Hormonal Methods of Contraception: Contraceptive Patch, Ring, and Implants

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  • 0:02 Contraception
  • 0:54 Contraceptive Skin Patch
  • 3:55 Vaginal Ring
  • 5:40 Contraceptive Implants
  • 7:46 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Heather Adewale

Heather has taught reproductive biology and has researched neuro, repro and endocrinology. She has a PhD in Zoology/Biology.

Did you know there are many forms of contraception out there, and not just condoms and birth control pills? Learn about some of the other options in this lesson on hormone-based contraceptives.

Contraception

Well, I know you have all probably heard of the birth control pill and condoms, two of the most common forms of contraception that men and women use to help prevent pregnancy. And, if you've been following along with the other lessons on this topic, you already know how hormonal forms of contraception work. But, before we get started, let's quickly review.

Contraceptives are methods that can be used to manage fertility or prevent conception (or fertilization), the fusion of the female's egg with the male's sperm. Hormonal forms of contraception accomplish this goal by altering the levels of female hormones - estrogen and progesterone - to prevent fertilization and pregnancy. These can come in many forms, like pills, patches, and implants.

Contraceptive Skin Patch

Let's start with the patch. Did you know that estrogen and progesterone can be put inside a small, thin patch that sticks to the skin? No more setting your phone to remind you to take the pill or worrying that you missed yesterday's pill. The hormones from the patch travel through the skin and into the body's bloodstream. From there, they travel to the reproductive axis where they help prevent ovulation, or the release of a mature egg from the ovary.

Hmmm... how can we remember that word? Let's see, well, both ovulation and ovary start with the same letters, so we can remember that ovulation is something related to the ovary. And, the 'o' kinda looks like an egg, so that can help you remember that it refers to the eggs in the ovaries. And, maybe we can use the 'L' in '-lation' to remind us that the egg is leaving the ovary! But just like any other medication, the patch does come with its own set of advantages and disadvantages. Let's look at the good stuff first:

  1. It's easy to use - just peel and stick! The patch can be worn on the arm, hips, and abdomen, any area not too close to the breasts or directly on top of the reproductive system. It's usually worn for three weeks, with a new patch being applied each week, and then taken off for one week. However, this schedule can be modified.

  2. The patch can help improve acne and prevent excess hair growth! Sounds good to me! It can also improve migraine headaches associated with a woman's menstrual cycle if used continuously, meaning you don't take off a week in between months.

  3. If used correctly, the patch's failure rate is low, around 0.3%, but only if used perfectly! So be sure to check daily and make sure the patch is still in place!

Okay, now what about the cons? First, the patch may cause some skin irritation. Also, the patch might fall off. It's made to be able to stick to your skin even while running, showering, swimming, etc., but nothing is perfect, right? And, what happens if it does fall off? Well, if it's been off the skin for more than a day, a new four-week cycle should be started, and it may be a good idea to use a back-up method of contraception the first week, just in case. Some women also experience some side effects, such as:

  • A decreased sex drive
  • Mood swings
  • Breast tenderness
  • A slight weight gain or fluid retention
  • Nausea
  • And, if you're a smoker, there's an increased chance of blood clots

These are all side effects also associated with other hormonal forms of contraception.

Vaginal Ring

So, what are some of those other forms? The vaginal contraceptive ring looks, well, just like it sounds - like a ring! And no, not the type you wear on your finger. This ring is a flexible ring, containing estrogen and progesterone, that is inserted into the vaginal canal anytime during the first five days of a woman's period and remains in place for the next three weeks.

Sounds easy enough, right? You just have to remember that it's there and instead of changing it once a week, like the patch, you only have to change it once a month. And, while you want to try and get it up as far up the canal as possible, the position doesn't have to be perfect.

So, how does it work? Well, the ring secretes the hormones into your bloodstream, just like the patch. Estrogen and progesterone from the ring are gradually released and enter the body to prevent ovulation. And, did you know the ring actually has a lower rate of nausea associated with it? But, it still carries many of the same side effects as other hormonal contraceptives, including:

  • An increased risk of blood clots
  • Headaches
  • Slight weight gain
  • A decreased sex drive

Also, while most women don't even notice that it's there, in some women, it may cause slight irritation and inflammation, which can result in pain and itching sensations. And our next question, does it work? The ring's failure rate is pretty comparable to our other options. With perfect use, the failure rate is only 0.3-0.5%, but, of course, this will increase if the ring is not used properly.

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