The Vaginal Ring Hormonal Contraceptive

The vaginal ring is a small, round, flexible, plastic device that is inserted inside your vagina to help prevent pregnancy. It has hormones estrogen and progestin in their synthetic forms. Just like the patch, it releases hormones directly into your bloodstream once put in your vagina to actively stop pregnancy. The vaginal ring is a prescription only contraceptive and therefore you cannot obtain it over the counter. When the vaginal ring is used correctly, it is 99% effective.

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How does the vaginal ring work?

Like most contraceptives, the vaginal ring works by,

  • thickening your cervical mucus to prevent sperm from entering to fertilize an egg.
  • preventing ovulation.
  • making your uterine lining thin avoiding any implantation of a fertilized egg.

The hormones are released into your bloodstream directly to prevent pregnancy. The vaginal ring is used continuously for three weeks and on the fourth week, you stay without a ring so as to allow for period bleeding, otherwise known as breakthrough bleeding. Sometimes, you may not bleed but spot instead and that is normal. After the free-ring week, you will resume using the vaginal ring.

How do I put on the vaginal ring?

To put on the vaginal ring, you can follow the following steps.

  • Clean your hands with soap and water.
  • Gently remove the ring from the packet it comes with. You can save the packet for use later on in your cycle.
  • Find a comfortable position such as lying on your back, lifting up one leg, or squatting.
  • Use one hand to open up the vulva.
  • With the other hand, press the ring from its sides till it is narrow then gently slide it into your vagina. You can also use an applicator to insert the ring.
  • Before moving from your position, feel if the the vaginal ring feels comfortable. If not, adjust it till you are comfortable with its placement.
  • Wash your hands afterwards with soap and water.

NOTE: The position of the vaginal ring inside your vagina does not affect the effectiveness of the ring.

You can still put the ring on if you are still on your periods. You also need to keep the removing and inserting days consistent.

How do I remove the vaginal ring?

To remove the ring from your vagina, follow the following steps.

  • Clean your hands with soap and water.
  • Position yourself comfortably. This can be lying on your back, squatting, or lifting one leg up.
  • Gently insert two of your fingers till you can feel your vaginal ring.
  • Hook the end of the ring to your index finger, then use your middle finger to press either side of the ring together.
  • Gently pull off the vaginal ring from your vagina.
  • Wrap with a piece of tissue or the packet it came with.
  • Dispose of it in a dustbin.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water.

What do I do if the vaginal ring comes off on its own?

If by chance, the vaginal ring comes out accidentally, rinse it with cold or warm water then gently insert it back into your vagina. The ring will still be effective if it has been off between 2 or 3 hours. If the ring has been off for more than 3 hours, you can still reinsert it, but use additional forms of protection for the next seven days.

If the vaginal ring happens to come off by its own during the third week of your cycle, you can switch to a new one or you can stay without a ring for one week then resume usage after that one week. This will allow for breakthrough bleeding or spotting.

The vaginal ring may come out when,

  • you are having sex, or after sex.
  • you are removing a tampon.
  • you are having bowel movement.

Benefits of the vaginal ring

Some of the benefits that come along with the vaginal ring are:

  • It is easy to use.
  • It has fewer side effects since it removes small amounts of hormones compared to other hormonal contraceptives.
  • It is very effective.
  • It does not require a personalized fitting.
  • It can be removed at any time of your cycle.
  • It is safe for women with latex allergies.
  • It does not lead to weight gain.
  • It helps manage Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS).
  • It makes your periods shorter and lighter.

Disadvantages of the vaginal ring

Some of the disadvantages of the vaginal ring are:

  • It does not protect against Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs).
  • It may lead to vaginal irritation or infections.
  • One may experience spotting or bleeding within the first few months of usage.
  • You may be uncomfortable with inserting and removing the ring.
  • It may take a while before your normal fertility cycle resumes.
  • It can be affected with usage of certain medication.

Side effects of the vaginal ring

Some of the side effects associated with the vaginal ring are:

  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Breast tenderness
  • Breakthrough bleeding or spotting
  • Depression
  • Decreased sex drive
  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Increased vaginal discharge

Conclusion

Before using any contraceptive, ensure you have consulted and discussed with your doctor.

The Patch Hormonal Contraceptive

One of the simplest contraceptives to use, the patch also known as a trans-dermal contraceptive is a hormonal contraceptive that is placed on the skin on a weekly basis to prevent pregnancy. It has the hormones estrogen and progestin that make it work effectively. When the patch is used correctly, it is 99% effective to prevent pregnancy and helps manage other symptoms during your cycle.

Photo by Reproductive Health Supplies Coalition on Unsplash

How does the patch work?

