What are the hormonal methods of contraception? Written by Dr Lynelle

In my 1st blog post (Contraception 101) post we covered methods of contraceptives that don’t involve medical interventions subtitles for Monster's Eye. In my 2nd blog post (Contraceptives Which Prevent Pregnancy and STDs: Written by Dr Lynelle), we looked at barrier methods which prevent pregnancy and STDs.

Here, we take a look at hormonal methods of contraceptives.

1. Implants: This is a tiny device that’s implanted just under the skin, usually in the upper arm. You can see it and feel it if you’re looking for it, and it contains a synthetic progesterone that is released slowly, preventing ovulation and endometrial growth. It’s very effective (the equivalent of a surgical sterilisation) and provides contraception for 3-5 years depending on the device used. Once the implant is removed, fertility is restored immediately. With the implant, a woman usually has no periods, or very light periods. Implants are available in South Africa, but they are fairly new to the country, so speak to your doctor to find out if it’s a suitable option for you.

2. IUD’s: These are small T-shaped devices that are inserted into the uterus by your doctor. Two types are currently available in South Africa. The Mirena releases small amounts of hormones which thin the endometrial lining and makes the uterine environment unsuitable for sperm. The Nova-T is a copper IUD that doesn’t release hormones, but copper is toxic to sperm. Both of these are very effective in preventing pregnancy (on a par with sterilisation) and once inserted can last for up to 5 years. The major advantage here is that you don’t have to remember to take a tablet daily.

Read  The bad advice you need to question

3. Combined Oral Contraceptive Pills: There are a number of different types of the combined pill and they all contain progesterones and oestrogens. You need to remember to take a tablet every day, and there are 5-7 days of placebo pills during each cycle where you’ll l have your period. Combined oral contraceptives have many advantages if they’re used correctly: they’re very effective at preventing pregnancy, they help control symptoms of PMS, they reduce hormonal acne and they can make your periods much lighter.

4. Injectable Progesterone: Petogen (3 month injection) and Nur-isterate (2 month injection) are the 2 available injectable contraceptives in South Africa. They are very successful in preventing pregnancy, and easy to use as you only need to remember to have it every 2 or 3 months. Disadvantages include irregular/unpredictable bleeding patterns.

5. Progesterone only Pill: Also called the Mini Pill, this contains only progesterone which is great for while you are breastfeeding or if you have other factors preventing you from taking oestrogen. It’s effective, but only if you take it at the same time each day. There’s a small margin for error here, so this is often only used post-partum until you stop breastfeeding, at which stage you can change to a more suitable contraceptive.

Again, none of the above methods protect against STD’s so it is essential to still use a condom.

Find out more next in the fourth and final blog post: Surgical Methods of Contraceptives.