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Hormonal Contraceptives

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Oct 31, 2022.

What are hormonal contraceptives?

Hormonal contraceptives are birth control medicines. These medicines help prevent pregnancy. Hormonal contraceptives may also decrease bleeding and pain during your child's monthly period.

What may affect hormonal contraceptives?

Some health conditions can be affected by hormonal contraceptives. Examples include high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes. Certain medicines can also prevent the contraceptives from working properly. Examples include seizure medicines, antivirals, antibiotics, and blood thinners. Tell your child's healthcare provider about any medical conditions she has. Give the provider a list of all your child's medicines. This will help the provider recommend the right kind of contraceptive for your child.

What kinds of hormonal contraceptives are available?

Hormonal contraceptives may contain one or both of the female hormones. Both estrogen and progesterone are found in combined oral contraceptives (COC), the skin patch, and the vaginal ring. Progesterone-only contraceptives include the mini-pill, and injectable hormone medication. Talk to your child's healthcare provider about what birth control is best for her.

  • COCs may have the same or different levels of hormones in each pill. Pills with different hormone levels must be taken in the right order. The following are common types of COCs:
    • The 21-pill pack contains 1 pill to be taken each day for 21 days. No pill is taken for the 7 days that follow. Once this schedule is complete, a new pill pack is started.
    • The 28-pill pack contains 21 pills that have hormones. One pill is taken each day. Reminder pills that do not have hormones are then taken each day for 7 days. A new pack is started after the old one is finished.
    • The extended-cycle pill pack contains 1 pill to be taken each day for 12 weeks. This kind of birth control decreases the number of periods your child has in a year. At the end of 12 weeks, a new pack is started.
  • The mini-pill comes in packs of 28 pills. One pill is taken each day until the pack is finished. A new pack may then be started. The pills are taken whether or not your child has her monthly period. Mini-pills may help reduce weight gain, breast pain, and mood changes that can happen during the monthly period.
  • The skin patch is a thin patch that contains hormones and sticks to your child's skin. The patch is placed on the buttocks, outside of the upper arm, upper torso, or lower abdomen. The patch is changed once a week for 3 weeks. The fourth week is a patch-free week when your child's menstrual period will occur. Your child will be able to do sports and other activities such as showering or bathing while she wears the patch.
  • The vaginal ring is a small, flexible device that is placed into your child's vagina. It does not need to be fitted or placed by a doctor. Your child inserts the vaginal ring by herself. It is worn for 3 weeks and taken out on the fourth week. Your child will get a menstrual period when the ring is removed.
  • Injectable hormonal contraception shots are given in the muscle of the upper arm or buttocks. The first shot is given within 5 to 7 days from the start of your child's menstrual period. A shot is given every 12 weeks. If your child forgets an appointment or needs to postpone an injection, it can still be given up to 2 weeks late. Injections can also be given 2 weeks early if needed.

What are the risks of using hormonal contraceptives?

Hormonal contraceptives may not prevent pregnancy, even if they are taken as directed. Your child may not want to take the medicine because of side effects, such as mood changes or weight gain. Other medicines, such as antibiotics, can decrease how well the contraceptive works. Hormonal contraception does not protect against sexually transmitted diseases. If your child uses a skin patch, the skin around the area may become red, itchy, or irritated. The patch may not work properly if your child is overweight. The vaginal ring may be uncomfortable. It may come out by accident if your child strains to have a bowel movement. It may also come out when your child removes a tampon or has sex.

When can hormonal contraceptives be started?

Your child will need to see a healthcare provider for an exam before hormonal contraceptives can be started. He or she will ask about your child's medical history and any medicines she takes. Her blood pressure will be checked and she may need blood or urine tests. A breast and pelvic exam may also be done. Your child's healthcare provider will tell you when your child can start to take the contraceptives.

Call 911 for any of the following:

  • Your child has chest pain or shortness of breath.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • Your child has severe leg pain.
  • Your child has severe abdominal pain.
  • Your child has a severe headache.
  • Your child has blurred vision, sees flashing lights, or starts to lose her vision.

When should I contact my child's healthcare provider?

  • Your child misses or forgets to take one or more birth control pills.
  • Your child has an upset stomach or throws up after she starts to use hormonal contraceptives.
  • Your child has vaginal bleeding or spotting more than usual after she starts to use hormonal contraceptives.
  • You or your child have questions or concerns about hormonal contraceptives.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your child's care. Learn about your child's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your child's healthcare providers to decide what care you want for your child. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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