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Hormonal Birth Control Methods (Non-Pill Options)

Medically reviewed on Jun 16, 2018 by L. Anderson, PharmD

Birth Control Pills

Birth control pills may not be an option for every woman desiring contraception. Some women may prefer a method that does not involve remembering to take a daily pill. Other women may not be able to use the estrogen commonly found in some birth control pills for health reasons or because they are breastfeeding and prefer not to take a daily pill. For these women, there are other options that provide convenient pregnancy protection.

Non-pill hormonal birth control options include:

  • Birth control patch, also known as Xulane, which you wear on your arm, stomach area, buttock or back.
  • Birth control ring, also known as NuvaRing, which you insert into your vagina.
  • Birth control implant, also known as Implanon or Nexplanon, which a health care provider surgically inserts into your upper arm.
  • Intrauterine device or IUD, for example MirenaSkylaKyleena, or Liletta, placed into your uterus by a health care provider.
  • Birth control shot, also known as Depo-Provera Contraceptive or Depo-subQ Provera 104.

Review each product individually for a full listing of uses, warnings, and side effects.

Advantages of Non-Pill Birth Control

  • Convenient pregnancy protection.
  • No need to remember to take a daily pill.
  • A high level of contraceptive effectiveness; progestin-only forms may have slightly lower effectiveness.
  • Some methods, such as the IUD, last for 5+ years (non-hormonal copper IUD can last up to 10 years).
  • Progestin-only forms may be used by women who are breastfeeding or cannot use estrogen due to health reasons.

Warnings for Birth Control

Hormonal birth control should NOT be used by women who have a history of breast cancer, endometrial or cervical cancer, undiagnosed vaginal bleeding, liver tumors or disease, increased clotting or stroke risk, or if pregnant.

Smoking increases the risk of serious heart side effects when using a combined estrogen and progestin birth control, including the ring or the patch. Combination estrogen and progestin birth control should NOT be used (contraindicated) in women over 35 years of age who smoke due to an increased risk of serious side effects, such as heart attack, blood clots, and stroke.

Women of any age should avoid combination hormonal birth control if they have a history of:

  • Uncontrolled high blood pressure
  • Chest pain
  • Diabetes with kidney, eye, nerve, or blood vessel damage
  • Breast cancer or any cancer that is sensitive to female hormones
  • Severe headaches
  • Allergies to any ingredients in their birth control.
  • Unexplained vaginal bleeding
  • Currently pregnant
  • Heart disease, heart attack, problems with your heart valves
  • Liver disease
  • Blood clots
  • Conditions that increase blood clotting
  • Stroke.

Cardiovascular risks increase with age, weight, family history of heart disease, and number of cigarettes smoked per day. Women should talk to their healthcare professional about their cardiovascular risk before deciding which birth control method to use.

The pill, patch, vaginal ring, IUD, implant or birth control shot do not protect against any form of sexually transmitted disease (STD), including HIV and AIDS. A male latex or female condom should be used in combination with these other birth control options if protection against STDs is needed.

Let your physician know if you have migraine headaches when discussing birth control options. You may need to avoid hormonal birth control have certain kinds of severe migraine headaches.

Certain medicines may make birth control less effective; check with pharmacist or doctor for possible drug interactions with all prescription, over-the-counter, and herbal or dietary supplement medicines you take.

Breastfeeding mothers should avoid the estrogen in combined hormonal birth control as it may reduce milk supply. Birth control options for breastfeeding women include:

  • Intrauterine device (IUD)
  • Progestin only pills (“mini-pills”)
  • Contraceptive implant
  • Birth control shot.

Common Side Effects

  • Spotting between periods
  • Possible weight gain
  • Breast swelling or tenderness
  • Nausea or upset stomach
  • Mood changes vaginal infections and irritation, vaginal secretion, headache, weight gain, and nausea.

Serious Side Effects

  • Blurred vision
  • Severe stomach pain
  • Severe headache
  • Swelling or pain in the legs
  • Chest pain, heart attack, blood clots, stroke.

