Birth Control: Pros and Cons of Hormonal Methods

Board Certified Obstetrician & Gynecologist located in North Reading, MA

Birth Control: Pros and Cons of Hormonal Methods

Birth Control: Pros and Cons of Hormonal Methods

You have many options when it comes to birth control — sperm barriers, implantable devices, timing and luck, permanent surgical solutions. Hormonal contraception is a tried-and-true method used by millions. Here’s what you need to know about it.

Until you’re ready to have a baby, you need to do something to prevent pregnancy. Unless you’re abstinent, every act of sexual intercourse comes with the possibility of pregnancy, even if you use a contraceptive, but most methods are highly effective.

As part of our comprehensive services, we offer birth control options at Nova Women’s Health. Dr. Anju Nayar and our dedicated OB/GYN team partner with women throughout North Reading, Massachusetts, focusing on every aspect of reproductive wellness. 

One of the questions we often hear is: Are hormonal birth control methods safe? Here, we’ve compiled a list of hormonal contraception pros and cons to give you a better understanding of how they work and affect your health. 

Types of hormonal birth control methods

Several of the most popular contraceptive methods use hormones to prevent pregnancy. Here’s a look at the various types.

Combination pill

The combination pill contains estrogen and progestin. You take the pill orally once daily, and it’s 99% effective when taken correctly. 

The levels of hormones in the pill vary, but it’s generally a low-dose medication, and Dr. Nayar customizes your dosage based on your needs. Some side effects are headaches, weight gain, or mood changes; however, you may have no side effects. 

Progestin-only pill

You also take the progestin-only pill, also known as the mini-pill, orally once daily. It prevents pregnancy by thickening the mucus in your cervix and the lining in your uterus, but it only stops ovulation in one out of four women

Still, it’s considered 99% effective. The progestin-only pill has low levels of hormones, and it may be best for you if you can’t take estrogen-based pills. Side effects may include irregular periods or spotting. 

The patch

You apply the contraceptive patch to your skin once a week for three weeks, followed by one week off. It contains estrogen and progestin and is 99% effective when used correctly, although studies show that real-life use results in a 94% efficacy rate

The patch is convenient because you don’t need to take it daily. Side effects may include skin irritation or mood changes. 

Vaginal ring

You place the vaginal ring in your vagina for three weeks, followed by one week off. It contains estrogen and progestin and is 91%-99% effective when used correctly. Side effects may include vaginal irritation or mood changes. 

Intrauterine device (IUD)

The hormonal IUD is a T-shaped device that we place in your uterus. There are two types of hormonal IUDs: Mirena® and Skyla®

Mirena releases progestin that can last up to five years, while Skyla releases a lower dose of progestin that can last up to three years. Hormonal IUDs are 99% effective and may be a good option for women who want long-term birth control. Side effects may include irregular periods or cramping after insertion. 

The pros and cons of hormonal birth control

Hormonal birth control works by stopping ovulation, thickening cervical mucus to prevent sperm from reaching an egg, and thinning the uterus lining to prevent implantation. Each type has its pros and cons, and the choice ultimately depends on your needs and preferences.

Hormonal birth control pros

One of the main benefits is its high level of effectiveness. When used correctly, hormonal birth control has a failure rate of less than 1%, making it one of the most reliable forms of contraception available.

Hormonal birth control also has other benefits, including:

  • Regulating menstrual cycles
  • Reducing menstrual cramps and bleeding
  • Improving acne 

Certain types of hormonal birth control, such as the combination pill, can also reduce your risk of ovarian and endometrial cancer.

Hormonal birth control cons

Hormonal birth control also has its disadvantages. Some of the most common side effects are:

  • Irregular bleeding or spotting, especially during the first few months of use 
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Breast tenderness
  • Vaginal yeast infections
  • Mood changes
  • Decreased sex drive
  • Risk of blood clots in women over 40

Long-term use of hormonal birth control may also increase the risk of certain health conditions, such as blood clots, stroke, and breast cancer. However, the overall risk of these conditions is still relatively low for most women using hormonal birth control.

Not all hormonal birth control options are suitable for everyone. Women with a history of blood clots or certain medical conditions may not be able to use it safely. Hormonal birth control may also interact with other medications or medical conditions, so be sure to discuss any potential risks or warnings with Dr. Nayar before selecting a method.

It's crucial to have an honest conversation with Dr. Nayar to determine the best option for you. For example, you may prefer the combination pill if you want to regulate your menstrual cycles and reduce acne; the hormonal IUD may be a better choice if you want long-term birth control that doesn't require daily maintenance.

Call Nova Women’s Health or book online to schedule an appointment with Dr. Nayar and discover which hormonal birth control method is right for you.