What is Hormonal Contraception?

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  • Written By: B. Miller
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 17 March 2020
  • Copyright Protected:
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Hormonal contraception is a method of birth control that uses the female hormones estrogen and progestin, which is a synthetic form of progesterone, to prevent or delay ovulation. Hormonal contraception is available in many different forms, including a pill, injection, transdermal patch, and vaginal ring, among others. The birth control pill is historically the most common form of hormonal contraception, and was first developed in the 1960s.

Most oral contraceptive pills feature a combination of estrogen and progestin, and these are known as combined contraceptives. Other types use progestin only, known as progestogen-only contraceptives. Each is very effective at preventing pregnancy, and may help to prevent ovarian cancer. Hormonal contraception is also used for the treatment of acne, and may be able to help regulate the menstrual cycle.

There are a number of possible side effects to the use of hormonal contraception, no matter the form. Smokers should not use hormonal birth control methods, because it can increase the risk of blood clots, which could lead to stroke or heart attack. In addition, this type of contraception can cause mood changes, weight gain, nausea, breast tenderness, irregular periods, decreased libido, hair loss, abdominal pain, fatigue, headaches, and dizziness, among others. Different methods of contraception affect women differently, so it may be necessary to try a number of different pills or methods before finding one that does not cause unpleasant side effects.


It is important to take the pill or use the other forms of contraception exactly as directed to effectively prevent pregnancy. In most forms of birth control, the contraception is taken for 21 days, followed by a seven-day break for menstruation. For instance, one might take the pill for 21 days, wear a transdermal patch, or insert a vaginal ring. When using the patch and the vaginal ring, they are usually replaced every seven days, and then removed entirely for one week. Newer methods of hormonal contraception allow the user to take a pill or receive an injection that lasts for approximately three months, which can cause the period to cease for that amount of time.

The sole purpose of hormonal contraception is to prevent pregnancy. They do not prevent sexually transmitted diseases. If it is impossible to take this type of contraception due to medical reasons or hormonal problems, it will be necessary to use non-hormonal methods such as a condom, diaphragm, or IUD to prevent pregnancy. Condoms are the only method of birth control that can prevent STDs.



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