6 Hormonal Birth Control Methods You'll Want To Write Down ASAP
From condoms and birth control pills to long-acting options like IUDs, there are many birth control options to choose from, and each has its own unique set of benefits. Without a doubt, hormonal birth control methods are among the most popular types of contraception. According to VeryWellHealth, these contraceptives emulate the naturally-occurring hormones that a woman’s body produces, thereby preventing the sperm from fertilizing an egg.
Unlike condoms, hormonal birth control methods are not available over the counter and must be prescribed by a doctor. There are two types to choose from: combination birth control, which contains both synthetic progestin and estrogen; and progestin-only birth control, which does not include estrogen. One top reasons why these methods have become increasingly popular is that they’re super effective when used correctly. Many of them are also super convenient — in fact, some methods don’t even require you to remember to do anything. And since these methods are reversible, you still have the ability to get pregnant after you stop using them. Plus, many hormonal birth control methods offer some pretty amazing perks beyond preventing pregnancy. For example, the pill has been known to reduce those pesky menstrual cramps, as well as to help clear up acne.
If you’ve been considering trying out hormonal birth control, it’s crucial to weigh your options. Here are a handful of the most popular methods.
Looking for a simple, affordable birth control method that doesn’t require a lot of maintenance? The transdermal contraceptive patch might be right for you.
The patch is placed on your body — typically, on your upper arm, stomach, back, or butt — and releases hormones directly through the skin that prevent your ovaries from releasing eggs, thus preventing pregnancy. According to Planned Parenthood, you swap it out for a new patch every week for three weeks, and then you take a week off during your period before repeating the process.
When used properly, the patch is 99 percent effective. It’s super important that you remember to put a new patch on at the right time. A birth control reminder app can prove helpful, or you can also set a weekly alarm to alert you when it’s time to swap it out. It's also worth noting that exposure to direct sunlight or high heat can diminish the patch's effectiveness, according to Michigan Medicine.
As long as you aren’t squeamish around needles, the shot may be an ideal choice for you. Also known as Depo-Provera or the Depo shot, the injection contains the hormone progestin, which halts ovulation from happening, thus warding off pregnancy. Additionally, the shot helps to thicken the cervical mucus, thus making it difficult for sperm to reach the egg.
According to Planned Parenthood, the shot is more than 99 percent effective — but only when used correctly. So, it’s crucial that you remember to make an appointment with your doctor to get a new shot every three months. As with the patch, setting an alarm or using a reminder app may be helpful in keeping you on track. If you get your shot more than 15 weeks after your previous one, Planned Parenthood advises using another method (like a condom) for about a week to increase your protection from pregnancy.
You can start using the birth control shot at any point in your cycle, however, you’re only immediately protected against pregnancy if you get it within the first week of your period. Otherwise, you need to use another backup method for about seven days after you get the shot.
As with any other hormonal birth control method, the shot does come with some potential side effects, like possible bone mineral loss and slight weight gain. However, there are many benefits to this method as well. Michigan Medicine reports that the shot is FDA-approved to help treat endometriosis, and additionally, that it may result in fewer periods (huzzah!).
If you’re the kind of gal who can barely remember to water her plants, you may want to seek out a long-acting birth control method that doesn’t require daily maintenance. Once the implant is inserted into the upper arm by a doctor or nurse, it can work for up to five years. This method is more than 99 percent effective, according to the National Women’s Health Network, and is also reversible, so you’ll be able to get pregnant whenever you decide to get it removed.
Birth control implants have a number of advantages beyond low maintenance and high effectiveness. The National Women’s Health Network points out that many implant users experience reduced PMS symptoms and lighter periods, for example.
The implant only takes a few minutes to insert, and only comes with some mild discomfort (think: a mild pinch or some subtle stinging). And you’re protected from pregnancy immediately if you get it inserted within the first five days of your period.
You can get the implant from your gynecologist, primary care doctor, or a local family planning center. While the implant tends to be more expensive up-front than some other birth control methods, Planned Parenthood points out that it can ultimately save you money since it lasts so long.
Another virtually mistake-proof hormonal birth control method is the intrauterine device (IUD). Like the implant, the IUD is long-acting, reversible, and highly effective (more than 99 percent, when used properly).
