Down There Care

Birth Control Briefs: Hormonal Methods

By Gabi Powell Jillian LoPiano, MD Lindsey Lavoie, WHNP

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Selecting a birth control method can feel a lot like grocery shopping on the cereal aisle. Options on options, shelf after shelf – pills, shots, implants, oh my!

So many methods can give a Betty decision overload, am I right? We get it.

That’s why we’re rounding up your options into a series of three, BC(birth control) explainers:

Hormonal ⚡️

Non-Hormonal ⚡️

and No-Device-Required. ⚡️

Before we dive into the goods, here at Betty’s Co., we don’t believe in a one-size-fits-all approach to care. While we are comparing each of these methods, we don’t believe any one of these methods is the most-effective, end-all, be-all birth control for all Betties. There are so many different motivations Betties might benefit from contraceptives – and pregnancy prevention is just one! For the purposes of this series though, we’ll be focused on birth control as it is used to prevent pregnancy.

These briefs are not intended for you to choose a BC method, but to inform your decision! Use these briefs as a launch pad for a discussion with your medical provider. Because you’re a unique Betty, making a decision with your provider ensures you’ll be recommended the birth control method that is best for your body and lifestyle.

Okay, let’s get down to this birth-controlling business.

First up, we’ve got hormonal methods.

Now, Betties, don’t let “hormones” scare you off. When these doses and birth control methods are formulated, their purpose is to prevent pregnancy or even treat various conditions from heavy bleeding to acne. The components of these birth control methods are versions of what normally occurs if your own body. While hormones do certainly contribute to some side effects, they are not scary or unsafe for most Betty’s to use. If you choose to use a hormone-containing contraception, it’s just a matter of finding the right option and dose for YOU.

 

The Implant

Nexplanon implant inserted into the arm

 

WHAT IS IT?

The implant (also goes by its brand name, Nexplanon) is a teeeeeny-tiny, flexible rod inserted into the upper arm, directly under the skin by your medical provider. It prevents pregnancy by releasing a small amount of a progestin daily.

 

HOW DOES IT WORK?

This hormone prevents ovulation, thickens cervical mucus (to block sperm from going too far north) and thins the uterine lining. Once placed, the implant can last for up to three years.

 

HOW EFFECTIVE IS IT?

Consistency and BC effectiveness go hand in hand – and that goes for all birth control methods. Because Nexplanon does not rely on you for daily, monthly and even yearly upkeep, it’s considered highly effective and long acting.

 

PERKS?

The invisible implant gives you some privacy – only you know what it’s up to! And let’s revisit that time span: three years?! Now that’s some mileage. If you prefer your birth control low-maintenance, Nexplanon might be a great option for you.

 

 

The Progestin IUD

Progestin IUD birth control device

 

WHAT IS IT?

The Progestin IUD is a small, flexible, T-shaped device placed into your uterus at your doctor’s office. These IUDs come in a couple different makes, so depending on which you go with, it can last between three and five years.

 

HOW DOES IT WORK?

IUDs prevent pregnancy by releasing a small amount of progestin daily that works to prevent fertilization. This hormone thins the lining of the uterus, and thickens cervical mucus, preventing those sperm swimmers from making it through to the uterus.

 

HOW EFFECTIVE IS IT?

Like the implant, this low-maintenance method keeps chugging along, pitching progestin and working without your help, making it highly effective, long acting and reversible.

 

PERKS?

Time is on your side if you choose a Progestin IUD. Picture this: three to five years of no prescription pick-ups, no alarm reminders, no inserting this, removing that. *sigh* Progestin IUDs paint a pretty, pregnancy-prevented picture.

 

 

Birth Control Pills

birth control pill pack

 

WHAT IS IT?

Probably the method you’re most familiar with, “The Pill”, the OG birth control method is, well,…a pill. (haha!)

 

HOW DOES IT WORK?

These hormone-containing pills are taken daily. After that, birth control pills can widely differ in design. Some contain a single hormone, a progestin, while others contain a two-punch combo of A progestin + estrogen.

Here’s the sitch: A one-month supply of birth control comes in a 28-pill package. Typically, 21 of those pills are “active”(meaning: contain hormone), while the remaining seven are “inert” (as in, no hormones). While taking the inert pills, Betties’ periods will kick in.

