Because of spam, I personally moderate all comments left on my blog. However, because of health issues, I will not be able to do so in the future.

If you have a personal question about LI or any related topic you can send me an email at I will try to respond.

Otherwise, this blog is now a legacy site, meaning that I am not updating it any longer. The basic information about LI is still sound. However, product information and weblinks may be out of date.

In addition, my old website, Planet Lactose, has been taken down because of the age of the information. Unfortunately, that means links to the site on this blog will no longer work.

For quick offline reference, you can purchase Planet Lactose: The Best of the Blog as an ebook on or Almost 100,000 words on LI, allergies, milk products, milk-free products, and the genetics of intolerance, along with large helpings of the weirdness that is the Net.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Lactose-Free Birth Control Pills. The Definitive List.

Birth control pills are normally a series of 28 tiny pills in a case. The first 21 pills contain the active ingredient that prevents ovulation. The other seven are placebo pills, designed with no active ingredient, but included just because experience shows that it's easier for women to take a pill every single day rather than skipping a week and having to remember to restart.

All well and good, a system that has worked for 40 or more years.

The only problem, for a small set of women, was that for some reason, the vast majority of birth control pills made in America contain lactose as an inactive ingredient. Lactose, being non-reactive and slightly sweet, is an extremely common filler for many medications. Most medications have a lactose-free variety. A limited choice, therefore, but still a choice.

That limited choice used to be Demulen. Unfortunately, Demulen went off the market and was replaced by a generic named Zovia. And Zovia contained lactose.

What choices do women have today?

Thanks to the good folks at Wegmans Food and Drugs, my local supermarket chain, and one that has been in the forefront of making lactose information available, I can answer that question. Christopher Woodring, Pharmacist Intern, created a list based on information from Clinical Pharmacology. Many thanks to him for his arduous effort. Thanks also to the Wegmans East Avenue pharmacists, Katie Barbone, Natasha Dedes, and Paul Taranto.

The only pills that appears to have all its pills be completely lactose free are Nordette and Portia. [This is a correction from the original posting. Cryselle does have lactose in the active pills.] You should consult your own doctor and pharmacist to see if either of these pill are right for you.

The Alternatives listed as contractve injections, which obviously do not put lactose into your stomach. They are not pills but I am including them in this listing for your information.

You can find the full list of all contraceptive medications at this page on my site.

Women should remember that the amount of lactose in any one pill is tiny. Unless you are extremely lactose intolerant the amount of lactose in any individual pill should not cause any symptoms. The best pill for you may contain lactose. Still, I understand that many women are seeking to avoid dairy in all forms and all doses. This information should be especially helpful for you.

Drug Type Contains Lactose in
Drug NameManufacturer Active IngredientsInactive Ingredients
Low Dose Monophasic
Femcon Fe chewableWarner ChilcottYesNO
Microgestin 1.5/30WatsonYesNO
PortiaBarrNOinformation Not available
Extended Cycle
Loestrin-24 FEWarner ChilcottYesNO
Depo-ProveraNOnot applicable
Depo SubQNOnot applicable
MirenaNOnot applicable
Nuva RingNOnot applicable
Ortho EvraNOnot applicable

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Joey said...

Wow, I never knew that. I'm lactose intolerant and have had problems with it for years. The last thing I would have thought is that you'd find it in medication! Good to know!!

Anonymous said...

i have been lactose intolerant ever since i went on the pill 6 years ago! i never knew bc pills contained lactose! this is good to know! Going to make some changes now! thanks!

Anonymous said...

This is inaccurate -- Nordette lists Lactose as one of its ingredients (inactive).

Please update your post.

Steve Carper said...

Thank you. I checked several sites (the site's information is listed as 2004, so it may have changed) but all said that the inactive ingredients for Nodette did contain lactose. I've made the change.

Anonymous said...

I just checked Nordette & Portia. Both say they contain lactose on other sites. So frustrating. I among those who cannot handle lactose even in the inactive ingredients because it builds in your system over time & there doesn't seem to be many alternatives.

Anonymous said...

I just spoke to a Pharmacist who checked his database of medications and ingredients -- there are no birth control pills without lactose. Those of us with LI apparently have the choice to suffer through or look at non-oral contraceptives.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for Realizing this. I found out that BC pill have lactose about 7 years ago. I know it is a small amount, but I kept having reactions similar to my Dairy reactions, so I talked to my dr and he gave me a book to look through to find a pill w/o lactose. at that time all of them had it. How is it that Medical companies can use it and not post it on the warnings? Maybe one day they will get smart and help out those of us with this problem and make it without lactose

Anonymous said...

I am lactose intolerant and am not too bad but the reason I figured it out was because I got bad symptoms after taking medication.
I looked to see what was in the ingredients and all that was added to it was lactose.
After that every time I checked medication it would have lactose, it does tell you on the labels. People need to learn to read.

So I just wanted to say that I don't agree that you need to be extremely lactose intolerant to get symptoms. My doctor told me that too but it's not true.
At this time I was still drinking full glasses of milk and nothing happened but when I took a pill I felt like I was about to die.

Then a couple of years later I developed worse lactose intolerance symptoms such as vomiting and I couldn't drink milk anymore but it all started with medication.

Take your medication with a lactaid pill. That's what I do. Or take your pills all at the same time as eating diary so you don't waste enzymes.

Anonymous said...

I knew some medication had it but I didn't realize BC did. Could taking medication containing lactose reduce your tolerance for lactose? Because I was moderately lactose intolerant 2 years back. I could still eat ice cream and pizza if i took a few pills... However then I just became extremely severe and couldn't eat ice cream at all b/c. Now I realize that it was around the same time that I started taking the pill.
well that atleast explains it.. although i'm not happy about it.

