Combination Hormonal Contraception (CHC) comes in either pills (taken daily), patches (applied to the skin weekly) or as a ring (inserted into the vagina once a month). Some pills are progesterone only pills (or progestin only), also called the minipill, which thickens cervical mucus and thins the lining of the uterus preventing sperm from reaching the egg. The minipill also sometimes suppresses ovulation.
Combination Hormonal Contraception contain both an artificial estrogen and an artificial progestin. They are not exactly like the hormones that your own body produces on its own.
The two man-made hormones in combination hormonal contraceptives work together to regulate your monthly reproductive cycle by tricking your body into thinking it is pregnant so it will not release an egg. There is also a change in the cervical mucus that makes it difficult for the sperm to go through the cervix and find an egg. Hormonal contraceptives can also changes the lining of the womb so it’s unlikely a fertilized egg will be implanted. The bleeding you experience while on hormonal birth control is not a true period as the lining of your uterus will not create a normal layer needed for a fertilized egg. This bleed you experience is called withdrawal bleeding and is caused by the removal of the hormones.
If you decide to use a combination hormonal contraception, it is important that you learn the signs of a Blood clot. There are higher incidences of blood clots for women using a CHC. Although many women use combination hormonal contraceptives with out developing blood clots, it could happen to you because it HAS happened to other women.
Be very aware of all the symptoms of deep vein thrombosis (a blood clot in your leg), pulmonary embolism (blood clots that are in your lungs) and stroke (blood clots that are in your brain). We believe that the healthcare community assumes that women understand the risks of blood clots and are aware of the symptoms. Please learn about the signs and symptoms of a blood clot by clicking here.
Additionally, although there have been studies that combination hormonal contraception reduces some kinds of cancer, there is equal evidence that there is an increase in other types of cancer. The hormones in birth control pills, patch and ring circulates throughout your entire blood stream and affects many organs, both positively and negatively.
For information about how these hormones work in the body, watch this video.
If your healthcare provider prescribes a pill, patch or ring, you may only think about the brand name of what you are prescribed, but your pill, patch or ring will contain hormones that are categorized by the generation of the hormones in it. The first artificial hormones are usually referred to as 1st generation. Newer artificial hormones were classified as 2nd generation, 3rd generation and now 4th generation.
What is important to know about the drug – yes, hormonal birth control is a drug – is which hormones are in the product. This is because different hormones will have different effects on your body.