For the better part of half a century, hormonal contraceptive methods like the pill, the patch, and the implant have given millions of women better control over their family planning choices and reproductive health.
If you’re weighing your hormonal birth control options, our expert team at New Beginnings OB/GYN in Shenandoah, Texas, can help you make sense of your choices. Here, Dr. Christina Parmar and Dr. Rania Ibrahim compare the various types of hormonal birth control so you can get closer to finding the one that’s best for you.
There are seven distinct types of hormonal birth control, and they all work in the same fundamental way: They prevent an unplanned pregnancy by stopping the release of an egg from your ovary (ovulation). If you don’t ovulate, there’s no egg cell for sperm to fertilize when you have sex.
They do this by introducing hormones that alter your natural hormone levels to stop ovulation. In addition to suppressing the monthly release of an egg, hormonal contraceptives prevent pregnancy by thickening the mucus on the cervix to keep sperm out of the uterus and thinning the lining of the uterus. Hence, it’s not conducive to implantation.
Depending on the method and whether it’s used as directed, hormonal contraception is 93% to 99% effective. If a specific method is 99% effective, it means one in 100 women gets pregnant yearly; if a method is 93% effective, it means about seven in 100 women who use it get pregnant yearly.
While they may all work the same way, not all forms of hormonal contraception are created equal — some use estrogen and progestin to prevent ovulation, while others only contain progestin; some are long-acting, reversible, and low maintenance, while others must be used on a consistent schedule.
All seven hormonal birth control methods fall into one of two categories:
Combined hormonal methods contain both estrogen and progestin. These methods are 99% effective at preventing pregnancy when used perfectly but 93% effective in reality or as the average woman uses them (with some error).
Oral birth control, or “the pill,” is most effective when taken exactly as directed or at the same time every day. If you start taking the pill within five days after the first day of your period, you’ll be protected from pregnancy right away. Birth control pills can sometimes cause side effects like headaches and sore breasts, but they tend to go away after a few months.
The transdermal contraceptive patch releases hormones through your skin. It’s most effective when fully adhered to a clean, dry area of skin on your belly, buttocks, back, or upper arm — and changed out once a week without fail. If you start wearing the patch within five days of your period, it will start working immediately.
Once it’s inserted into your vagina, the small, flexible birth control ring releases estrogen and progestin around the clock for about a month. There are two types of vaginal rings — one that’s replaced monthly and another that lasts for about a year, during which you wear it for three weeks, remove it for one week, and then repeat the cycle.
Progestin-only methods don’t contain estrogen, making them a viable option for women who don’t like the side effects of estrogen or can’t take it for medical reasons. Two options in this category — the implant and the IUD — are among the most effective birth control options available because their use doesn’t require active participation.
The mini pill is essentially a progestin-only birth control pill. Like the combination pill, it’s about 93% effective with proper use (and 99% effective with perfect use).
The shot is a recurrent injection of progestin that’s 96% effective at preventing pregnancy. You get it at our office once every three months or four times yearly. The birth control shot can sometimes cause side effects like spotting or heavier periods, but such issues usually resolve after a few months.
The implant is a small progestin-releasing rod that’s inserted in your upper arm in a quick, minimally invasive in-office procedure. It’s a long-acting reversible contraceptive (LARC) method, meaning once it’s in place, it’s fully effective without further input. Indeed, the implant is 99% effective at preventing pregnancy for up to five years.
Another form of LARC, the progestin-releasing IUD (intrauterine device), is a small, T-shaped implement that’s inserted in the uterus. Also known as “get-it-and-forget-it” contraception, a hormonal IUD is more than 99% effective for up to 12 years, depending on the type you get.
A hormonal IUD won’t affect your fertility — pregnancy is possible shortly after its removal. It may also ease menstrual cramps and make your periods lighter while you have it.
To learn more about the pros and cons of all the contraception options available at New Beginnings OB/GYN in Shenandoah, Texas, call or click online to schedule a visit today.