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Hormonal Methods of Birth Control

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Introduction to birth control

If a woman is sexually active and she is fertile, meaning that she is physically able to become pregnant, she needs to ask herself, "Do I want to become pregnant now?" If her answer is "No," she must use some method of birth control (contraception).

Terminology for "birth control" includes contraception, pregnancy prevention, fertility control, and family planning. But no matter what the terminology, sexually active people can choose from a variety of methods to reduce the possibility of their becoming pregnant. Nevertheless, no method of birth control available today offers perfect protection against sexually transmitted infections (sexually transmitted diseases, or STDs), except abstinence.

In simple terms, all methods of birth control are based on either preventing a man's sperm from reaching and entering a woman's egg (fertilization) or preventing the fertilized egg from implanting in the woman's uterus (her womb) and starting to grow. New methods of birth control are being developed and tested. And what is appropriate for a couple at one point may change with time and circumstances.

Unfortunately, no birth-control method, except abstinence, is considered to be 100% effective.

Types of hormonal methods of contraception

There are several different hormonal methods of birth control. The differences among them involve

  • the type of hormone,
  • the amount of hormone, and
  • the way the hormone enters a woman's body.

The hormones can be estrogen and/or progesterone, or preparations that contain a combination of these hormones. These hormones may be taken orally (taken by mouth), implanted into body tissue, injected under the skin, absorbed from a patch on the skin, or placed in the vagina. The mode of delivery determines whether the hormonal exposure is continuous or intermittent.


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