How Birth Control Works

By Lindsay Christovich |

How many women actually know and understand what the pills or other birth control methods do and how it prevents pregnancy?

Most birth control pills contain two hormones: estrogen and progestin, according to the American Pregnancy Association.

The APA said these hormones keep the ovaries from producing eggs, halting ovulation. There is simply no egg available to be fertilized, thus pregnancy is prevented.

They thicken and lessen the amount of mucus produced by the cervix, making it more difficult for sperm cells to reach the uterus.

The hormones also make the lining of the uterus thinner, so if ovulation does occur and an egg does happen to become fertilized, it will not be able to attach to the uterine wall and development of the egg will not continue.

The pill, after being prescribed by a doctor, comes in a packet of 21 active pills with seven placebo pills.

According to the Planned Parenthood website, other methods include vaginal rings, such as NuvaRing. Also prescribed by a doctor, the ring is placed in the vagina monthly and stays in for three weeks at a time.

Another method, birth control shots, release progestin directly into the bloodstream through a shot performed by a doctor can prevent pregnancy for up to three months.

Patches, such as OrthoEvra, are applied once a week for three weeks at a time. They release hormones into the skin that absorbed into the body.

More extreme and expensive methods of birth control are implants, such as Implanon. They are roughly the size of a match stick and are inserted by a health care provider into the patient’s arm to act as birth control for up to three years.

IUDs or “intrauterine devices” are small “T” shaped devices placed directly into the uterus by a doctor. There are two types: ParaGard contains copper and lasts for up to twelve years. The second type, Mirena, is effective for up to five years.

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