What is hormonal contraception?

Updated: Oct 06, 2020
  • Author: Frances E Casey, MD, MPH; Chief Editor: Richard Scott Lucidi, MD, FACOG  more...
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Hormonal means of contraception include the following:

  • Implants - The mechanism of action is a combination of suppression of the luteinizing hormone (LH) surge, suppression of ovulation, development of viscous and scant cervical mucus to deter sperm penetration, and prevention of endometrial growth and development

  • Injectable depomedroxyprogesterone acetate - Acts by inhibiting ovulation with the suppression of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and LH levels and by eliminating the LH surge

  • Progestin-only oral contraceptives - Mechanisms of action include (1) suppression of ovulation; (2) a variable dampening effect on the midcycle peaks of LH and FSH; (3) an increase in cervical mucus viscosity; (4) a reduction in the number and size of endometrial glands; and (5) a reduction in cilia motility in the fallopian tube

  • Combination oral contraceptives - Prevention of ovulation is considered the dominant mechanism of action, with the combination of the 2 steroids creating a synergistic effect that greatly increases their antigonadotropic and ovulation-inhibitory effects; these contraceptives also alter the consistency of cervical mucus, affect the endometrial lining, and alter tubal transport

  • 91-day combination oral contraceptives - Reduce the number of menstrual cycles per year

  • Combination patch contraceptive - Releases estrogen and progesterone directly into the skin

  • Contraceptive vaginal ring - Hormones are absorbed directly by the reproductive organs

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