The patch has hormones estrogen and progestin that get absorbed into your bloodstream through the skin. Once absorbed, these hormones help prevent pregnancy by either:

  • thickening your cervical mucus. This in return reduces the chances of sperm swimming to fertilize any egg.
  • stopping ovulation. This way no egg for any sperm to fertilize.
  • making the uterus wall thin, unfavorable for any egg implantation.

Where is the patch put?

Just as the name suggests, the patch is put on your skin. You can either put it on the skin on your upper arm, lower belly, butt, or on your back. As you put the patch onto your skin, ensure that the skin surface is clean, dry, and not hairy. Avoid placing the patch on irritated skin, sore skin, on your breasts, or a surface that is often rubbed by the clothes you wear. It is also wise to keep varying the skin surfaces you place the patch on so as to avoid skin irritation. Avoid applying any lotions or petroleum jelly on surfaces that have the patch on so as to not irritate your skin.

How long should I have a patch on?

The patch should be changed on a weekly basis. That means, you wear it for seven days and on the eighth day you change into a new patch. The patch is also worn for three weeks in a month. The fourth week of your cycle, you are required to stay without a patch so as to allow your periods to come.

How do I put the patch on?

Putting the patch on has very easy steps. To put it on:

  • Ensure the spot you are putting on the patch is clean, dry and not irritated.
  • Open the patch pouch gently.
  • Pull the patch out. Normally it has a plastic wrap around it.
  • Peel off the plastic layer from the sticky side of the patch. Ensure not to tamper with the sticky side in the process.
  • While holding the other side that still has the plastic layer on, place the patch onto the skin surface of your choice.
  • Once placed on the skin, peel off the other plastic layer and press on the patch for 5-10 seconds on the skin to ensure it is stuck properly.

And there you have it, the patch is well placed on your skin ready to work its magic.

How do I remove the patch?

Once the patch has completed one week, you will have to change into a new one. To remove the patch,

  • Gently peel off the patch from your skin.
  • Fold the old patch into half ensuring it sticks together.
  • Wrap it with a piece of tissue or plastic bag.
  • Dispose of it into your dustbin.

What are the benefits of using the patch?

The patch has its own set of benefits. They are inclusive of:

  • uninterrupted sex.
  • it is very easy to use.
  • it is absorbed directly into the bloodstream, therefore if you vomit or have a running stomach it is still effective.
  • can be removed at any time during your cycle.
  • it does not require daily reminding like the pill.
  • it helps manage premenstrual syndrome symptoms.
  • it helps make your periods less painful, lighter, and regular.
  • it reduces the chances of getting ovarian, uterus, and bowel cancers.
  • reduces the chances of you getting anemia.

What are downsides of the patch?

The patch also has its own set of disadvantages upon usage. They are inclusive of:

  • no protection against any Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD).
  • it can cause skin irritation or soreness.
  • it may be seen.
  • if you are heavy, weigh more than 198 pounds, the patch may be less effective to you.
  • if you smoke, the patch will not be effective.
  • if you have epilepsy, had any cancer, or can easily get blood clots, using the patch adds more complications related to the mentioned problems.

What do I do if I forget to put on my patch after the patch-free week?

As soon as you remember to put on the patch, put in on. The only downside is that your new start date of the week will have changed. If by chance you have stayed for more than 24 hours without the patch, there is a likely hood for you to get pregnant, therefore as you put it on, complement the patch using other protection methods.

Conclusion

For you to get the most suitable contraceptive for you, ensure that you visit your doctor for consultation and further medical advice.

Birth Control Pills:Overview, Benefits, Downsides, Risks

In this day and age, there are many contraceptives you can use to prevent pregnancy and birth control pills are one of them. Birth control pills are also known as oral contraceptives as they are administered through the mouth. They are highly recommended to every sexually active female. There are a variety of birth control pills that you can choose from dependent on the hormones present in them. They are combination pills and progestin only pills.

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Combination pills are contraceptives that have both synthetic forms of the hormones estrogen and progesterone equally. The synthetic name of progesterone hormone is progestin. There are several types of combination pills and they are:

  • Monophasic pills: they are administered throughout a month of every cycle and contain equal amounts of progestin and estrogen. Some doses have 21 day pills that contain active hormones and others have 28 day pills with the last seven pills being inactive giving room for your period.
  • Multiphasic pills: they are also administered throughout a month of every cycle. With every passing day of taking the dose, the level of hormones in the doses keep reducing mimicking how your body produces hormones in its cycle. During the last days of your cycle, you will take inactive tablets from your dosage allowing your body to experience its periods.
  • Extended-cycle pills: they are used in 13 week cycles. For the first 12 weeks, you take active hormones and on the 13th week you take inactive hormones. Usage of extended-cycle pills will make you experience your periods 3 to 4 times annually.