Again, this is the most-common BC pill formula and timeline, but it can vary depending on the type of pill you choose.

 

HOW EFFECTIVE IS IT?

That allllll depends on you, Betties. For birth control pills to work best, they must be used consistently. (In other words, if you accidentally miss a pill, then it’s v important you have backup contraception.)

 

PERKS?

There’s a BUNCH of different pills and doses out there. If you like your periods consistent, with no random spotting in between, there’s a pill for that. There’s even some that allow you to skip your period completely (which is totally safe, BTW). With birth control pills, if one doesn’t work for you, you’re likely to fin another one that does! Which is why keeping your provider in the loop is key, so you know your pill-of-choice is personalized to you.

 

The Vaginal Ring

(NUVARING OR ANNOVERA)Vaginal Ring contraceptive

 

WHAT IS IT?

This is a small, flexible ring that sits inside the vagina, much like a tampon.

(It’s actually inserted and removed like one too!) I know what you’re thinking: A ring? Up…there? Please explain.  Gladly!

 

HOW DOES IT WORK?

This ring contains a combination of two hormones that are released daily. A vaginal ring works similarly to birth control pills in that it prevents ovulation. Once placed in the vagina, it is worn for 21 days and removed for seven. During those seven days, Betties can expect to have their period.

If using NuvaRing, you’ll swap your ring out for a new one each cycle. On the other hand, a single Annovera lasts up to 13 cycles. Like NuvaRing, it’s removed at the end of the third week. Unlike NuvaRing, once removed, the Annovera ring is washed, left out until the end of the fourth week and reinserted to start the whole cycle again.

 

HOW EFFECTIVE IS IT?

Both varieties are effective for preventing pregnancy, but you gotta stay in the loop on your ring’s schedule.

 

PERKS?

With the Nuvaring, you can kill the lights, not the mood. It can be worn during sexual intercourse (just make sure it’s still there when you’re done!) and, on the flip side, removed for intercourse (as long as you put it back in afterwards!). If using Annovera, do not remove for intercourse.

 

 

The Patch

Contraceptive patch placed on the stomach

 

WHAT IS IT?

Picture a Band-Aid. Now picture a Band-Aid with some pregnancy-preventing superpowers. That’s pretty much the Patch! This less than two-inch adhesive device releases hormones which are absorbed through the skin into the body. (So cool, right!?)

 

HOW DOES IT WORK?

Betties can wear the patch on their buttocks, chest, abdomen, upper back or arm for a week at a time for a total of three weeks. During week 4, the patch is removed to allow for a period. Afterwards, a new patch is applied and the cycle is repeated.

 

HOW EFFECTIVE IS IT?

The patch’s convenience makes it a pretty-effective method. But to work its best, no skips, Betties! You’ve gotta stay on the patch-on, patch-off schedule. And as a sidenote: if you later decide you do want to become pregnant, you won’t have to wait long to get back to normal fertility.

 

PERKS?

This baby works without daily maintenance from you! If you don’t want to keep up with the everyday task of taking a pill, the patch only requires you keep up with it on a weekly basis.

 

 

Depo-Provera Injection

Depo Provera Injection administered by medical provider

 

WHAT IS IT?

This is a single progestin hormone that is delivered by an injection (aka, a shot).

 

HOW DOES IT WORK?

Depo-Provera prevents ovulation and thickens cervical mucus. This injection is good for three months, then you need to return your provider to get re-upped.

 

HOW EFFECTIVE IS IT?

Notice a pattern yet? 😉 Effectiveness depends on you! If Depo is your preventative method-of-choice, once those three months are up, you def don’t want to wait to dial up your medical provider for your next dose.

 

PERKS?

If you’re not needle-queasy, Depo Provera allows you to prick it then forget it for a few months. Plus, because it’s an injection, only you can see it!

 


 

Woof. That’s a lot to digest, and it’s only one branch of birth control!

Betties, the booming BC market means you have bottomless options and navigating all those contraceptive methods can be overwhelming. But you don’t have to do that alone!

Our Betty’s Co. team is here to help.

BOOK A CARE ANYWHERE APPOINTMENT!
We practice integrated care, meaning, your provider’s birth control recommendation will be made with your whole health in mind – gynecological, mental health and lifestyle wellness.

 

 

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