There are non-hormonal IUDs — like ParaGuard, a copper IUD. FDA-approved hormonal IUD brands include Mirena, Skyla, Liletta, and Kyleena. These types release the hormone progestin, which helps to prevent pregnancy. Mirena and Liletta can both work for up to seven years, while Kyleena works for up to five years, and Skyla can last for up to thee.
An IUD is inserted through your vagina and into your uterus by a doctor or other health care provider. The level of discomfort during the process varies greatly from person to person — Planned Parenthood notes that while some people may feel some cramps or other pain, it tends to go away quickly.
If you get a hormonal IUD put in within the first seven days of your period, it starts working right away. If you get one at any other point, however, you’ll need to use condoms or another method for seven days to prevent pregnancy.
Like the implant, the IUD is on the pricey side — it can cost around several hundred dollars, according to Michigan Medicine. However, much of this cost will likely be covered if you have health insurance. Also, it’s actually one of the more cost-effective methods since it’s used long-term. As an added perk, Michigan Medicine reports that the hormonal IUD can help relieve cramping and heavy menstrual bleeding in most women, making periods far less tolerable.
Without a doubt, one of the more popular hormonal birth control methods is the pill. Why? Well, it’s affordable, effective, and it also comes with a slew of potential health benefits.
Here’s the catch, however. While the pill is 99 percent effective when taken correctly, Planned Parenthood reports that many people forget to take it, making it only 91 percent effective. So roughly nine out of 100 people on the pill get pregnant every year (woof). The good news is, there are plenty of tactics you can use to make sure you don’t miss pills or forget to refill your prescription, like setting alarms or reminders on your phone. FYI: Sore breasts, changes in sexual desire, and nausea are among the most common side effects, but these typically go away after the first few months of taking the pill.
These birth control packs contain three weeks of hormone pills, and one week with placebo pills that you take during your period. The pill must be taken at the same time every day in order to work properly. Unlike the combination birth control pill, which contains both estrogen and progestin, the mini-pill only contains the latter. According to Verywell Health, the mini-pill which comes in 28-day packs, tends to cause fewer side effects than the combination pill. Both types of pills may result in lighter periods and reduced cramping during your period, but the mini-pill can also cause irregular bleeding or spotting between periods. You’re protected from pregnancy after just 48 hours from when you start taking progestin-only pills. You’re protected from pregnancy right away if you start taking a combination pill within the first five days after you start your period. If you start taking it at any other time, you’ll need to use an additional birth control method for seven days.
You’ll need a prescription to get the pill, and prices vary depending on your insurance coverage. If you do have insurance, it’s typically free or requires a low-cost co-pay.
Discreet, effective, and reversible, NuvaRing is another commonly used hormonal birth control method. Here’s how it works: The ring is inserted into your vagina on the first day of your cycle, and begins gradually releasing hormones to prevent pregnancy. You leave the ring in for three weeks, and then remove it for a week, during which you’ll have your period. After week four, you insert a new ring and start the cycle over again.
There are so many perks to using the ring, too. Unlike with the pill, you don’t have to remember to do anything on a daily basis for it to work. According to Verywell Health, the ring offers a steadier and lower dose of hormones, meaning you may experience fewer negative side effects. It can also make your periods more regular, as well as lighter and shorter. And don’t worry — your partner shouldn’t be able to feel it during sex.
The NuvaRing can be 99.7 percent effective — but again, as with other methods, that’s only if it’s used perfectly. If the ring stays in for fewer or more than three weeks, that can compromise its effectiveness. Also, if the ring slips out and isn’t replaced within three hours, it might not work.
Of course, the birth control you use is completely up you. Choosing a birth control method means carefully evaluating all of the pros and cons, as each one may affect your body or lifestyle in a different way. Luckily, your doctor can help you to determine which one is right for you, based on your medical history, preferences, and other factors. Remember: Hormonal birth control methods may prevent pregnancy, but they do not offer protection against STDs (that's where condoms come in). It may take some time to figure out the perfect method for you, but with a little trial and error, you'll hopefully be able to find one that makes your sex life not only safer but also more pleasurable and less stressful.