Hormonal contraception contains artificial hormones of either estrogen and progesterone or just progesterone which are released into the body to stop ovulation.
The way hormonal contraception works is by stopping ovulation, thickening the cervical mucus to prevent sperm reaching an egg and thinning the lining of the uterus (womb) to prevent a fertilised egg implanting in the womb to grow (pregnancy)
There are some non-artificial hormone types of contraception which are the condom, diaphragm, copper IUD and sponge.
Here is some basic information on forms of hormonal contraception:
Contraceptive Patch: This looks like a plaster, the patch is stuck to the skin and releases the artificial hormones estrogen and progesterone (the same hormones as the pill). A new patch will need to be used each week for 3 weeks out of 4.
Implant: A small flexible tube about 40mm in size that is inserted under the skin of the upper arm which releases the artificial hormone progesterone into the body that can last up to 3 years. It requires a small surgical procedure to fit and remove it.
Injection: The injection can either be in the buttock or upper arm. There are different types that lasts up to either 8 or 13 weeks. Once the injection has been given it cannot be removed from the body so if it doesn’t feel right in the body and you experience side effects, these might not clear until 8-13 weeks.
IUS : A small plastic ‘t’ shaped device which releases the artificial hormone progesterone into the body. Can last up to 5 years but can be removed at any time.
Vaginal Ring: A small soft plastic ring that is placed inside the vagina and can be left there for 21 days, it’s then taken out placed into a special disposable bag and placed in a bin. 7 days after removing the ring a new one is inserted.
Note: For medical advice or more information contact your GP or your local contraceptive and sexual health service
Remember: Both these types of hormonal and other non-hormonal birth control (IUD, Diaphragm, Contraceptive Sponge and Fertility Awareness Method) don’t protect against STI’s. Only condoms protect against STI’s.
IUD (also known as the coil) is a small plastic and copper ‘t’ shaped device put into the uterus by a doctor or nurse. The copper that is released into the body is toxic to sperm and therefore prevents sperm from surviving inside a woman’s body. The IUD can stay in the body for up to 5-10 years but can be taken out at any time. Specific side effects with the IUD is that it can make periods heavier or longer and there is a small increased risk of ectopic pregnancy (when a fertilised egg implants itself outside of the womb, usually in one of the fallopian tubes) if the IUD fails.
Diaphragm: is a flexible soft silicone or latex device that is used with spermicide (a cream or gel that kills/prevents sperm entering the uterus). The Diaphragm is placed in the vagina to cover the cervix. This is only used when having sex and can be put in any time before sex (however extra spermicide needs to be used 3 hours before sex). It may take a while in getting comfortable in how to use it. Some people may be sensitive (have allergies) to spermicide.
Contraceptive Sponge: is a specific sponge that can be used, made of a plastic foam that contains spermicide it is inserted into the vagina before having sex. The same sponge cannot be reused but one sponge can last up to 24 hours (if would need to be left in 6 hours after having sex) it cannot be left in for more than 30 hours. Like all these methods it doesn’t protect against STI’s.
Fertility Awareness Method: This method is based on observing your body and cycle every day. It involves identifying and daily recording signs and symptoms of fertility during the menstrual cycle to avoid pregnancy, monitoring the length of the menstrual cycle. Daily readings of the body’s temperature are noted as well as changes to cervical secretions (cervical mucus).
This method can give you greater awareness of your body and is a natural contraception where no artificial hormones are used so would not experience any side effects but this but would need to be dedicated and consistent in taking the recordings of your body. It can take about 3-6 menstrual cycles to learn and daily records would need to be kept.
Emergency Contraception: can be used to prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex or if contraception that has been used has failed, for example, forgetting to take a pill or the condom splitting. It is advised that emergency contraception is used as soon as possible to prevent pregnancy.
There are 2 types of emergency contraception:
- The emergency contraceptive pill. Also known as the morning after pill.
- The intrauterine device (also known as the IUD or coil). The IUD can be inserted up to 5 days after unprotected sex.