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What is Desogestrel?

By Debra Durkee
Updated May 17, 2024
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Desogestrel is one of the main components in several birth control medications. Typically paired with another drug, it works to aid in the prevention of pregnancy by both preventing the formation and release of eggs and making it more difficult for them to be fertilized. Some pre-existing conditions may make this medication less effective.

With a chemical makeup that makes it similar to estrogen, it is commonly paired with another drug called ethinyl estradiol in order to create the final medications. Most forms of the drug are tablets that are taken orally. Typically, the medication is taken on a set of week-long cycles that involve color-coded tablets to ensure the right pill is taken on the right day for maximum effectiveness. In order to help an individual keep track of what should be taken, it is usually recommended that the first pill of a 28 day cycle be taken on a Sunday. Pills should be taken less than 24 hours apart in order to ensure efficiency.

The medication acts in two ways. Desogestrel not only aids in pregnancy prevention by keeping the ovaries from producing and releasing eggs, but also changes the lining of the reproductive system. This is a second failsafe against becoming pregnant — even if an egg is fertilized, the medication makes it more difficult for the egg to attach to the walls of the uterus where it would normally begin to develop.

Some pre-existing conditions can make taking birth control medications with desogestrel dangerous or ineffective. High blood pressure or other conditions of the cardiac system can require an adjustment in the dosing in order to remain safe. High cholesterol, diabetes, epilepsy or past conditions of the reproductive system, such as abnormal menstrual cycles, can also require a change from the typical prescription dose. In severe cases of these conditions, and individual may not be able to safely take desogestrel, so disclosure to a prescribing medical professional is vital. Other medications can sometimes lessen the effectiveness of the drug as well.

As with other forms of birth control, Desogestrel is not a guarantee of avoiding pregnancy. There is still a chance that a woman can become pregnant while taking the drug, and any signs such as missing a period should be reported to a medical professional. The hormones in the medication can harm an unborn baby, so it is important that it not be taken by a woman who becomes or is already pregnant.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

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