Hormone Contraception

How It Works

Birth control hormones in pills, skin patches, or vaginal rings camera.gif give you a regular dose of estrogen and progestin. This controls your body’s menstrual cycles and prevents pregnancy. It also helps relieve heavy menstrual bleeding, pain, and sometimes premenstrual mood problems and bloating.

In the perimenopausal years before menopause, hormone levels go up and down a lot. Using birth control hormones may help relieve some of the symptoms women have in the years before menopause.

Birth control pills

Birth control pills, also called oral contraceptives, come in packs. The most common type has 3 weeks of hormone pills. Some packs have pills without hormones (sugar pills) for the fourth week, and some do not. During that fourth no-hormone week, you have your menstrual period. After the fourth week (28 days), you start a new pack.

For some kinds of pills, such as Seasonique and Seasonale, you take 12 weeks of hormone pills followed by 1 week of low-estrogen or no-hormone pills. On this schedule, you have four periods a year. If your doctor prescribes an unlabeled use for other birth control pills, you can also have four periods a year. You take the active hormone pills continuously for 12 weeks, followed by 1 week of sugar pills. You then start a new pack of pills. If you have breakthrough bleeding during the 3 months, your doctor will prescribe extra estrogen.

Another kind of pill, such as Lybrel, comes in 4-week packs of hormone pills, which you take every day of the year. On this schedule, you have no periods.

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