What are hormones?
Hormones are messengers in the body that control most bodily functions, from basic needs like hunger, to more complicated things like reproduction
How does hormonal contraception work?
Hormones naturally go up and down. The hormones in contraception are very similar to the body's natural hormones, but the levels are steady instead of up and down, which is why hormonal contraception can sometimes help with the moodiness of PMS. Hormonal contraception works by thickening up the fluid at the neck of the womb, making the lining of the womb thinner, and by stopping an egg being released (ovulation)
Are hormones unnatural?
Some people worry about hormones and medicines being unnatural. The main natural hormones in women and people born with ovaries are oestrogen and progesterone. The hormones which are in contraception are extremely similar to the body's own hormones - hormonal methods either use low levels of the two hormones, or just one (progesterone)
Are hormones harmful?
There are two types of hormones used in contraception: progesterone and oestrogen:
- Oestrogen is in the combined pill, the patch and the vaginal ring, and can be risky for some people, especially those who smoke and whose weight is higher than average. Serious risks are very rare. Whilst side effects are frightening, it’s easy to get it out of proportion – up to 12 out of 10,000 people on the pill will get a blood clot, and 9,988 will not. Most people who get blood clots can be treated.
- Progesterone is incredibly safe, although some side effects like irregular bleeding can be a nuisance for some people - it is not dangerous. The implant, hormonal coil (IUS), injection and mini-pill all contain just one hormone - progesteron
Is the combined pill dangerous?
Many people worry about the safety of the combined pill. Millions take the pill and overall, it’s 10 times safer to be on the pill than to have a baby, and 16 times safer to take the pill than to drive a car
Methods like the implant, injection, hormonal coil (IUS) and non hormonal coils (IUD) and mini-pill are even safer
Some people can't use the pill, patch or ring (which contain oestrogen) because of their medical history - doctors and nurses can advise on this
Which are the safest methods of contraception?
All methods of contraception can be safe to use, however they can't be used by everyone. Some health conditions mean that some methods are less safe for some people to use.
The implant, hormonal coil (IUS) and injection contain only one hormone (progesterone) which is very safe. The IUS releases very low levels of hormone right where it is needed.
The copper coil contains no hormones, and other no-hormone options are the diaphragm, condom or fertility awareness
What choices have the lowest dose of hormones?
The implant, combined pill and mini pills, patches, and the ring are all low dose methods. The lowest hormone level of all is the IUS (hormonal coil) which is released into the womb slowly over 5 years
How can nuisance side effects be avoided?
Some side effects of contraception are not dangerous, but are unpleasant such as irregular bleeding, headaches, nausea, loss of sex drive, or mood changes
Some people might have a bad experience with one type of hormonal contraception, but find that other hormonal methods work extremely well for them. It's common to try a few different methods of contraception before finding the best choice. Changing the brand of pill can help if there are side effects.