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How hormonal contraception works?

Snr By Shruti , Onlymyhealth editorial team / Dec 23, 2016
How hormonal contraception works?

Hormonal contraception is an effective form of birth control that alters hormone release in the body and thereby, prevents fertilisation keeping pregnancy at bay.

Birth control is one of the most important issues that must be addressed, looking at the population explosion. There are a number of options available in the market that can be used to avoid unplanned pregnancies. Both men and women can use opt to prevent pregnancies. The mechanism of preventing pregnancies in women involves ingestion of synthetic hormones.


hormonal contraceptive


These hormonal contraceptives can be used / taken in a variety of ways. One must understand that hormonal contraceptives work by altering the hormone release in the body which prevents fertilization and hence pregnancy.



How hormonal contraceptives work:

The hormonal pills for women are of two types: combined hormones and single hormone. The combined type of contraceptives is an amalgamation of estrogen and progestin (synthetic form of progesterone) hormones while the single type of contraceptives are made up of only progesterone.


[Read: How Hormones affect Women?]


Progesterone and estrogen both are the female sex hormones that are responsible for the monthly menses and play a vital role at the onset of and during pregnancy.
All the hormonal contraceptives work by suppressing ovulation or decreasing the frequency of ovulation which reduces the chances of fertilisation.

I.    The combined contraceptives: In the combined type hormonal contraceptives: Estrogen hormone sends negative feedback to pituitary gland which initiates a complex cycle ultimately resulting in delay  or suppression of ovulation. This delay in ovulation prevents pregnancy. This is the primary mechanism. In the secondary mechanism, progesterone works by reducing the amount and increasing the viscosity of cervical mucus. This does not allow the sperms to reach the fallopian tubes (region where fertilisation takes place).

These are available in various forms - patch, pills, NuvaRing and injectables,. which are either to be consumed or used physically. However, all are recommended to be changed every week (except pill). And it is advised to take a week long break after every 21 days. 


[Read: How does Hormonal Contraception Work?]


II.    Single / Progesterone only contraceptives: Single type hormonal contraceptives also work in similar fashion. Progesterone sends signals to the pituitary gland to initialise the complex process of monthly menses. The only difference being they inhibit ovulation. Higher doses inhibit ovulation while the lesser doses increase the viscosity of the cervical mucus making it very difficult for the sperms to reach egg to fertilise.

It is also observed that in cases if fertilisation does occur, then these contraceptives prevent pregnancy by thinning the line of the endometrium which makes it difficult for the blastocyst (initial product of fertilisation) to implant itself on the walls of endometrium.

These too are available in various forms – pills, hormonal intra uterine contraceptives, and patches.Unlike combined type, these can be used for longer durations without changing or taking intermediate breaks.

Thus, the various hormonal contraceptives for women work at suppressing / inhibiting ovulation. These can be taken in various forms and their effects are reversible, that is, on discontinuation of their use, women can opt for becoming pregnant!


Image: Getty

Read more on Contraception.

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