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Contraception – Hormonal Methods

Hormonal methods of contraception work in similar ways. They suppress ovulation (the monthly release of an egg from the ovaries) by the combined actions of the hormones estrogen and progestin. It also thickens the mucus from your cervix (this makes it difficult for sperm to move through it and reach an egg) as well as makes the lining of the womb thinner so it is less likely to accept a fertilized egg (which also can lessen menstrual cramps and flow). Hormonal methods are only available after consultation with a doctor who will give you a prescription fill out at the pharmacy.

These methods include the Pill, the patch, and the Ring. Rare but serious health risks are associated with women who are on hormonal methods who smoke and/or are over the age of 35.

Oral Contraceptive Pill (The Pill) – With proper use, the Pill is 99.9% effective, making it the most reliable contraception available. However, there is a 3% user failure rate. It does not protect against Sexually Transmitted Infections.

Besides preventing pregnancy, the Pill offers additional benefits. As stated in the labelling, the pill can make periods more regular. It also has a protective effect against pelvic inflammatory disease, an infection of the fallopian tubes or uterus that is a major cause of infertility in women, and against ovarian and endometrial cancers. The Pill’s effectiveness may be reduced if the woman is taking certain medications, including some antibiotics.
Side effects may include irregular bleeding, weight gain or loss, breast tenderness, nausea (rarely, vomiting), and changes in mood. Rare but serious health risks include blood clots, heart attack, stroke, and liver tumours — the chance of developing some of these problems increases with age. Smokers, women over the age of 35, and especially women over the age of 35 who do smoke should not use hormonal methods such as the Pill. Smokers must either give up smoking or use another form of contraception.

Contraceptive Patch – It is a 4 x 4 cm beige patch that sticks to a woman’s skin and continuously releases estrogen and a progestin (female hormones) into the bloodstream.

Like the Pill, the patch is also more than 99% effective at preventing pregnancy when used perfectly, with about a 3% failure rate for typical users. For women who have trouble remembering to take a pill every day, the patch may work better than the Pill. It may be a bit less effective in women who weigh more than 90 kg (198 pounds). It does not protect against Sexually Transmitted Infections.

A new patch is worn each week for 3 weeks. The patch should be changed on the same day each week (called the “Patch Change Day”). The fourth week is patch-free, and during this week your period will occur. The patch should never be off for more than seven days. Following the seven patch-free days, a new cycle is started when you apply a new patch on your Patch Change Day.

The patch can be worn on the buttocks, stomach, back or upper arms, but not on the breasts. It may help to change the location a bit each week. The patch should be applied to clean, dry skin. You should not use any creams or lotions near a patch you’re already wearing, or where you’ll be applying a new one. The patch is very “sticky”. You can exercise, shower, swim or go in a sauna or hot tub and it still sticks 98% of the time.

Vaginal Ring (Nuva Ring) – It is a soft, flexible, clear plastic ring measures 54mm in diameter and is inserted into a woman’s vagina where it slowly releases two female hormones (estrogen and a progestin) for three weeks. The ring’s method of action is very similar to the combined oral contraceptive pill. The ring does not provide a physical barrier to sperm and it does not prevent sexually transmitted infections. The ring is at least as effective as the birth control pill, and it may be more effective if a woman has trouble remembering to take her pill every day.

The ring comes in only one size, and does not need to be in a particular position in the vagina to be effective. It is held in place by the walls of the vagina and a woman usually cannot feel the ring once it is in. The woman inserts and removes the ring herself and most women find this easy to do. Remember, the vagina is a closed space and there is no way for the ring to get “lost” or go anywhere else.

The ring is worn inside the vagina for three weeks, followed by a one-week (seven day) ring-free interval. When the ring is removed, a woman usually has a period within a few days. At the end of the ring-free week, the woman inserts another ring to begin a new cycle. The ring should be left in place during sex. Most men and women don’t notice it during intercourse, and even for those who do, it is usually not bothersome.

Injection (Depo-Provera) – This method is a bit different from other hormonal forms of birth control. It is a hormonal birth control method that contains a progestin. It does not contain estrogen. It is administered by a needle in the muscle of the arm or buttocks every 12-13 weeks. It is 99.7% effective in preventing pregnancy, but causes loss of bone density. Because of this, Depo-Provera™ is usually only recommended for people who are unable to take other contraceptive methods.

Fifty percent of women will stop having periods all together (amenorrhea) within the first year of starting Depo-Provera. This is not unhealthy and, for women who have heavy or painful periods, this may be a positive side effect. Depo-Provera™ can be used by breastfeeding mothers. It has no effect on breast milk production. t also decreases the risk of endometrial cancer.

Mainly because of growing concerns about its effect on bone density, Depo-Provera™ is typically only recommended when other birth control methods are not options. Depo-Provera™ may also be linked to osteoporosis. The most common side-effects are irregular bleeding and weight gain, although they do not happen to every user. Some hormonal side-effects have been reported, but only occur in a small number of users.

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8 Responses to “Contraception – Hormonal Methods”

  • JulieDr:

    excellent articles on contraception, have emailed them to some of my younger friends, hope they take on the advice and be safe

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  • RellyM:

    I do have the vaginal ring insertion method and love it. It has been very successful for my partner and myself and we very rarely feel it when engaging in intimate love making sessions.

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  • TomTom38:

    My girlfriend had the ( Depo Provera ) injection, she put on so much weight it changed her whole appearance and moods. We have discussed it together and she is going to change her contraceptive when this is no longer effective. We both are strongly against it.

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  • AngieMar:

    I went on the contraceptive pill at the age of 14 as I had alot of problems with my periods being very eratic. It was fantastic to me and worked well as I knew exactly every 28 days I would have a period without fail.

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  • blackeyes32:

    I used the contraceptive pill for only one year and utterly hated it. I felt like I had morning sickness every day for that whole year. I have never been on it since.

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  • primroeselucia:

    I had a vaginal ring inserted for a different reason other than for contraception. I had a prolapse of the vaginal wall, the only way ti fix it without having an operation was to have this ring inserted. I wore it for 6 weeks and after that didn’t have any more problems.

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  • missapril73:

    The pill was no use to me as I always forgot to take it, so I had to make sure I had other forms of contraception in the house at all times.

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  • Betsy Buchana:

    hey, thanks for this article. I appreciate your position and I see where you’re coming from on this. thanks again!

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