Hormonal methods use various types of female hormones to prevent ovulation (the release of an egg) so it cannot be fertilized by sperm from a man.  Other changes in the uterus make it unlikely that a pregnancy will develop. Hormonal methods come in a variety of forms such as a pill, a patch worn on the skin, a shot, a ring inserted in the vagina, an implant in the arm, or a device inserted in the uterus.

Birth control pills

What is it?
“The pill” is a tablet that is swallowed once a day. It is usually a combination pill containing an estrogen and a progestin, two types of female hormones.Occasionally, depending upon your medical history, the mini pill, or a progestin-only pill, may be prescribed.

The birth control pill prevents pregnancy primarily by preventing ovulation, but it also effects the uterine lining and cervical mucous to make it less likely that a sperm will fertilize an egg.

Most combination pills contain 21 active pills and 7 pills that do not contain any medication. The last 7 pills are provided to keep you on schedule and let you know when to start your next packet of pills.  This is the week when you should expect to have a period.

For the pill to be the most effective, it is important that you do not miss pills and that you take each pill at essentially the same time each day.  Instructions are provided on what to do if you should miss a pill or when it might be necessary to take Emergency Contraception (EC).

Birth control pills may decrease the amount of your period, decrease severe menstrual cramps, and improve acne.  Long-term use of birth control pills reduces your risk for ovarian and uterine cancer.  Low dose pills may be used for pre-menopausal women to even-out early hormonal changes.

Women who are smokers or who have a history of blood clots, stroke or heart disease should consider the progestin-only pill or other methods of birth control.

Another option for women taking oral contraceptives is to take birth control pills on a Continuous or Extended Cycle; meaning pills are taken every day for three months, and then stopped for a week during which a period would occur. Thus, you only have a period four times in a year. This is particularly beneficial for women with painful periods or women who want the convenience of fewer bleeding episodes.

How effective is it at preventing pregnancy?
With typical use, birth control pills are 92% effective. If used correctly, consistently, and all of the time, birth control pills are 99.7% effective.

Birth control pills do not provide protection against sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Who should use it?
Women who can remember to take pills every day at the same time, non-smokers, or those who want lighter periods, fewer cramps or improved acne.

The Patch

What is it?
Ortho Evra® is a patch of lightweight thin material which contains both estrogen and progesterone.  Patches are applied to different sites on your body and hormones are released through your skin to prevent the ovary from releasing the egg for possible fertilization. Each patch lasts for 7 days and must be replaced each week for three consecutive weeks.  The fourth week is patch-free, and this is when your period should begin.

How effective is it at preventing pregnancy?
With typical use, Ortho Evra® is 92% effective. If used correctly, consistently, and all of the time, Ortho Evra® is 99.7% effective.

Ortho Evra® does not provide protection against sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Who should use it?
Ortho Evra® is a good choice for women who can not remember to take a pill every day, but who may remember to put a new patch on every week for three weeks, and then to remove the patch for the fourth week.

Some women may choose the patch because the hormones are absorbed through the skin rather than through the liver, such as with the pill.

The Ring

What is it?
Nuvaring® is a soft, transparent, flexible ring that is placed in the vagina and releases both estrogen and progestin in a low steady dose, somewhat lower than the birth control pill or the patch. The ring is in your vagina for 3 weeks, and then removed during the 4th week. Your period will begin sometime during week four. This process is repeated each month.

How effective is it at preventing pregnancy?
With typical use, the Nuvaring® is 92% effective. If used correctly, consistently, and all of the time, the Nuvaring® is 99.7% effective.

The Nuvraring® does not provide protection against sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Who should use it?
Nuvaring® works well for women who do not smoke, only want to attend to their birth control method once a month and can remember to insert and remove the ring at the right times. It can decrease the length of your period and decrease cramps.

The Shot

What is it?
Depo-Provera® contains a hormone (progestin only) that prevents the release of an egg and is an injection (or shot) into the arm or buttock every 12 weeks (3 months). Most women have a lighter period and often eventually have no period with long term use. It may cause weight gain.

How effective is it at preventing pregnancy?
With typical use, Depo-Provera® is 97% effective. If used correctly, consistently, and all of the time, Depo-Provera® is 99.7% effective.

Depo-Provera® does not provide protection against sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Who should use it?
Depo-Provera® is a good choice of contraception for users who are not afraid of shots, want a reliable method of birth control, and prefer not to take a pill every day. This method may be a good choice for women who are sensitive to or cannot use estrogen containing hormonal methods.

Nexplanon®

What is it?
Nexplanon® is a method of birth control that is a single matchstick-sized rod with progestin (a hormone) in it that is placed underneath the skin in your upper arm by a healthcare provider. Once inserted, a small amount of progestin is slowly and continuously released.  The progestin stops the release of the egg from the ovary.  Pregnancy cannot occur if there is no egg to join with sperm. The progestin thickens the cervical mucus making it more difficult for sperm to reach the egg.

How effective is it at preventing pregnancy?
Nexplanon® is more than 99% effective at preventing pregnancy and prevents pregnancy for three years.

Nexplanon® does not provide protection against sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Who should use it?
Nexplanon® is a good choice for women who want a long-term method of birth control that is hidden and effective for a longer period of time. This method may be a good choice for women who are sensitive to or cannot use estrogen containing hormonal methods.

IUS (Intra-Uterine System)

What is it?
Mirena® Progestin-Only Intrauterine System or IUS is a T-shaped device inserted into the uterus by a health care provider. The IUS is similar to an IUD but also contains a very small dose of the hormone progestin. The progestin is slowly released over time and affects the lining of the uterus only.  It does not circulate into the rest of the body. The IUS prevents pregnancy by interfering with the movement of the sperm inside the uterus and the progestin prevents some women from ovulating (releasing an egg) at all, thus preventing the possibility of pregnancy.

The progestin in this IUS also decreases the amount of menstrual flow and cramping.  Women experience irregular bleeding patterns for the first 3 months after insertion and often have a significantly decreased flow and cramping once their body adjusts to the IUS.

How effective is it at preventing pregnancy?
The IUS is more than 99.5% effective and prevents pregnancy for up to five years.

The IUS does not provide protection against sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Who should use it?
Women who want to decrease the amount of bleeding and cramping during their periods, do not desire a pregnancy for an extended period of time and want the convenience of not having to do anything on an ongoing basis.


The information contained in this Web site, or conveyed to you electronically in response to a question from you, does not constitute medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.  Women’s Health assumes no liability for any medical decision made or action taken based on information in this Web site.  For help with a specific medical concern, please make an appointment at our clinic by calling 303-442-5160.