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Hormonal Methods of Birth Control

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Hormonal birth control methods work by releasing hormones that prevent ovulation. They also thicken the mucus in the cervix making it hard for the sperm to reach the egg. On the other hand the endometrium thins, making it less likely for the fertilized egg to get attached to it.

The different types of hormonal birth control methods are implant, injection, vaginal ring and vaginal patch. The implant and injection works by releasing progestin, while the vaginal ring and patch works by releasing both estrogen and progestin. However, hormonal birth control methods do not provide protection against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) like human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).


Birth control implants are small plastic devices that contain etonogestrel, a progestin. It works in the same manner as that of the birth control pills. One implant is sufficient enough to control pregnancy for three years. During the first year, about 60 to 70 micrograms of hormones are released per day. However, this amount gets reduced over a period of time and by the end of third year the amount of hormone released may not be sufficient to prevent pregnancy. Thereafter, the implant needs to be replaced with another implant. The implants are usually available as thin rods of 40 mm length and 2 mm diameter. These are inserted just beneath the skin on the inner part of the upper arm after giving local anaesthesia to the woman. These implants do not contain any silicon or latex and therefore does not get dissolved. It needs to be removed surgically after three years.


The birth control shot is a long-acting form of progesterone. The shot is given as an injection in the upper arm or in the buttocks once every 3 months to prevent pregnancy. The progesterone hormone primarily works by preventing ovulation.

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Vaginal Contraceptive ring

Vaginal contraceptive ring is a thin, transparent, flexible ring that is inserted in the vagina to provide contraception protection. The vaginal ring slowly releases estrogen and progestin hormones into the body for 3 weeks. These hormones stop ovulation and thicken the cervical mucus thus preventing the sperm from fertilizing an egg. It is worn continuously for three weeks. This is followed by a week off. Each vaginal contraceptive ring provides one month of birth control and it is 92-99.7% effective as birth control. However, it does not provide protection against sexually transmitted infections as well as HIV/AIDS.

Vaginal contraceptive patch

The vaginal contraceptive patch is a thin, flexible patch that is put on the upper arms, buttocks, stomach or chest. However, it is not put on breasts. The patch is put once a week for 3 weeks. On the 4th week, the patch is not used and the period starts. The side effects of vaginal patch are similar to those of birth control pills. Usually, during the first two months, breast discomfort is noticed. Moreover, the area of skin where the patch was placed can become irritated. Women who use vaginal patch should not smoke as smoking increases the risk of blood clots.

Oral contraceptive

Oral contraceptives also known as birth-control pills are used for the prevention of pregnancy. The two female sex hormones are estrogen and progestin. Combinations of these two female hormones help in the prevention of ovulation. They also prevent pregnancy from developing by changing the lining of the uterus (womb) and preventing sperm (male reproductive cells) from entering by changing the mucus at the cervix (opening of the uterus). Though Oral contraceptives are a very effective method of birth control, but they do not prevent the spread of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) as well as other sexually transmitted diseases.

There are two different kinds of birth control pills:

  • Combination birth control pills, which contain estrogen and progestin
  • Minipills, which contain only progestin          

The types of combination birth control pills are:

  • Monophasic birth control pills, which deliver the same amount of estrogen and progestin every day.
  • Biphasic birth control pills, which deliver the same amount of estrogen every day for the first 21 days of the cycle. However, during the first half of the cycle, the progestin/estrogen ratio is lower while during the second half of the cycle, the progestin/estrogen ratio is higher.
  • Triphasic birth control pills, which have constant or changing estrogen concentrations and varying progestin concentrations throughout the cycle.


An intrauterine device (IUD) is a small T-shaped plastic device that is placed in the uterus to prevent pregnancy. To ensure correct placement and for removal, a plastic string is attached to the end. These are an easily reversible form of birth control. However, these should only be removed by a medical professional. Currently, there are 2 types of IUDs, namely, copper and hormonal. The copper IUD releases a small amount of copper into the uterus. This type of IUD does not affect ovulation. However, it immobilises the sperm and prevents it from reaching the fallopian tubes. Even, if an egg does become fertilized, the copper IUD prevents it from getting implanted on the wall by changing the uterus lining. The hormonal IUDs release a small amount of progestin or a similar hormone into the uterus. These hormones thicken the cervical mucus and prevent the sperm from reaching the cervix. Hormonal IUDs also slow down the growth of the uterine lining thus making it inhospitable for fertilized eggs.

Written by: Healthplus24 team
Date last updated: April 08, 2012

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