Lauren said...

Portia contains lactose. I email the manufacture to find out and it does. It was hard to find out because they do not list the ingredients on there info sheet or on the web any where I looked. This sucks, we have no options in oral contraceptives. All we can do is hope that maybe soon they will make some lactose free pills.....

Anonymous said...

Apparently Femulen, a progesterone only (aka mini pill), is lactose free. Though I’m not sure it is available outside the UK? For more info see:

Anonymous said...

It is a small amount in each pill, but if you're LI, your body can't process it at all, and it slowly builds up in your system, causing symptoms. I'm to the point where I can't have ANY dairy. I treat it like a true allergy, and tell people so. (I know it's not life-threatening, like my sons' food allergies, but people tend to think a little's OK if you just say LI.)

I am done having kids, and can't have kids now, but need something to suppress ovulation (medical reasons). It's a real shame that pharm companies don't cater to LI or vegans.

Steve Carper said...

Sorry, but I have to correct this piece of misinformation.

Lactose does not build up in your body. At all. In any way. Period.

If you can't digest lactose, then it immediately moves through your intestines. In fact, that is the only way that symptoms appear. All the lactose you take in will disappear in the normal course of digesting that particular meal. That's anywhere from 12 to 48 hours, depending on the usual million variables.

If you have not had lactose since that particular swallow then your body will soon be completely lactose-free, and there will be - there can be - no effects from that lactose that has been passed out in the stool.

True allergies differ in that antibodies to that protein continue to circulate in your body - although the protein itself does not. There are no caches or hidden places for carbohydrates or proteins anywhere in the body.

This is dangerous misinformation, so I need to hammer home heavily that it is not true.

Anonymous said...

Thank you SO much -saved a ton of time researchign . The Ortho Evra PATCHES DO have a milk protein/lactose ingredient. My severely allergic teenage daughter (who is having screaming in pain cramps suddenly) had a major reaction to the bcp's that had a lactose filler AND to the patches - her skin blistered and she had a systemic allergy reaction after just an hour or so.

One alternative is to look for a compounding pharmacy. Talked to one today and YES they can compound the low dose pill. Rough estimate of cost in my area is $100/mo. for compounded since ins. won't cover it(watch me, lol)

Good luck everyone!

Anonymous said...

Also, Steve, reading the page it looked like you used inactive to refer to both the bcps and ingredients in the pills. If the inactive bcps in each pack had lactose but the active pills didnt, we would be fine. I used to chuck mine because I was lazy.....way back in the dark ages.......

I assume you know that the last row of pills are sugar but since you are a guy.....just checkin

Anonymous said...

Steve you are correct in the post near the bottom about lactose not building up. I'm LI, my daughter has asevere milk protein allergy. The lady who posted sounds allergic not intolerant and I understand why she thought it built up. If you are allergiv you can have a delayed reaction- from less than half hour up to 5-6 hrs or more. It seems with milk protein that children tend to be the ones with huge delays, not as often for adults. Also, the 'buildup' she described is symptoms and yes, its allergy. We have seen it too many times in my house. Hopefully she will get to an allergist and take precautions(Benadryl & epi pens) as well as being more vigorous about a dairy free diet.

Anonymous said...

currently (jan 2012) there are NO lactose free bcps available in the USA. We are having them compounded by a local compounding pharmacy. Not all compounding pharmacies will do bcps. Cost was not too bad - our copay on bcps is $30/mo. Pharmacy is doing them for between $65-80/mo. Reasonable.

Anonymous said...

if anyone still looks at this site, can you help me find a bc solution? i can not have lactose at all, if i do my lungs start to close and my face starts to swell. Is there a bc out there, in the US now that does not contain any lactose? i'd rather not take the shot

Anonymous said...


CoMommy said...

Nordette and Portia also have lactose in the inactive ingredients. Time to update the post again. I am completely dairy intolerant, to the nth degree. My doctor wants me on birth control for the hormones and I can't find an oral one that is completely lactose free. Anyone with any suggestions of other oral birth controls that truly have no lactose please let me know!!

Lisa in ND said...

Im one of many ...have been lactose intolerant for years. Never really thought about all this. Then here I was sick for weeks and then found out that ALL MY MEDS contained lactose!! No wonder I am sick and miserable. And the cherry on the cake is that my Dr did all these tests and couldnt figure it out. I figured it out. Drug companies should know that alot of people are allergic to dairy and that is NOT a good filler!

Anonymous said...

This is crazy! I am about to start on bcp due to menopause-related hormone imbalances. I am very sensitive to lactose and dairy. I think I will go to my local compounding pharmacy and see what they can do. Thanks so much for this info and the helpful comments!

Anonymous said...

I would be wary or cautious about compounding an oral contraceptive. The current doses are near the limit of efficacy. The formulation might affect absorption and not work. That is likely why some compounding pharmacies are reluctant to do it. None of the formulations that are compounded are tested for absorption.

Unknown said...

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lsroundhill said...

Finally! I see information warning women about lactose in birth control pills! Thank you! My symptoms of so-called "chronic irritable bowel" were caused mainly by that slow, relentless intake of lactose every day for 10 years. When I began taking a lactase tablet with it every day, the "IBS" was gone within a week. Now if only I can find a version of my allergy meds that does not contain it!
And I agree with some posters here that it seems like those tiny amounts of pure lactose in medications create far worse symptoms than when it is ingested as food. I read somewhere that perhaps foods like milk contain other enzymes that assist in lactose absorption, whereas medications do not. Don't know, but never let the doctors tell you that you can't be experiencing problems from such tiny amounts.