As a sexually active woman who doesn’t want to get pregnant, you have various birth control options available. However, finding the right method for you can be challenging since you should consider convenience, efficacy, cost, potential side effects, and future pregnancy plans. Thankfully, Mina K. Sinacori, MD, MPH, FACOG, can discuss the available birth control options and help you make an informed choice. Read on to learn the types of hormonal contraceptives.
Most oral contraceptives contain a combination of estrogen and progestin hormones, hence the name the combined pill or combination pill. The combined pill reduces your pregnancy risk through various means, including thinning your uterus lining, preventing ovulation, and thickening the cervical mucus so sperm can’t penetrate. Besides reducing your chances of getting pregnant, the pill makes your menstrual bleeding more regular and lighter, with fewer days of flow. Other advantages are reduced menstrual cramps, acne, anemia, and ovarian and endometrial cancer risk.
On the flip side, you need to take the combined pill every day and ideally at the same time without fail to maximize efficacy. Additionally, you may experience side effects such as bloating, nausea, breast tenderness, and mood changes; these, however, are temporary and resolve independently within two to three months of taking the pill.
The progestin-only pill or the mini-pill contains progestin only and may be an option if you can’t or should not take estrogen. For example, if you are breastfeeding, have severe migraines, or have high blood pressure, your doctor recommends progestin-only pills.
A vaginal ring is made of synthetic material about 5cm in diameter. It contains estrogen and progestin hormones and works similarly to the combination pill. You insert the ring in your vagina, which stays for three weeks, until the fourth week when you leave it out. Depending on the ring’s brand, you can re-insert it or use a new one the following week. When inserted properly, the vaginal ring causes no discomfort, and your partner will likely not feel it during sex. As long as the ring does not cause any discomfort, its position inside the vagina is not important.
You can remove the ring for a short time if you wish to; insertion and removal is easy. However, be sure to leave it in during sexual intercourse; use your fingers to confirm the ring is in place before and after sex.
Birth control skin patches
Hormonal skin patches contain estrogen and progestin and work similarly to oral contraceptives. A skin patch may be a welcoming alternative if you find it difficult to take the pill every day. However, some people do not like having a visible patch on their skin. You place the patch on your upper arm, upper back, abdomen, or buttock for one week. After one week, replace the old patch with a new one every week for three weeks. You do not apply a new patch during the fourth week; you will experience withdrawal bleeding.
To find out which hormonal contraception suits you, consult your doctor at Memorial Women’s Specialists.