For most women, these hormonal methods are all safe, effective, easy to use, and put you in control of your contraceptive care. While they are all used a little differently, the risks, benefits, and side effects are generally the same.

These birth control methods are all called “combined hormonal contraceptives” (CHCs) because they have two hormones, estrogen and progestin. They are similar to the hormones your body already produces. 

These methods help prevent pregnancy in two ways:

  • They stop the release of eggs so that eggs and sperm don’t meet.

  • They thicken your cervical mucus, which prevents sperm from getting to the eggs.

We also offer another type of pill that has only one hormone, progesterone (POP). It works similarly to the combined hormonal pill. This pill is safe for most patients who cannot take estrogen. We can help decide if this pill is right for you.

All of these methods are really great at preventing pregnancy, but remember, no birth control method (other than condoms) helps prevent against sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Benefits and Advantages

Did you know that the Pill, Patch, and Ring provide benefits beyond pregnancy prevention? Cool, right?

These methods can help protect you from:

  • Uterine and ovarian cancer

  • Cysts in the breasts or ovaries

  • Ectopic pregnancy, or pregnancy in the tubes or ovaries

  • Pelvic infections

They can also help with:

  • Heavy, painful periods and period cramps

  • PMS (Premenstrual syndrome) /PMDD (Premenstrual dysphoric disorder)

  • PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome)

  • Acne

  • Fibroids (Noncancerous muscular tumors that grow in the wall of the uterus)

  • Irregular periods

  • Improving bone density

Other important benefits:

  • Super user friendly. You can start or stop them whenever you want.

  • Your monthly bleeding will be regular, but the pills can also be used continuously; you can use them in such a way where you skip your period. This can be nice when you have a special event or are traveling…or if you simply just don’t want to get your period!

  • Quick return to fertility after stopping the method—you can get pregnant right away.

Side Effects

Most users of combined hormonal contraceptives (CHCs) like them and find the side effects manageable. Most side effects of these methods usually clear up after a few months of using them (and if they don’t, we’re here to help you figure that out).

Possible side effects of all CHC methods include:

  • Headaches

  • Nausea or other stomach upset

  • Breast tenderness

  • Irregular bleeding (like bleeding between periods)

  • Cramping

  • Changes in mood

Possible side effects of vaginal ring

  • Increased vaginal discharge, irritation or infection

Possible side effects of the patch

  • Skin irritation or discoloration of skin at the patch site

*But what about weight gain?

So, here’s the deal on weight gain with birth control…

This is a really common question in the world of birth control, so let us set the record straight. We know that the hormone progesterone can cause appetite changes leading to weight gain or loss. Progesterone is one of the hormones found in the pill, patch, and ring (and other methods we don’t offer here), usually at very low doses. While we have anecdotal evidence (personal stories) of women saying they gained weight on certain hormonal preparations of birth control, there is NO. GOOD. SCIENTIFIC. EVIDENCE. supporting the fact that birth control causes weight gain. We couldn’t list it here as a known side effect because the science just doesn’t support that claim. That being said, if you feel a method is causing you to gain or lose weight, we are here to help you figure that out.

Rare (but possible) risks of estrogen use

The Pill, Patch, and Ring do carry a slightly higher risk of some serious health problems including:

  • Blood clots to the lungs

  • Nausea or other stomach upsetHeart attack

  • Stroke

  • Liver tumors

In healthy young women, this rarely happens. There are some health conditions (like high blood pressure or migraines with aura) or medications that put you at higher risk for serious problems. Our medical team will only recommend the methods they feel are safe for you to use after reviewing your medical history.

However, if you experience any of these signs/symptoms, discontinue using the method right away and contact your regular doctor immediately:

  • Aura – bright, flashing zigzags of light before your eyes, difficulty speaking, or change in smell, before onset of a headache

  • Tenderness or swelling in the legs

  • Chest pain/discomfort with shortness of breath

  • Severe pain in your stomach

  • Sudden, painful headache

  • Sudden back or jaw pain with nausea, sweating, or trouble breathing

  • Serious/worsening depression, or thoughts of harming yourself or someone else

Effectiveness

These methods all work very well, 91-99% effective…but why such a range?

For all methods of contraception we offer, effectiveness depends on how well you use it. Effectiveness rates are described in 2 terms:

  • Perfect use: that is, you are using it consistently and correctly every single time it is to be used/taken/changed.

  • Typical use: this means you are using it consistently and correctly most of the time, but not all of the time (nobody is perfect!)

So with effectiveness being 91% (typical) – 99% (perfect), this means that with perfect use, 1 in 100 women per year will get pregnant, and with typical use, 9 in 100 women per year will get pregnant.