Contraception Hormonal Methods

To avoid possible pregnancy, women have a wide variety of birth control options, including the many hormonal contraceptive choices on the market today. Hormonal methods of contraception use artificial female hormones (estrogen and progestin) to prevent ovulation, so the egg is not released from the ovary.

Hormonal birth control methods are very effective, especially when compared with other forms of birth control (such as barrier and natural methods). When used correctly, these birth control methods are 98 to 99 percent effective at preventing pregnancy.

Risks of Hormonal Contraceptive Use

Hormonal methods are generally safe for most women, but there are some risks associated with this type of contraception. Older women and heavy smokers are at highest risk for using hormonal birth control. Other risk factors include:

  • Deep vein thrombosis
  • Heart problems
  • Stroke.

Due to possible drug interactions, talk to your doctor about other medications you are taking before starting on a hormonal contraceptive.

Benefits and Drawbacks of Hormonal Methods

Hormonal birth control methods are generally very easy to use, and some may even prevent pregnancy for years at a time. Some benefits of hormonal methods are:

  • Better skin
  • Fewer PMS symptoms
  • No interruption of intimate moments
  • No mess
  • Reduced risks of some cancers.

However, there are some negative aspects of these birth control options, such as:

  • Difficult to purchase, as they require a doctor’s prescription
  • More expensive than other birth control methods
  • No protection against STDs, so women may want to also use a barrier method of birth control (such as a condom).

Types of Hormonal Methods

You can take or administer a hormonal contraceptive in a variety of ways:

  • Birth control pills: Oral contraceptives come in several different types, including daily use, extended use pills, and the estrogen-free mini-pill, which has the advantage of fewer side effects. Combined oral birth control methods (sometimes called “typical”) can make menstrual cycles more regular and predictable, while reducing pre-menstrual cramping and other PMS symptoms, such as bloating and moodiness.
  • Birth control patches: Similar to nicotine patches, these skin patches are worn on your lower abdomen, buttocks or upper arm. They typically release estrogen and progestin transdermally for seven days. The patches are easy to use, and can be worn while swimming, bathing, sleeping and other activities.
  • Birth control rings: The ring is placed in the vagina for three weeks, providing continuous birth control for the month. Because the exact position of the ring in the vagina is not critical, inserting the ring is easy to do at home.
  • Birth control shots: A single injection of hormonal birth control provides protection against pregnancy for three months. Administered at your physician’s office, only four shots per year are needed to protect against pregnancy.
  • Subcutaneous implants: A contraceptive implant is a small plastic cylinder about the size of a matchstick your doctor will insert under the skin of your upper arm. The implant prevents ovulation for up to three years.
  • Hormonal or copper IUDs: An intrauterine device (IUD) is a T-shaped plastic frame placed in the uterus. A plastic string is attached to aid in removal (which should only be done by a medical professional). The device can remain in place for up to five years.

Resources

American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology Staff. (2007). Hormonal birth control: Injections, implants, rings and patches. Retrieved February 7, 2010, from the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology Web site: http://www.acog.org/publications/patient_education/bp159.cfm.

Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research Staff. (2009). Birth control pill FAQ: Benefits, risks and choices. Retrieved February 7, 2010, from the Mayo Clinic Web site: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/birth-control-pill/WO00098/METHOD=print.

Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research Staff. (2008). Hormonal IUD. Retrieved February 7, 2010, from the Mayo Clinic Web site: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/mirena-iud/bi00024.