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Birth Control Hormonal Methods (cont.)

Progestin-Only Birth Control Pills

Progestin-only pills, also known as the mini-pill, are not used widely in the United States. Fewer than 1% of users of oral contraceptives use them as their only method of birth control. Those who use them include women who are breastfeeding and women who cannot take estrogen.

Birth Control Patch

Also available in the United States is a transdermal patch (worn on the skin) that releases estrogen and progesterone directly into the skin (brand name, Ortho Evra). Each patch contains a one-week supply of hormones. It releases a low daily dose equivalent to the lowest-dose oral contraceptive. The birth control patch is easy for women to use because it works for a week, and women do not have to remember a pill every day. A new patch is applied every week for three weeks, and a patch is not worn during the fourth week when you have a menstrual period. It is available by prescription.

Side effects for the birth control patch are similar to those experienced by women using oral contraceptives. However, the patch may cause skin irritation where it is placed (near the bikini line, on the buttocks, or upper body). Sometimes, it may come off and not be noticed, for example, in the shower, and it will become less efficient. In August 2002, the FDA listed a failure rate for the patch of one pregnancy per 100 women per year, similar to that of other combination methods. It may be less effective for women who weigh more than 198 pounds. The patch does not protect against STDs.

Vaginal Ring

The vaginal ring (NuvaRing) is a newer form of birth control. The actual design of a vaginal ring as birth control was first developed in the 1970s. The vaginal rings can deliver progesterone or progesterone/estrogen combinations. The hormones are released slowly and absorbed directly by the reproductive organs. Preliminary studies show that, like birth control pills, they safely prevent pregnancy with few side effects. These would be used in the same schedule as birth control pills, with three weeks of ring usage and one week without to produce a menstrual period. If the ring comes out on its own and remains out for more than three hours, you must use another form of birth control until the ring has been back in place for at least seven days. It is available by prescription. The vaginal ring does not prevent STDs.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/5/2014
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