Are Yaz Birth Control Pills For You?

Learn how Yaz works and if you should worry about side effects like weight gain

Yaz. Photo © 2015 Dawn Stacey

Yaz is a combination birth control pill that, when taken every day, can help prevent pregnancy. Each pack contains 28 pills -- 24 light pink tablets, each containing 3 mg drospirenone (a progestin) and 0.02 mg ethinyl estradiol (a synthetic estrogen) and 4 white placebo tablets.

How It Works

Yaz works like other combo birth control pills. Each pack supplies a steady dose of drospirenone and ethinyl estradiol to last for one month (24 hormone pills and 4 reminder pills).

What Makes It Different

  • Yaz is FDA-approved to treat the physical and psychological PMDD symptoms. Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), a severe form of PMS, is a condition that adversely affects the psychological well-being and social interactions of some 3-5% of women of reproductive age. For women who choose the Pill for contraception, Yaz can help offer some relief for PMDD symptoms. Yaz has not be shown to be an effective treatment of premenstrual syndrome (PMS).
  • Yaz is also FDA-approved to treat moderate acne. It is thought that the 24/4 day dosing schedule of Yaz may be one way that it helps to treat acne. According to Bayer HealthCare, the manufacturer of Yaz, it is believed that the hormone combination in Yaz helps to block the male sex hormones (androgens) that cause acne breakouts. If you have chosen the Pill for contraception, have started having menstrual periods, and are least 14 years old, Yaz may be a good option to help treat your moderate acne.


    • Reversible – can become pregnant after stopping use
    • Helps with PMDD and moderate acne
    • Is discreet
    • Can help lighten menstrual flow and regulate irregular periods
    • Can help reduce menstrual cramps
    • Allows for sexual spontaneity
    • Safe and effective

    Noncontraceptive Benefits 

    Birth control pills like Yaz can offer added benefits beyond contraception.

    These advantages include decreasing the risk of:

    Side Effects

    There are a low occurrence of Yaz side effects. Side effects will usually go away after two or three months once your body has gotten used to the hormones. The most common Yaz side effects include:

    • Nausea and/or vomiting
    • Breast tenderness
    • Spotting or bleeding between periods
    • Headaches

    Less common Yaz side effects include:

    • Bloating or fluid retention
    • Acne
    • Blotchy darkening of the skin (especially on the face)
    • Less sexual desire
    • High blood sugar (especially in women who already have diabetes)
    • Problems tolerating contact lenses
    • High fat (cholesterol; triglyceride) levels in the blood
    • Weight changes
    • Depression, especially if you have had depression in the past

    Drospirenone Precaution:

    Drospirenone helps suppress the secretion of the hormones that regulate the body's water and electrolytes. Drospirenone may cause higher potassium levels. Because of this, Yaz may not be the best pill brand for you if have kidney, liver or adrenal disease because Yaz could cause serious heart and health problems.

    Yaz may also have interactions with other drugs that increase potassium. The product label for Yaz includes a warning that advises physicians who prescribe these pills of the need to monitor serum potassium levels in the first month if you are also being treated with any drug associated with potassium retention. This would apply if you are currently on daily, long-term treatment using any of these medications:

    • NSAIDs (ibuprofen [Motrin, Advil], naproxen [Aleve and others] when taken long-term and daily for treatment of arthritis or other problems)
    • Potassium-sparing diuretics (spironolactone and others)
    • Potassium supplementation ACE inhibitors (Capoten, Vasotec, Zestril and others)
    • Angiotensin-II receptor antagonists (Cozaar, Diovan, Avapro and others)
    • Heparin
    • Aldosterone antagonists

    Who Can Use It

    This birth control method is usually a safe option for most healthy women. It is important that a woman discuss her complete medical history with her healthcare provider before using Yaz.

    A serious complication that could arise from Yaz use has to do with blood clots in the heart, lungs, brain, or legs. Women using Yaz who are confined to bed rest or a cast may have a higher chance of developing a blood clot.

    Women who use combination pills like Yaz may have a slightly higher chance of developing certain medical conditions than nonusers. These may include:

    • High blood pressure (which returns to normal when the pill is stopped)
    • Gallbladder disease
    • Liver tumors (although rare)

    Typically, serious problems do not occur very often with hormonal birth control use. Some women can still use Yaz even with certain risk factors as long as they remain under close medical supervision. Women with a history of depression may not be able to continue to take Yaz if their depression worsens.

    Since this method requires you to take your pill at the same time every day, it may not be the right option if you have trouble remembering to take it.

    Who Shouldn’t Use It

    Typically, Yaz is not recommended for women who have:

    • A history of blood clots in your legs (deep vein thrombosis), lungs (pulmonary embolism), or eyes (retinal thrombosis)
    • Had a heart attack, stroke or a history of serious heart valve problems or heart rhythm abnormalities that can cause blood clots to form in the heart
    • Uncontrolled high blood pressure
    • Ever had breast cancer or any cancer that is sensitive to female hormones
    • Are pregnant
    • Have diabetes with kidney, eye, nerve, or blood vessel damage
    • Have an inherited problem with your blood that makes it clot more than normal
    • Have undiagnosed abnormal uterine bleeding
    • A history of liver disease or liver growths, kidney disease or adrenal disease
    • Migraine headaches with aura

    You shouldn't use Yaz if you smoke and are over 35 years of age because this puts you at greater risk for blood clots. Bayer HealthCare warns that,

    "Cigarette smoking increases the risk of serious cardiovascular events from combination oral contraceptive use. This risk increases with age, particularly in women over 35 years old, and with the number of cigarettes smoked. For this reason, COCs should not be used by women who are over 35 years of age and smoke."

    How to Use It

    Follow your doctor’s advice as to when to begin and make sure to read the full prescribing information that comes with your pill pack. Pick a time that you will take your pill each day. There are two start options:

    • Day 1 Start: take the first pill of the pack during the first 24 hours of the start of your period. You will not need to use an over-the-counter birth control back-up method of birth control.
    • Sunday Start: take the first pill of the pack on the Sunday after your period starts, even if you are still bleeding. If your period begins on Sunday, start the pack that same day. Use a back-up method (like a condom and spermicide) until you have taken 7 pills.

    How to Obtain It 

    In order to obtain a prescription for Yaz, you will usually need to have a medical evaluation, blood pressure check, and possibly a pelvic exam by a physician. You can then have your Yaz prescription filled at a local pharmacy.


    Yaz comes in monthly packs that can cost anywhere between $15 to $80 (plus the expense of having a medical examination or blood pressure check in order to get the prescription). Medicaid may cover the cost for Yaz. Yaz is a brand name birth control pill -- the generic equivalents to Yaz are Gianvi and Loryna.

    You should check with your private health insurance policy as coverage for Yaz (or at least for its generic alternatives) should be covered with no out-of-pocket costs for all non-grandfathered insurance plans.

          -->Why Do I Still Need to Pay for Yaz?


    Yaz pills are 92-99.7% effective. This means that with typical use, only 8 out of every 100 women will become pregnant during the first year of use. With perfect use, less than 1 will become pregnant.

    Certain medications may also decrease the effectiveness of hormonal contraceptives like Yaz.

    STD Protection

    This method offers no protection against sexually transmitted infections.


    Bayer HealthCare. "Yaz: Prescribing Information." Accessed: April 15, 2011.

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