Hormonal Methods of Birth Control

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

View Birth Control Slideshow Pictures

Quick GuideBirth Control Pictures Slideshow: Methods, Side Effects and Effectiveness

Birth Control Pictures Slideshow: Methods, Side Effects and Effectiveness

Introduction to birth control

If a woman is sexually active and she is fertile, meaning that she is physically able to become pregnant, she needs to ask herself, "Do I want to become pregnant now?" If her answer is "No," she must use some method of birth control (contraception).

Terminology for "birth control" includes contraception, pregnancy prevention, fertility control, and family planning. But no matter what the terminology, sexually active people can choose from a variety of methods to reduce the possibility of their becoming pregnant. Nevertheless, no method of birth control available today offers perfect protection against sexually transmitted infections (sexually transmitted diseases, or STDs), except abstinence.

In simple terms, all methods of birth control are based on either preventing a man's sperm from reaching and entering a woman's egg (fertilization) or preventing the fertilized egg from implanting in the woman's uterus (her womb) and starting to grow. New methods of birth control are being developed and tested. And what is appropriate for a couple at one point may change with time and circumstances.

Unfortunately, no birth-control method, except abstinence, is considered to be 100% effective.

Types of hormonal methods of contraception

There are several different hormonal methods of birth control. The differences among them involve

  • the type of hormone,
  • the amount of hormone, and
  • the way the hormone enters a woman's body.

The hormones can be estrogen and/or progesterone, or preparations that contain a combination of these hormones. These hormones may be taken orally (taken by mouth), implanted into body tissue, injected under the skin, absorbed from a patch on the skin, or placed in the vagina. The mode of delivery determines whether the hormonal exposure is continuous or intermittent.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/2/2015
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