Progestin only pills are also known as mini pills. As the name suggests, they just contain the hormone progestin. These are suitable for any woman who cannot take estrogen for any reason. Progestin only pills may or may not lead to you having your periods since all the pills contain active progestin hormone.

How birth control pills work

Combination pills mainly work by preventing ovulation whereas progestin only pills mainly work by altering your cervical mucus by making it very thick to prevent sperms from swimming in to fertilize the egg and by making your uterine wall thin preventing implantation of a fertilized egg.

All in all, all of them affect your cervical mucus, your uterine wall, and your ovulation patterns. Birth control pills are very effective if used as advised by your doctor. The combination pills are more flexible compared to the progestin only pills. Progestin only pills should be taken at the same time everyday strictly.

There are certain medications that can however affect the effectiveness of birth control pills in your system. These medication are:

  • Rifampin (an antibiotic)
  • St. John’s wort
  • Certain HIV medication such as lopinavir and saquinavir
  • Certain antiseizure medication such as carbamazepine and topiramate

Birth control pills can also be less effective in your body if you have stomach problems that lead to diarrhea or vomiting.

NOTE: As you consult your doctor on birth control methods, ensure to have mentioned any underlying medical condition or medication present.

Benefits of birth control pills

The benefits that come along with using birth control pills are:

  • continuous and effective protection from pregnancy
  • regulation of your periods especially if you have heavy or irregular periods
  • you can stop them at any time and your cycle will return back to normal
  • help in managing acne or pimples
  • help with menstruation symptoms
  • reducing your chances of getting ovarian cancer, ectopic pregnancy, anemia, endometriosis
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Downsides of birth control pills

Some of the downsides of birth control pills are:

  • if you miss a pill you risk getting a pregnancy
  • they do not protect against Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs)

Side effects of birth control pills

The side effects that come along with birth control pills vary from woman to woman but resolve by themselves within the first 2-3 months of usage. The side effects occur due to the changes your body will be going through due to the hormones and the effects they bring about. Some of the side effects associated with birth control pills are:

  • Spotting in between your cycle, otherwise known as breakthrough bleeding.
  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Reduced sex drive
  • Weight gain
  • Breast tenderness
  • Mood swings
  • Missed or delayed periods
  • Changes in vaginal discharge, it can increase or decrease

If the side effects do not go on their own, you should visit your doctor for consultation and diagnosis.

Risks associated with birth control pills

Birth control pills may lead to the formation of blood clots in the body. The formation of blood clots could lead to conditions such as heart attack, stroke, thrombosis, or pulmonary embolism. However, scientists say that there is only a 10% chance of you developing blood clots due to the use of birth control pills.

Conclusion

There are a variety of birth control pills for you to choose from, however you should do this under the guidance of your doctor. Do not fear to ask any questions you or raise any concerns you may have a long the process.

Hormonal Contraceptives: Types, Advantages, and Disadvantages

Hormonal contraceptives are birth control methods. Hormonal contraceptives contain estrogen and progesterone or just progesterone hormones in their synthetic form. These forms of birth control work to prevent pregnancy by delaying the release of the ovum (egg), thin the layers of the uterus making the environment unfriendly for the egg to attach itself, and by thickening the cervical mucus to reduce the chances of the sperm reaching the ovum in the oviduct (fallopian tube) for fertilization. Prevention of pregnancy is not a 100 percent guarantee though.

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There are many forms of hormonal contraceptives that are being developed and tested by scientists and each is taken differently. Hormonal contraceptives can be taken by mouth, injections, patches on the skin, or by inserting into the woman’s reproductive system or under the skin. The method in which the contraceptive is taken determines whether it will be a continuous dose or a one time thing.

Some of the hormonal contraceptives are:

1. Birth control pills

There are two types of birth control pills: estrogen and progestin pills and progestin only pills. The estrogen and progestin pills are referred to as combination pills whereas the latter are often referred to as mini pills.

Combination pills

There are three categories of combination pills that you can choose from. They are:

  • Monophasic pills: These pills are taken monthly and each pill gives you an equal dose of estrogen and progestin hormones. They come in 21 or 28 days of active hormones. The 21 day pills are taken for the 21 days then you can take a one week break from them giving your periods an opportunity to flow. The 28 day pills have active hormones in 21 pills and then the remaining seven pills have no hormones. This also allows your periods to flow. Monophasic pills are the most common type of pills prescribed to women.
  • Multiphasic pills: These pills are also taken monthly however they have different levels of estrogen and progestin hormones. They are designed to mimic the normal production of hormones your body does during your cycle. Therefore, the level of estrogen or progestin in the pills reduces each passing day. During the last week of your cycle, you take pills that are inactive to allow your periods to flow.
  • The extended pill: These pills are taken in 13 week cycles. This means that you will take pills with active hormones for 12 weeks and then on the 13th week you take inactive pills allowing you to get your periods. The usage of these pills will make you have your periods three or four times in a year.

