What You Should Know About Hormonal Birth Control

July 16, 2023
Lisa Otey, MD

Hormonal Birth Control

Many women choose to use some form of birth control, either to delay pregnancy or to space their children appropriately. One of the most commonly used birth control methods is the oral contraceptive which is a form of hormonal birth control. But there are other types of hormonal birth control measures as well. These include injections, implants, vaginal rings, and patches. Here in this article, the different hormonal birth control methods are discussed. A Houston Gynecologist can help you learn more about how each of these methods can affect you personally and help you decide which one is best.

How Does Hormonal Birth Control Work?

Hormones exert their contraceptive effects by interfering with ovulation. If ovulation does not happen, there is no egg to be released and to be fertilized. Therefore, pregnancy cannot happen. Also, hormones cause your cervical mucus and uterus to change in structure and consistency, making them more hostile for sperm passage.

Hormonal birth control methods offer no protection against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). If you want to prevent STDs, you should use condoms with each sexual encounter, whether or not you are simultaneously using hormonal contraceptives.

Each method has its own advantages and disadvantages, and certain types may work for some women but not for others. You should consult with your Houston Gynecologist who will check your medical history. Your medical history and any pre-existing conditions can affect the choice of an appropriate hormonal birth control method. Also, it depends upon your personal preferences.


Injection-types of hormonal birth control are comprised of depot medroxyprogesterone acetate (DMPA). This is a hormone similar to progesterone that helps prevent ovulation from occurring. Injections are effective at preventing pregnancy for up to 3 months per injection.

This is a very convenient form of birth control, because you only need to get it 4 times in a year. This saves you the hassle of taking birth control pills every day, and doesn’t interrupt with sexual activity unlike barrier types of contraceptives which have to be applied before engaging in intercourse.

This injection must be administered by a nurse or a doctor. Injection-type of hormonal birth control have a high degree of success in preventing pregnancy, but rarely, women can get pregnant even on this type of birth control. Getting pregnant while on injection contraceptives will not affect the baby in any way.

Women who have recently had hormonal contraceptives injected are prone to irregular bleeding. This most commonly occurs within the first few months of usage. However, these tend to decrease over time, and after a year, only 25% of women experience irregular bleeding.


A subdermal implant is placed under the skin of the upper arm. It is inserted into place by a doctor. It is as small as a matchstick and contains progestin, similar to hormonal injections. It also works the same way, by interfering with ovulation. Because it does not contain the hormone estrogen, it is an excellent choice for lactating women. Estrogen is known to interfere with milk production.

Like injections, implants are an excellent option for women who don’t want the inconvenience of other contraceptive methods. Compared to injections, implants provide a much longer period of effectiveness. It can prevent pregnancy for up to 3 years.

Implants can also cause bleeding episodes, especially during the first few months of use. This irregular bleeding usually goes away on its own after 6-9 months. Although implants offer a 99.95% success rate, pregnancy can still happen, albeit very rarely. If pregnancy does occur, there is a higher chance that it will be an ectopic pregnancy or a tubal pregnancy.

Vaginal Ring

A vaginal ring is a plastic ring that is inserted into the upper vagina. It contains estrogen and progesterone which are gradually released into the system. Like other hormonal birth control methods, this works by preventing ovulation.

If inserted correctly, you or your partner will not notice that the vaginal ring is present. This is worn for 21 days consecutively, and then removed for a period of 7 days. During this week, bleeding similar to menstruation occurs. After this period, a new vaginal ring should be put into place.

This ring needs a doctor’s prescription, but women don’t always have to visit the doctor to have it applied. Usually, the doctor teaches the woman how to put it into place the first time, and then subsequent applications are done by the patient herself.

Skin Patch

This patch is about 1.75 square inches big and can be worn on the buttocks, upper back or arm, abdomen, or on the chest, but not the breasts. Like the vaginal ring, the skin patch gradually releases the hormones estrogen and progestin. This also works by preventing ovulation from happening.

In order for it to be effective, the patch should be worn the whole day. It shouldn’t be removed, even during bathing or exercising. One patch lasts for a week, and it should be applied for 3 weeks consecutively, for a total of 21 days. After this period, the woman does not wear a patch for a week, and during this time, menstrual-like bleeding occurs. After the fourth week, a new cycle of ‘3 weeks with patch, 1 week no patch’ begins.

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