Birth control means preventing pregnancy (contraception).
Hormones are chemical messengers one part of your body sends to another part of your body. These messengers control important body functions. Sex hormones, such as estrogen and progestin, help control a woman's menstrual periods and fertility. Doctors can use these hormones (or artificial versions of them) to prevent pregnancy.
What are hormonal methods of birth control?
Hormonal birth control works in two ways:
It keeps your ovaries from releasing eggs
It thickens the mucus in your cervix so sperm can't get through
If eggs aren't released or sperm can't get to them, you can't get pregnant.
Hormonal birth control methods include:
Birth control pills
How well does hormonal birth control work?
Hormonal birth control is one of the most effective methods of birth control if you use it correctly. If you do, your chance of getting pregnant the first year you use it is only about 3 in 1000.
Your chance of getting pregnant goes up if you don't take your pills correctly, especially if you miss pills the first week after your period.
Who can use hormonal birth control?
Most women can use hormonal birth control.
You shouldn't take oral birth control (pills) that contains estrogen and progestin if you:
Have migraine headaches with an aura (symptoms that happen before a migraine headache, such as seeing lights or having unusual feelings in your skin)
Have or have had blood clots in your legs Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) Thrombosis is when a blood clot (called a thrombus) blocks a blood vessel. Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is when a blood clot forms inside a large vein. Usually the vein is deep in your leg, but... read more or lungs Pulmonary Embolism (PE) Pulmonary is a medical word that refers to the lungs. An embolism is a clump of material (usually a blood clot) moving through your bloodstream. An embolism usually gets stuck when it gets to... read more
Have high fat levels in your blood called triglycerides
Are 35 or older and smoke more than 15 cigarettes a day
Have had an organ transplant that is causing problems
Have a liver disease
Have had jaundice Jaundice in Adults Jaundice is a yellow color to your skin and the whites of your eyes. Jaundice is caused by a buildup of a substance called bilirubin Bilirubin is a yellow substance your body makes when it breaks... read more (yellow skin and eyes) when using birth control before
If you’ve had weight-loss surgery Weight-Loss Surgery (Bariatric Surgery) Weight-loss surgery is surgery to the stomach or intestine (or both) to help you lose weight. It's also called bariatric surgery. Doctors sometimes recommend weight-loss surgery for people who... read more , you shouldn’t use the pill, but you can use a skin patch or vaginal ring.
What are the different types of hormonal birth control?
Talk to your doctor about which hormonal birth control is right for you.
Birth control pills
Birth control pills contain both progestin and estrogen or only progestin to prevent you from getting pregnant. Progestin-only pills don’t work quite as well. Doctors usually give them only if you can’t have estrogen.
You must take a pill every day. If you skip a pill, you may get pregnant. The more pills you skip, the greater the chance of pregnancy. When you stop taking the pills, you may be able to get pregnant right away or it may take a few months.
Side effects of birth control pills may include:
Bleeding at unexpected times, particularly in the first few months of use
Feeling sick to your stomach, bloating, and throwing up
Blood clots in your legs or lungs
Dark patches on your skin (melasma)
Higher chance of getting cervical cancer
A birth control skin patch is a thin, sticky patch that slowly releases estrogen and progestin to prevent you from getting pregnant. Typically you wear a patch for 7 days and then put on a fresh one for another 7 days. After you have used 3 patches, you wait a week before starting again.
You may have to use a backup method of birth control (such as a condom Condoms A contraceptive is something used for preventing pregnancy (birth control). Barrier contraceptives are a type of birth control that works by keeping sperm from getting to an egg. Barrier contraceptives... read more ) during the first week you use the patch
You may find it easier to remember to use a patch once a week than to take a birth control pill every day
Side effects of the patch are similar to the pill
The patch may not work as well if you're overweight
You may have pain or itching on your skin under or around the patch
A vaginal ring contraceptive is a small plastic ring that is placed in your vagina. The ring releases estrogen and progestin to prevent you from getting pregnant. Typically you leave the ring inside you for 3 weeks and then take it out for 1 week. During that week you may have a period. After the week has passed, you put in a fresh ring. Some doctors have you leave the ring in for 5 weeks and then replace it with a fresh one.
You may have to use a backup method of birth control (such as a condom Condoms A contraceptive is something used for preventing pregnancy (birth control). Barrier contraceptives are a type of birth control that works by keeping sperm from getting to an egg. Barrier contraceptives... read more ) during the first week you use the ring
You may find it easier to remember to use a ring once every 3 to 5 weeks week than to take a birth control pill every day or put on a patch every week
On the other hand, because you can't see or feel the ring, it's easy to forget to remove and replace it
Side effects of the ring are similar to the pill Birth control pills Birth control means preventing pregnancy (contraception). Hormones are chemical messengers one part of your body sends to another part of your body. These messengers control important body functions... read more and patch Skin Patch Birth control means preventing pregnancy (contraception). Hormones are chemical messengers one part of your body sends to another part of your body. These messengers control important body functions... read more
Birth control implant
A birth control implant is a match-sized rod placed under your skin that releases progestin to prevent you from getting pregnant.
An implant works for 3 years
As soon as the implant is removed, you can get pregnant
Your doctor will put the implant under your skin with a needle-like tool and remove it through a small cut in your skin
Side effects of implants may include:
Bleeding at unexpected times
Birth control shot
A birth control shot is a shot of long-acting progestin given every 3 months to prevent you from getting pregnant.
It may take up to 18 months after you stop the shots before you can get pregnant
Side effects of the shot may include:
Bleeding at unexpected times, especially at first
Less bone density (how healthy and strong your bones are)—though bone density usually returns to normal when you stop getting the shot