Women looking to use hormonal contraceptives, which deliver doses of artificial hormones estrogen and progesterone to prevent pregnancy, have a variety of options to choose from. The oldest and perhaps best known type is the contraceptive pill, usually referred to as the pill. Some women may prefer to get hormone injections or implants, which have to be administered less frequently and do not need to be remembered to be taken. Some types of intrauterine devices, or IUDs, also deliver hormones to the body. Additional options include patches and vaginal rings.
One of the most popular forms of hormonal contraceptives is the birth control pill. There are many brands available, with some containing both estrogen and progesterone and others containing progesterone only. The standard dose involves taking one pill a day for three weeks, followed by one week off or taking a placebo, though there are other regimens available. While most pills are taken for ongoing pregnancy prevention, there are options available as an emergency form for use the day after intercourse as well.
Longer-term types of hormonal contraceptives are also available. Doctors can administer shots that will prevent pregnancy anywhere from one to three months. They may also place small implants, typically plastic rods that slowly deliver a dose of hormones, under the skin; these devices may be effective for up to several years. These delivery methods may work better for some women if they do not want to manage methods which require more effort and have to be taken more frequently, and it eliminates the chance for user error.
Intrauterine devices can also be hormonal contraceptives. Some types of IUDs contain and emit doses of hormones when placed in the uterus. This helps to change both the lining of the uterus and the quality of the cervical mucous, making fertilization or implantation highly unlikely.
The other types of hormonal contraceptives are patches and vaginal rings. Birth control patches are applied directly to the skin, usually in a discrete location like the hip; they need to be changed once a week for three weeks, with the fourth week off during the woman's period. Vaginal rings are flexible rings that are inserted into the vagina and remain there for three weeks, when they are then removed, also for a week during which the woman menstruates. These options require less frequent effort than the pill, but more than options like implants, shots, or IUDs.