Some people take the birth control pill for much of their adult lives without a break. Others use long-term hormonal contraception devices, such as intrauterine devices (IUDs), that can stay in place for several years.
The safety of using long-term hormonal birth control may depend on a person’s risk factors, age, and medical history.
Read on to find out the short-term and long-term effects of birth control.
Short-term side effects
Hormonal methods of birth control contain artificial progesterone or estrogen and progesterone. They affect the hormone levels in a person’s body, so many people experience side effects shortly after taking them.
Not all people will experience side effects. Some side effects will go away within several months as the body adjusts to the hormones. Other side effects may develop after taking hormones for some time.
Possible short-term side effects of birth control include:
- bleeding between periods, or spotting
- breast tenderness
- weight gain
- mood swings
There are several long-term birth control options. All hormonal methods of birth control, including the pill, patch or implant, may cause similar side effects and long-term risks.
There is no one “best” method of birth control. The best option depends on a person’s lifestyle and medical history.
Most long-term birth control options involve the use of hormones. The hormones work in two main ways: stopping ovulation and thickening the cervical mucus, which makes it difficult for the egg and sperm to meet.
Long-term non-hormonal options are also available, including the non-hormonal IUD.
Long-term contraception methods include the following:
- Birth control pills: Contraceptive pills often contain both artificial progesterone and estrogen. People can also use progesterone-only pills.
- Contraceptive shots: Contraceptive shots contain progesterone and prevent pregnancy by stopping ovulation. A doctor can give a contraceptive shot every 3 months.
- Contraceptive implants: An implant is a small, thin rod that a doctor inserts under the skin in the arm. It releases hormones that prevent ovulation. The implant protects from pregnancy for up to 4 years.
- Vaginal ring: A person inserts a vaginal ring inside their vagina. The person leaves the ring in for 3 weeks and then takes it out for 1 week. The ring releases hormones, which prevent ovulation.
- Contraceptive patch: The patch contains hormones that prevent pregnancy. A person sticks the patch on their back, bottom, or arm. The person changes the patch weekly for 3 weeks then takes the fourth week off. They must repeat this every month.
- Intrauterine device (IUD): An IUD is a small device that a doctor inserts in the cervix. Currently, IUDs last anywhere from 3 to 12 years. People can get hormonal or non-hormonal versions of the IUD.
- Surgical Sterilization: Options are available for both sexes. However, these are permanent methods. They are completely hormone-free.
Using hormonal birth control is safe for as long as you need, provided that a doctor has given the okay. People should discuss their individual needs and risk factors with a doctor when deciding whether to stay on hormonal contraception for an extended period.
Consider all the options and discuss all possible health risks and benefits with a healthcare provider.
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