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Ortho Tri-Cyclen

Generic Name: Estrogen and Progestin

Drug Class:

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Ortho Tri-Cyclen (Estrogen and Progestin) is an oral contraceptive (birth-control pill), used to prevent pregnancy. Estrogen and progestin are two female sex hormones. Combinations of estrogen and progestin work by preventing the release of eggs from the ovaries (ovulation) and changing the cervical mucus and the lining of the uterus. Oral contraceptives are a very effective method of birth control, but they do not prevent the spread of AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.

This medication may be prescribed for other uses; ask your doctor or pharmacist for more information.

This information is for educational purposes only. Not every known side effect, adverse effect, or drug interaction is in this database. If you have questions about your medicines, talk to your health care provider.

How to Take It

Follow the directions for using this medicine provided by your doctor.

Side Effects

Side effects that may occur while taking this medicine include:

  • upset stomach
  • vomiting
  • freckles or darkening of facial skin
  • nervousness
  • stomach cramps or bloating
  • diarrhea
  • dizziness
  • swollen ankles or feet
  • headache
  • breast tenderness
  • weight gain or weight loss
  • vaginal discharge

Contact your doctor immediately if you experience:

  • severe headache
  • wheezing
  • chills
  • shortness of breath / rapid breathing
  • partial or complete loss of vision
  • severe vomiting
  • dark urine
  • chest pain
  • signs of stroke (weakness, numbness, slurred speech)
  • double vision
  • lump in the breast
  • upper stomach pain
  • clay-colored stool
  • weakness or numbness of an arm or leg

Warnings & Precautions

  • DO NOT use Ortho Tri-Cyclen if you have recently given birth, are breast-feeding, or if you are pregnant.
  • Before using this medicine, tell your doctor or pharmacist if you have any allergies estrogens or progestins. Tell your doctor if you have any other allergies.
  • DO NOT use Ortho Tri-Cyclen if you are over the age of 35 and use tobacco, because it can increase the risk of blood clots, stroke, or heart attack.
  • You may need to use another birth control as backup (such as spermicide, condoms) when you first start using Ortho Tri-Cyclen or if you miss a dose.
  • Inform your doctor of your medical history, particularly of the following conditions: stroke, depression, gallbladder problems, blood clots, high blood pressure, abnormal breast exam, cancer, high cholesterol or triglyceride levels,  diabetes, family medical history, severe headaches or migraines, unexplained vaginal bleeding, heart issues, history of yellowing eyes/skin during pregnancy, kidney or liver disease, swelling, or thyroid issues.
  • Ortho Tri-Cyclen may cause dark or blotchy spots on your skin. Avoid prolonged sun exposure, sunlamps, and tanning booths, as they can worsen this effect.
  • If you are having surgery, including dental surgery, tell the doctor or dentist that you are taking oral contraceptives.
  • For an overdose, seek medical attention immediately. For non emergencies, contact your local or regional poison control center at 1-800-222-1222.

Drug Interactions

Before taking any new medicine, either prescription or over-the-counter, check with your doctor or pharmacist. This includes supplements and herbal products.

Dosage & Missed Dose

Talk to your doctor about which type of Ortho Tri-Cyclen drug is best for you. Follow your doctor’s instructions. Before you run out of pills, be sure to get your prescription refilled. Missing a pill could cause pregnancy to occur.

There are two dosage schedules you can choose from. If you select the “Day One starter” you will take the first pill on the first day of your period. Then take one pill daily, no more than 24 hours apart. If you select the “Sunday starter” you will take your first pill on the first Sunday during or after your menstrual period. Then take one pill every day, no more than 24 hours apart. Start a new pack when the pills run out.

If you miss doses of your oral contraceptive, you may be at risk for becoming pregnant. Instructions about missed doses are different for different products. Carefully read the instructions in the manufacturer’s information for the patient. If you have any questions, call your doctor or pharmacist. If you miss pills, you may need to use a backup method of birth control for 7 days or until the end of the cycle.


Keep this medication in the container it came in, tightly closed, and out of reach of children. Store it at room temperature and away from excess heat and moisture (preferably not in the bathroom). Throw away any medication that is outdated or no longer needed.


If you are pregnant, do not use Ortho Tri-Cyclen. Stop taking it immediately and tell your doctor if you miss two menstrual periods in a row or become pregnant. Wait at least four weeks before taking birth control pills if you have recently had a baby. Do not use Ortho Tri-Cyclen if you are breastfeeding. It can pass into breast milk and may cause harm to a nursing infant.

More Information

For more information, talk to your doctor, pharmacist or health care provider, or you can visit this website, for additional information from the manufacturer of this drug.


Ortho Tri-Cyclen

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APA Reference
Psych Central. (2018). Ortho Tri-Cyclen. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 1, 2020, from


Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Oct 2018
Last reviewed: By Christine Traxler, M.D.
Published on All rights reserved.