Hormonal birth control is any pill, injection, device, or treatment that uses hormones to prevent pregnancy in women. Different kinds of hormonal birth control exist. Some contain the hormones estrogen and progestin. Others contain only progestin.
All hormonal birth control methods are very effective. The methods differ in how easy they are to use and their side effects. Of the many types of hormonal birth control options out there, you can get the three most common through Alpha Medical: Birth control pills, the patch, or the vaginal ring.
A woman who takes birth control pills needs to take a pill every day. Skipping pills can increase the chance of getting pregnant. Birth control pill packets usually include 4 to 7 days of hormone-free pills each month (though this can vary by the specific type of pill you’re taking). It is during these hormone-free days that a woman gets her period. Women who prefer not to get periods can skip the hormone-free pills and take a hormone pill every day instead. This is called continuous dosing. Most birth control pills contain estrogen and progestin but there is one that contains only progestin. Alpha offers options for all of these categories - you can even specify your preferred pill, or, have a provider help you decide which is best for you.
A woman can wear a hormone patch on her upper arm, shoulder, back, or hip. The patch, also known by the brand name Xulane, must be changed once a week. Usually, a woman wears a new patch each week for 3 weeks and then leave the patch off during week 4. Week 4 is when a woman has her period. Continuous use of the patch is discouraged because the patch may have a higher risk of causing a blood clot compared to birth control pills. Skin patches for contraception contain both estrogen and progestin.
A woman can put a bendable ring in her vagina that can stay in place for 3 weeks at a time. The ring, also known by the brand name NuvaRing, isn’t felt by the user once in place and releases hormones in the body. It does not need to be removed during sexual intercourse. If the ring is removed or expulsed, it may be rinsed in cool or warm water (not hot) and reinserted into the vagina within 3 hours without reduction of contraceptive effectiveness. Vaginal rings for contraception contain both estrogen and progestin.
For most women, Alpha can prescribe birth control pills, the transdermal patch, and vaginal ring, safely and effectively via an online medical consultation. Other hormonal options require an in-person office visit in order to be administered by a medical professional. These other methods - injections, implants, or intrauterine devices (IUD) - are not available through Alpha’s services.
Women who use hormone injections get either an intramuscular shot in the arm or buttocks or a subcutaneous shot in the anterior thigh or abdomen every 3 months. Injections for birth control (brand name: Depo-Provera) contain only progestin.
A birth control implant (brand name: Nexplanon) is a tiny rod that is implanted under the skin of the upper arm by a trained health care provider. The rod releases progestin and can stay in the arm for up to 3 years.
An intrauterine device (IUD) is placed inside the uterus by a trained health care provider in order to prevent pregnancy. IUDs contain either copper or progestin and both work by causing a foreign body effect. A Copper IUD last for 10-12 years, depending upon the woman’s age. Hormonal IUDs also release progestin . Skyla is a progestin-containing IUD that lasts for up to 3 years. Mirena, Liletta, or Kyleena are progestin-containing IUDs that last for up to 5 years.
Hormonal birth control is a safe and reliable way to prevent pregnancy for most women. But it does not protect women from HIV or other infections that spread through sex (called "sexually transmitted infections" or “STIs”).