Vomiting
    • Abdominal cramps
    • Weight gain
    • Fluid retention
    • Hypertension
    • Headache
    • Depression
    • Mood swings and irritability
    • Nervousness
    • Changes in libido
    • Breast tenderness
    • Reduced menstruation
    • Spotting in early cycles
    • Absence of withdrawal bleeding
    • Changes in vaginal discharge
    • Leg cramps
    • Visual disturbance (you may experience irritation if wearing contact lenses)
    • Photosensitivity
    • Skin Reactions

    In rare cases, you may also experience serious side effects like:

    • Liver impairment
    • Hepatic tumors
    • Blood clots
    • Gallstones
    • Systemic lupus

    If any of these side effects concern you, consult your ob-gyn immediately. 

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    What women think of Sophia and Meliane pills

    There’s not much information on these pills on the Internet, but over on SmartParenting.com.ph’s Parent Chat, a woman who was prescribed Sophia said it was effective in controlling her weight. She did not report any weight gain while on the pill. However, she experienced side effects. (This was a time when Sophia was available.)

    “A week before ng period ko sobrang sakit ng ulo ko na parang mina-migraine ako and nadagdagan ng ‘lumps’ ‘yung boobs ko which I believe normal lang for those who are taking contraceptives,” she wrote.

    Another mom on the forum had a similar experience. Though she did not lose or gain any additional weight, it caused intense headaches during the pill-free days, so she had to switch to another brand.

    A mom who was prescribed Meliane said she experienced no side effects while on the pill. However, she had to find another brand due to the high cost.

    One woman on Sophia commented that though she was able to maintain her weight and her skin became smoother, she experienced mood swings whenever she was about to finish the pack. She also felt pain in her varicose veins.

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    Is this pill for you?

    If you have varicose veins, birth control pills are not usually recommended because it can increase a woman’s chances of developing a blood clot, according to Dr. Jennifer Co, an ob-gyn and infectious disease specialist who holds clinic at the FEU-NRMF Medical Center. Sophia and Meliane pills are not recommended to women who have a history of venous thromboembolism (blood clots that form in the veins).

    When it comes to birth control pills, there is not one best type of pill. Women react differently to different chemicals so while a particular brand may advertise that it will have fewer side effects compared to others, it is not a guarantee.

    According to Dr. Diana L. Sarmiento, who runs the website Filipina M.D., most brands will cause common side effects like headache, breast pain, bloating and crankiness during the first three months. On your fourth month, these side effects should disappear. If they don’t, then you have to switch to another brand. “Sometimes, even your doctor will have to do a ‘trial-and-error’ method on you every three months ‘til you are both happy with the end result,” she writes.

    There are various methods of family planning and birth control, both natural and artificial, but the most important thing is to consult with your ob-gyn about your options. Find one that makes you comfortable so it is easier for you to stick to it.

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