Choosing a method of contraception is a decision that every woman must make depending on her lifestyle, the advantages and disadvantages of each method, the recommendations of healthcare professionals and on factors such as age, frequency of sexual activity and any health conditions the patient may have.
Women currently have many options, all of which require the responsibility and commitment of experiencing the hormonal changes this form of contraception causes in order for it to be effective. The following is some basic information on the most common forms of hormonal contraception.
Pills: Pills contain the hormones estrogen and progesterone, which prevent the ovaries from releasing eggs. According to the World Health Organization (OMS), this method is 99% effective if it is used correctly and consistently, meaning that it is taken every day at the same time. The pill regulates the menstrual cycle, makes it less painful and causing less bleeding. In some cases, it can reduce acne and the risk of endometrial and ovarian cancer. Women that use the pill are recommended to avoid smoking because this can increase their risk of circulatory disorders.
Injection: There are several types of contraceptive injectables. Some are administered once a month and others, once every three months. This method makes cervical mucus thicker, which prevents sperm from reaching the egg and prevents ovulation. Its main disadvantage is that its effects remain until it has been eliminated from the body, which takes between one to four months after it is last applied. It is also common for irregular vaginal bleeding to occur with this form of contraceptive.
Hormone implants: These are small, flexible rods or capsules that are placed under the skin of the upper arm and that only contain progestogen. Only a trained doctor may insert and extract these devices. This implant provides contraception for between 3 to 5 years and is recommended for women that are intolerant to estrogen or that have never been pregnant. The advantages of these implants are that it reduces menstrual pain and that there is no risk of forgetting to use it. It is common, however, for it to cause irregular vaginal bleeding.
Contraceptive patch: Contains the same hormones as the pill and is equally effective (99%) if it is used as indicated, meaning it should be changed every three weeks and not used during the last week of one’s cycle. If the patch is not changed on the right day, there is a 48-hour grace period where it is not necessary to take any additional contraceptives. WHO states that the patch is a new method and studies on its efficiency are limited. Some studies have shown, however, that it can be more efficient than oral contraceptives when combined with a vaginal ring.
Vaginal ring: This is a flexible ring that is inserted similar to a tampon. It should be applied the first day of the woman’s cycle, remain for three weeks and removed for one week during the woman’s period. A new ring should then be used. According to WHO, this method does not cause discomfort because it adapts easily to any vagina, has few adverse effects and is highly effective.