Combination pills prevent pregnancy by:

  • mainly stopping the eggs from being produced by the ovaries monthly.
  • making the mucus in your cervix very thick to prevent the sperm from entering to fertilize the ovum (egg).
  • making the uterine wall very thin to prevent implantation of a fertilized egg.

The combination pills are the most effective hormonal contraceptives when taken as prescribed by your doctor.

The mini pill

As mentioned earlier, the mini pill contains progestin hormone only hence its other name, progestin only pill. The amount of progestin hormone in a mini pill is lower compared to that present in a combination pill and as a result will have fewer side effects compared to the combination pill.

The mini pills works to prevent pregnancy by:

  • making the cervical mucus thick to prevent sperm from entering to fertilize an egg.
  • making the uterine wall thin, unfavorable for egg implantation.
  • preventing ovulation from happening. The mini pill is not as effective in doing this as the combination pill.

NOTE: The mini pill is not as effective as the combination pill to prevent pregnancies.

2. The patch

This contraceptive contains hormones estrogen and progestin just like the combination pill. It is placed on the skin and the hormones are released into the bloodstream. The patch works similar to the combination pill to prevent pregnancy. It is worn for seven days and on the 8th day you change to a new patch. This is done every three weeks and on the fourth week you stay patch free to allow your periods to flow.

3. The vaginal ring

The vaginal ring is a small is a small soft plastic ring that one places inside their vagina. It has both estrogen and progestin hormones. The vaginal ring releases these hormones into your blood stream to help prevent pregnancy. It works the same way as the combination pill and if used correctly it is 99% effective.

4. The implant

The implant is a small plastic rod that is placed under your arm’s skin. It only has the hormone progesterone and is released into your bloodstream once placed under your arm. The implant is effective for three years and after that you can have a replacement done. You can have the implant placed at any time in your monthly cycle and it will still be effective. The implant however has the possibility of stopping your periods for the period you will be having it on.It mainly works by preventing ovulation from occurring but can also thicken cervical mucus and thin the lining of the uterus.

5. The Intrauterine Device (IUD)

The Intrauterine Device (IUD) is a small T-shaped device made of copper and plastic. The IUD is T-shaped just like the female reproductive system. Once put in, the IUD works by releasing copper to prevent you from getting pregnant. This is in contrast to the Intrauterine System (IUS) which has the hormone progesterone to prevent pregnancy. The copper released by the IUD changes the cervical mucus making it very difficult for sperms to pass through it. It also prevents implantation of any fertilized eggs on the uterine wall. The IUD can be put at any time of your cycle and starts working immediately.

6. The shot

The shot birth control contains the hormone progesterone. There are three types and are effective for 8-13 weeks, depending on the shot you have taken. It works similarly to a combination pill and can be administered at any time of your menstrual cycle. The shot is very effective if you follow your doctor’s advice.

Advantages of hormonal contraceptives

Hormonal contraceptives offer a wide range of advantages to any of its users, other than preventing pregnancy. Such advantages are:

  • lessening the pain women experience during their periods. Hormonal contraceptives prevent ovulation from occurring. As a result, your uterus will not have any contractions occur as they would if you were ovulating. Additionally, hormonal contraceptives give pain relief from cramps when used.
  • balancing hormones that would otherwise fluctuate during your cycle that may lead to irregular bleeding, excessive bleeding, and acne.
  • reducing chances of one getting ovarian cysts, and uterine cancer.
  • lowering the chances of one being anemic. This is specifically for hormonal contraceptives that allow you to miss your periods.
  • relieving symptoms of Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) and Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD).
  • managing endometriosis. This is specifically for hormonal contraceptives that allow you to miss your periods.

Disadvantages of hormonal contraceptives

Just like any other product in the world, these too have their own disadvantages. They are inclusive of:

  • Headaches
  • Sore breasts
  • Nausea
  • Vaginal yeast infections
  • Can lower a woman’s sexual desire
  • Mood swings
  • Risk of getting blood clots (thrombosis)

Conclusion

Hormonal contraceptives can be used by anyone as long as they consult their doctor first and are okay with the changes hormonal contraceptives come with.