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