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Considering Contraception? Explore Your Hormonal Contraceptive Options

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Choosing a hormonal contraceptive method that suits you is important, but it can be a difficult decision to make. There are several different methods available, and each of them has unique characteristics. If you need some guidance, consider the most popular and widely used hormonal birth control methods. This may help you weigh the pros and cons so you can make a choice you feel confident about.

The Guttmacher Institute explains that 67 percent of women that use birth control choose non-permanent options. Many of these methods involve the use of hormones. Some examples include birth control pills, patches, shots, implants and vaginal rings. Hormonal contraceptives are divided into two categories – combination birth control and progestin-only birth control.

Combination Methods of Hormonal Contraception

The combination method is the most widely used type of hormonal birth control. These contraceptives contain two hormones, estrogen and progestin. According to Contraceptive Technology's 19th Revised edition, combination methods can be up to 99.9% effective if they are used as directed. Some side effects associated with combination contraceptives include weight gain and breast tenderness.

The oral version of this method is most commonly called "the pill". The pill is taken once per day, and it is usually taken for 21 days in a row. This is typically followed by a seven-day break where placebo pills or no pills are consumed.

The combination method also comes in the form of a patch, a vaginal ring, and an injection. The patch and the vaginal ring are used in the same pattern as the pill. They are worn for three weeks in a row, and then a one week break is taken. This cycle is repeated on a monthly basis.

Progestin-Only Methods of Hormonal Contraception

Progestin-only methods do not contain estrogen, and these methods decrease the frequency of ovulation. These methods are more commonly associated with side effects such as breakthrough bleeding, more commonly called 'spotting'. These methods can be up to 99.95% effective if used properly. Progestin-only methods come in the form of a pill, an injection, an intrauterine device (IUD) and an arm implant.

The progestin-only pill is most commonly called "the mini pill." They are taken on the same schedule as combination birth control pills – three weeks of daily use, and one week of no use. To achieve maximum effectiveness, this pill must be taken at the same time each day.

Progestin-only injections are received every two to three months. The frequency depends on the brand of injection that is used. These injections are given by a gynecologist.

Progestin-only arm implants and intrauterine devices are inserted by a gynecologist. They provide protection from pregnancy for three years to five years. The length of protection depends on the method used and other factors.

What Other Information Should You Consider?

It is important to know that hormonal birth control does not provide protection from sexually transmitted infections. A barrier method such as a condom must be used to prevent the risk of STI. Certain health factors will also determine what type of hormonal birth control is safest for you. Visit your gynecologist or health care practitioner to discuss your health history and other information. From that point, you can decide which type of contraception option will suit your needs.