Other warnings and side effects exist for individual birth control options. It is important to review the specific consumer information for the birth control of choice and discuss any questions or concerns with your healthcare provider.

Tell your healthcare provider about all other medications you take, including prescription, over-the-counter, vitamin and herbal supplements. Certain medications may make birth control less effective. Be sure to have a complete drug interaction review each time you start a new medication.

Hormonal Birth Control Options (Non-Pill)

Generic Name Proprietary Name Details
etonogestrel and ethinyl estradiol vaginal ring
  • NuvaRing
  • Vaginal ring inserted vaginally by patient and worn continuously for 3 weeks, then removed for 1 week to allow menses (withdrawal bleeding).
  • Remove the ring 3 weeks after insertion on the same day of the week and at the same time of day; replace with a new ring each month.
  • Costs roughly $170 per month (cash) but insurance may cover.
  • 1% failure rate if always used correctly.
  • Prescription required but no fitting needed; do not use if pregnant.
  • Use barrier method of contraception if ring is out for more than 3 continuous hours until NuvaRing has been used continuously for at least 7 days.
  • Common side effects include vaginal infections, irritation or secretion.
etonogestrel subdermal implant
  • Implanon
  • Nexplanon
  • Healthcare provider-inserted matched-sized rod placed under the skin of upper arm.
  • Replace after 3 years, but may be removed at any time; do not use if pregnant.
  • Progestin-only implant.
  • Effective for 3 years; <1% failure rate; not known if equally effective in very overweight women.
  • If at any time you cannot feel the Nexplanon implant, contact your doctor and use a non-hormonal method of contraception (such as condoms) until you see your doctor.
  • $500-1000 per implant but lasts for 3 years; insurance may cover.
  • May cause irregular periods initially; may lighten or eliminate periods.
levonorgestrel intrauterine device (IUD)
  • Mirena
  • Skyla
  • Kyleena
  • Liletta
  • Healthcare provider-inserted progestin-only IUD; inserted within 7 days of menses onset. Your healthcare provider can remove your IUD at any time.
  • Replace IUD after 5 years for Mirena, Lileeta, or Kyleena; or 3 years for Skyla.
  • $500-$1000 per IUD; very effective, <1% failure rate if used as directed; may lighten or eliminate periods, or make more heavy in the first 3 to 6 months..
  • If a period is missed, promptly be evaluated for pregnancy.
  • Use non-hormonal back-up method (such as a condom) if you cannot locate threads for IUD; contact doctor to check placement.
  • Risk of ectopic pregnancy, including the loss of fertility with IUD.
  • Do not use if: pregnant, unexplained vaginal bleeding, liver disease, breast cancer, pelvic infection, cancer of the uterus or cervix, large fibroid tumors, infection in the cervix.
medoxyprogesterone acetate injection
  • Depo-Provera
  • Depo-subQ Provera 104
  • Injection of progestin-only hormone given every 12 to 14 weeks (subQ form) or every 13 weeks (IM form).
  • Costs $50 to $100 per injection.
  • May lighten or eliminate periods.
  • <1% failure rate if used as directed.
  • Do not use if pregnant, breast cancer, at risk for bone fractures, taking aminoglutethamide.
  • May initially cause irregular bleeding.
  • May be a good birth control option if breastfeeding
norelgestromin and ethinyl estradiol transdermal patch
  • Xulane
  • Apply 1 patch once a week (on the same day every week) for the first 3 weeks, then use no patch in week 4 to allow menstruation (withdrawal bleeding). Repeat this each month.
  • 1% failure rate if used correctly; may be less effective in women who weigh over 198 pounds.
  • May result in lighter periods and less cramping.
  • Cost is roughly $100 to $150 per month cash, but insurance may cover.
  • Can cause skin irritation.
  • Stop use if pregnancy should occur.
  • If a patch is partially or completely detached for ≥ 24 hours, apply a new patch and start a new cycle. Use back-up contraception for the 1st week of the new cycle.

 

See Also

Sources

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

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