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How to Hormonal contraception work

If you are looking for effective contraception to avoid unnecessary pregnancy, you can choose from more than just condoms. Today, with the advancement of science and technology, women can rely on many different methods of birth control. Are you aware of hormonal contraceptives? Read on to know what hormonal methods of contraception are.

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What is Hormonal Contraception?

Hormonal contraception is a method of birth control. They alter the hormonal balance in the woman's body to prevent pregnancy.

So, how do hormonal contraceptives work? These contraceptives work by altering the way the female reproductive system works.

Every month, most of the women's ovaries release one mature egg. When she has unprotected sex, the sperm will enter her body and travel up to meet the egg. If the sperm successfully fertilises the egg, it can lead to pregnancy. The hormonal contraceptives prevent the eggs from releasing. So, even if the male partner does not use a condom, the sperm will not have an egg to meet and fertilise. Hence, there will be no pregnancy despite unprotected sex.

Hormonal contraception also thins the uterine lining. The uterine lining usually thickens during ovulation and supports the egg's implantation in case of successful fertilisation. With a thin uterine lining, implantation is unlikely to happen, thus preventing pregnancy.

These contraceptives also thicken cervical mucus, which usually becomes thin and slippery during a woman's fertile period. Thin and slippery mucus aids in the easier movement of the sperm, while thick mucus hinders this movement.

Which Hormone Can be Used as an Oral Contraceptive?

Hormonal contraceptives are made using a combination of two hormones – progestin and estrogen or just progestin. Progestin is the synthetic form of the progesterone hormone, which mimics the effects of progesterone on the human body. Every human body produces progesterone – a reproductive hormone.

If the woman's body is not making sufficient progesterone, taking progestin pills can help in maintaining pregnancy. However, when progestin is used as a contraceptive, it suppresses ovulation, changes the cervical mucus and prevents pregnancy.

Types of Hormonal Contraceptives

Hormonal contraceptives come in various forms. Various contraceptives can be used in different ways. The different types of hormonal contraceptives you can choose from for your birth control needs are:

  1. Birth Control Pill This is the most commonly used hormonal contraceptive in many countries. Sometimes, it is called just "the pill". These pills come in 2 variants – a combination pill (progesterone + estrogen) or progestin-only pills that contain only progestin (a human-made synthetic form of progesterone hormone). These pills are very effective but work only if you take them every day.
  1. Vaginal Ring – This is a small flexible ring inserted into your vagina. You should wear it for three consecutive weeks and remove it for one week during the month. The ring will release estrogen and progestin hormones through the vaginal lining, which in turn will help prevent pregnancy.
  1. Contraceptive Skin Patch The skin patch is stuck on the woman's body and releases progestin and estrogen hormones into the bloodstream to prevent pregnancy. It is usually worn on the lower abdomen or the buttocks but can be worn on the upper body, too (not the breasts). This patch works for just one week, meaning you need to use a fresh patch every week for three consecutive weeks. The fourth week, when it is time for menstruation, you can give it a break.
  1. Implant – In this method, a thin rod containing progestin is inserted under the skin of the woman's upper arm. The rod releases progestin into the bloodstream for 3 years and has a failure rate of just 0.1%.
  1. Injection – Hormonal shots are given in the buttocks or the upper arm once every three months. You have to go to your gynaecologist to get this injection once in three months.

Advantages of Hormonal Contraceptives

If you are wondering why upset the hormonal balance of the body and take contraceptives internally when you can use a condom as and when required? Here are some advantages of using hormonal methods of contraception:

  • They are a very reliable form of birth control for women.
  • They can relieve period pain or lead to lighter periods (lesser bleeding).
  • The extra hormones in the pills can help tackle skin issues and also improve skin quality.
  • The woman has full control over the contraceptives and need not depend on her male partner.
  • It removes the risk of a faulty condom.
  • It does not interfere with the spontaneity of your plans.
  • Helps with various issues related to the female reproductive system.

Disadvantage of Hormonal Contraception

Hormonal contraceptives can be a very reliable method to prevent unwanted pregnancies. However, even they have their limitations. Some disadvantages of hormonal contraception are:

  • They cannot protect you from sexually transmitted diseases or infections.
  • You need a prescription from a doctor to get most of these contraceptives from the pharmacy.
  • Forgetting to take the pill for just a day can also lead to accidents or unexpected pregnancies.
  • Abnormal menstruation – Spotting between periods.
  • Other medications like antibiotics, blood pressure medicine, or even some herbal products can interfere with these hormonal contraceptives, thereby reducing their effectiveness.
  • Vomiting soon after taking the pill or suffering from loose stools due to an upset stomach can reduce the effectiveness of the pill.
  • In some cases, it can cause nausea, headaches, or mood swings.
  • The increase in hormones can make your breasts feel tender.

Also Read : Contraception Conundrums: The Side Effects of Birth Control Pills


If you are sexually active, don't want to carry condoms with you, or rely on your male partner for protection, hormonal contraceptives can be a wise decision. Hormonal methods of contraception can be very effective in preventing pregnancy and offer other benefits, too. Ensure you discuss this with your doctor before you decide on any hormonal contraception.


1. How do hormonal contraceptives work?

Hormonal contraception works by suppressing ovulation and preventing the ovaries from releasing the egg. They make the cervical mucus thicker to make it difficult for the sperm to travel and make the uterine wall thinner, thus preventing implantation.

2. How long does hormonal contraception take to work?

Most of them are effective a week after you start taking them. If you are on the pills, you need to take them every single day. If you miss taking the pill even for a day, you are at risk of getting pregnant as the ovaries might release the egg.

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