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Birth Control: Pros and Cons of Hormonal Methods - Topic Overview

The following tables list some pros and cons of using hormonal birth control methods.

Combination pills, skin patch, or vaginal ring (estrogen plus progestin)

  • No interruption of foreplay or intercourse
  • Reduced bleeding and cramping with periods, which lowers the risk of anemia
  • Fewer or no periods (with certain types of pill)
  • Reduced pain during ovulation
  • Reduced risk of pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
  • Reduced fibrocystic breast changes
  • Reduced risk of ectopic pregnancy
  • May reduce acne
  • May reduce ovarian cysts
  • May reduce symptoms of endometriosis
  • May protect against ovarian and endometrial cancer
  • Can be used after an abortion
  • Does not protect against sexually transmitted infections or HIV
  • May not be as effective when taken with certain medicines
  • May delay return of normal cycles
  • If used in early breast-feeding, may reduce milk supply
  • Pills must be taken every day.
  • Patches may not fully protect you from pregnancy if they are exposed to direct sun or high heat. This can release a high dose of hormone from the patch, which leaves less for the patch to release later in the week.
  • Patches deliver more estrogen than low-dose birth control pills do. Some research has found that women using the patch are more likely to get dangerous blood clots in the legs and lungs. The risk may be higher if you smoke or have certain health problems. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) suggests that you talk to your doctor about your risks before using the patch.
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