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What Is Hormonal Birth Control?

Hormonal birth control is a method of contraception that delivers concentrated doses of hormones to prevent you from getting pregnant. There are two main kinds: combination hormonal birth control, which uses estrogen and progestin, and progestin-only birth control, which uses just progestin. Hormonal birth control works by:

  • Stopping ovulation so there is no egg for the sperm to fertilize (some progestin-only methods don’t use this method).
  • Thickening your cervical mucus so that sperm can’t swim through it.
  • Thinning the lining of your uterus so an egg can’t implant there.

Benefits of Hormonal Birth Control

Hormonal birth control is a popular option for many women because it offers 99% effectiveness against unwanted pregnancy when used correctly.

There are other positive health benefits to hormonal birth control, including:

  • Lighter or less frequent periods
  • Reduction of menstrual cramps
  • Fewer breakouts and acne
  • Lower risk of ovarian cysts
  • Lower risk of certain cancers

Types of Hormonal Birth Control

Hormonal birth control comes in a few different forms. The pill is one of the most popular options, and just requires taking a pill each day. Combination pills commonly come in a monthly pack with 21 or 24 active pills and seven or four inactive pills. On the inactive days, you’ll have your period. Progestin-only pills are all active, so it’s especially important you take them daily, at the same time each day.

Other methods of hormonal birth control include:

  • The hormonal Intrauterine device (IUD), which is a small, T-shaped device that’s placed inside your uterus and which releases progestin
  • Birth control shot, which is usually administered every three months
  • Birth control patch, which must be changed on a weekly basis
  • Birth control implant, which usually sits just under the skin of your upper arm and works for three years
  • Birth control rings, which stay in the vagina for three weeks
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