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Birth Control - Hormonal Contraceptives
The pill is the UK’s most popular form of female contraception, with over 3 million British women receiving prescriptions for hormonal contraceptives every year. Learn more about whether you can take the pill - and what kind of pill is best for you - or whether to consider a vaginal ring or contraceptive patch. Understand all the issues surrounding birth control and how to use hormonal contraception safely and effectively.
DoktorABC is the UK’s fastest-growing prescription renewal service. Simply complete a short online medical questionnaire, and our GP will immediately review your health profile to make sure if it’s safe for you to take the requested hormonal contraceptive. Your approved order is shipped next-day delivery to your chosen address in discreet packaging.
What types of hormonal contraception are available?
Finding the right form of contraception can sometimes be confusing, or even a bit daunting. There are dozens of brands to choose from, with different active hormones and dosages. There are also newer alternative forms of hormonal contraception like vaginal rings and contraceptive patches.
When you’re taking hormonal prescription medicine, you need to know how it affects your body and what you’re dealing with. The medical jargon and terminology isn’t always clear or properly explained. Read on for simple explanations about combined pills, mini-pills, phasic pills, hormones, dosages, side effects and everything else that you need to know about hormonal contraceptives.
The combined pill is “the pill” that launched the sexual revolution and has been prescribed to women across the world since the 1960s. Each tablet contains two synthetic hormones, progesterone and oestrogen. These replicate the natural hormones produced in your ovaries. They work to protect you against unwanted pregnancy by preventing ovulation, making it difficult for the sperm to reach the egg, and preventing fertilised eggs from attaching to the lining of the womb.
The progestogen-only pill
The mini pill contains a small dosage of an artificial progesterone hormone to protect you against unwanted pregnancy. Mini pills are taken daily. The regular dose of progesterone makes your body increase the amount of natural mucus in your cervix, preventing the sperm from reaching the egg. The oestrogen free mini pill has fewer side effects than the combined pill and may be a safer option if you are obese, estrogen intolerant, at risk of thrombosis, or are over the age of 35 and smoke. It is important to take your mini pill at approximately the same time every day.
A contraceptive patch (Evra patch) is a small adhesive patch that sticks securely to your skin. It contains synthetic oestrogen and progesterone hormones that protect against pregnancy in a similar way to the combined pill. Your body absorbs a small amount of the hormones every day directly through your skin and each patch lasts for a week. Contraceptive patches are simple to use and may be more convenient if you have trouble remembering to take a daily pill. If you’re wearing “the patch”, you can still bathe or shower normally, go swimming, and do strenuous sport.
A vaginal ring (NuvaRing) is a small soft plastic ring that you place inside your vagina. It releases a small daily dose of artificial progesterone and oestrogen hormones into your body, preventing pregnancy in a similar way to the combined pill. It takes a few seconds to insert a NuvaRing, and you only need to remove it every three weeks. Most women cannot feel the ring inside their body and it is usually not noticeable to the partner during sex. Side effects from the low hormone dosage are low compared to some other forms of hormonal contraception.
Risks and side effects
Hormonal contraceptives cause changes in your hormonal balance to achieve the prevention of pregnancy. The use of this type of contraception is considered very safe, however, it is also almost always associated with concomitant symptoms - both positive and negative. Some unwanted side effects can have serious consequences.
Women may sometimes have less desire for sex, others complain of headaches, migraines or mood swings. In addition, hormonal contraception is associated with certain health risks. For example, the risk of blood clots increases. If you already have an increased risk of thrombosis in advance, hormonal contraception can have a detrimental effect on your health.
The GP will be able to recognize risks through your answers to the online questionnaire or at any early stage and can weigh up appropriate alternatives.
Benefits of hormonal contraceptives
Hormonal contraceptives are known to provide a high level of protection. The success rate in preventing pregnancy is very high with all hormonal options. Few other contraceptive methods can reach the same security.
Significant for many women is the fact that this type of birth control stabilizes the menstrual cycle. Not only does the bleeding appear regular, but it is also less intense and accompanied with less discomfort and pain.
Find out which additional advantages hormonal contraceptives offer and compare to other birth control possibilities.
- Birth Control Pills: Types, Effectiveness and more, healthline.com
- Contraception; Hormonal Contraceptives, NCBI - Informed Health org
- Combined Pill, NHS
- The progestogen-only pill, NHS
- Vaginal Ring, NHS
- Vaginal Ring for Birth Control, WebMD
- Contraceptive Patch, NHS
- Contraception: Hormonal Contraceptives, InformedHealth.org
- Revealed: Pill still most popular prescribed contraceptive in England, The Guardian