Hormonal contraceptives – How do they work?

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Things to know about Hormonal Contraception 

A woman becomes pregnant when the egg her ovary releases is fertilised by a man’s sperm. The fertilised egg attaches to the inside of her uterus where it gets nourishment and develops into a baby. The release of the egg and the body’s acceptance of the fertilized egg is controlled by hormones in the woman’s body.

Hormonal contraception refers to the birth control methods that act on the endocrine system of the body. It inhibits the function of the naturally occurring hormones in a woman’s body and help prevent pregnancy. While thousands of women use contraceptives, very few understand how they work.

Oral contraceptives – The oral contraceptive pill also known as birth control pill is one of the most commonly used contraceptives. There are two kinds of oral contraceptives – the combined oral contraceptives (COC) that contain man-made progestin and estrogen, and the progestin only contraceptives (POC).

The oral contraceptive pill works by thickening the cervical mucus and making it difficult for the sperm to reach the egg. 

Contraceptive patch – It is a beige patch that sticks to a woman’s skin and continuously releases estrogen and progestin in her bloodstream. The patch prevents pregnancy by stopping the ovary from releasing eggs. Its method of action is quite similar to the pills. 

The patch should be worn each week for 3 weeks continuously. The day of changing the patch should be the same. For instance, if you wore your patch last Wednesday, you are required to change it on Wednesday only. The patch can be worn on buttocks, stomach, arms but not on breasts.

Vaginal Ring – The vaginal ring is a flexible, plastic ring that is inserted in a woman’s vagina where it releases estrogen and progestin for three weeks. 

Its functioning is similar to the patch and pills. There is no specific positioning of the ring for it to be effective because it is the walls of the vagina that put it in place.

Intrauterine contraceptives – They are the most effective birth control methods. A small T-shaped device is inserted in the uterus by the health care professionals in a clinic. Depending on the device (Copper intrauterine device and levonorgestrel-releasing intrauterine device), the IUC can remain inserted for 3-10 years before it is replaced with a new one.

Injectable Contraception – Also known as birth control shot, they are highly effective. The injection only contains progestin. Since it is administered four times a year, women having troubles following a daily routine can opt for this method. The injection is given by a health care professional four times a year. The progestin hormone prevents the ovaries from releasing an egg. 

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