This is the most common form of birth control for women. It is an oral contraceptive designed to mimic a menstrual cycle but this is actually not a cycle at all. It contains a synthetic estrogen and progestin hormone combination. The Pill is taken daily, at the same time each day and thus requires a high level of discipline and responsibility. Missing pills can lead to an unplanned pregnancy. This option is also good for cycle problems, heavy or painful periods and for acne.
This is a stick-on patch, which slowly releases hormones through the skin. The hormones are the same as in the Pill and it works in the same way. It’s benefit is the convenience of a once-weekly method. The patch is replaced every week for three weeks and then you take a break of one week during which the period will occur.
A flexible thin silastic ring, which you place inside your vagina for 3 weeks and then take a week off during which you get your period. Like the Pill and the patch, it contains an estrogen and a progestin hormone which stop your ovaries from releasing an egg each month. It is a ‘fit-and-forget’ option which allows normal sexual activity so it is useful if you tend to forget to take a pill. As with the Pill and the patch, it is unsuitable for women over 35 years who smoke.
Unlike the options above, the hormonal implant contains the progestin hormone only and is convenient because it works for 3 years as both an excellent contraceptive and a period suppressant. The implant is a thin flexible plastic rod that is inserted just under the skin of your upper arm – it does not hurt and you quickly forget it is there. It is inserted and removed in the consulting room and fertility returns immediately after removal. Just like the Pill, it prevents the body from releasing eggs but it is more effective at keeping the lining of the uterus thin so the periods often stop.
The hormonal injection works like the implant but is administered every 2 or 3 months. It is a different kind of progestin hormone to the implant and so side effects my differ. It can take a long time for fertility to return after the injection.
Intrauterine Device (IUD)
This is a long-term birth control solution, typically replaced every 5 years. There are two categories – the copper-containing and the hormone-containing devices. They consist of a T-shaped piece of plastic, either wrapped with a copper coil or with a sheath containing the hormone progestin. This hormone only works in the uterus, increases the contraceptive effect of the device and can help with painful or heavy periods by reducing the period flow dramatically. The copper device is an option for you if you have normal cycles with comfortable periods, need long-term secure contraception and want to avoid hormones.