Courtney Weaver is all by her lonesome this week giving a quick rundown of the different methods of hormonal birth control. She talks about how they work, what the benefits are, and each option’s efficacy. A few of the resources mentioned include Student Health Services (304-285-7200), Women’s Resource Center (, Planned Parenthood (, and WV Free ( And learn more about the WRC menstrual cup project and register for the Period Panel on March 8th, 2021:


Welcome. Welcome. Welcome everyone to Wellbeing Wednesdays. My name is Courtney Weaver and I am your illustrious host. I work also as the director of well WVU here at West Virginia university. And today my guest is no one, no one signed up for today's time slot. So you just get me prettily non about the topic of my choice for the next 15 or 45 minutes.

You never know how long it's going to be, but this week we're actually going to talk about hormonal methods of contraception. So. To kick things off. First of all, let's talk about what is contraception. So according to, contraception is the deliberate prevention of conception or impregnation by various drugs, techniques or devices.

So there are three types. The first is hormonal. That's what we're going to talk about today. And it's important to note that that is pregnancy prevention only that is no protection against STI or sexually transmitted infections. Then there are barrier methods, which are things like internal condoms, external condoms, dental, dams, latex gloves, and really the name says it all.

It just is a barrier between your partner's body and your body. And then you have national methods which have no hormones. There's no barriers. These methods are like the fertility awareness method or the pull-out method. Also, this one has no protection against STEs and it takes practice and an in-depth knowledge of your menstrual cycle for this to be effective.

So there are many different types of hormonal birth control. First we have the birth control pill. That's a really popular one. There are actually two different types of the pill, the combination pill, and the mini pill. Then there's the birth control patch, the birth control ring, the birth control implant, the birth control shot and the IUD, which is the intrauterine device.

The IUD comes in two forms, hormonal or copper. And then lastly, we have emergency contraception. So how do they work? Well to understand how hormonal methods of contraception work. We first need to have a basic understanding of how the menstrual cycle works. So the menstrual cycle is controlled by four hormones, estrogen, progesterone, LH, or luteinizing, hormone, and FSH follicle, stimulating hormone.

On average the menstrual cycle lasts about 28 days. Now I've gotten a lot of this information from women's But I w I think it's important to note that not everyone who gets a period identifies as a girl or a woman, and not everyone who identifies as a girl or a woman gets a period. So I'm going to talk about this in as gender neutral way as possible.

So day one is the first day of someone's period, the blood and tissue that line, the uterus breakdown, and they leave the body and generally periods can last an average of three to eight days. It kind of just depends on your body. Your hormones are also low during this time. Particularly estrogen. So low levels of estrogen can make you feel sad or irritable.

Now also days one through five-year cycle. This is when FSH that follicle stimulating hormone their levels are high, which caused fluid-filled pockets called follicles to develop on the ovaries. Each of these follicles contains an egg. And because of the higher estrogen levels from the follicle, the lining of the uterus starts to grow and thicken.

This lining is rich with blood and nutrients and will help to nourish an embryo if pregnancy happens because estrogen levels are higher, your endorphins, which are the feel-good chemical in your brain they're boosted, which may help you feel like you have more energy and that you feel calm and relaxed.

So a few days before day 14 of your cycle is when your estrogen levels peak. And this causes a sharp rise in the level of LH or the luteinizing hormone that we mentioned earlier LH causes the mature follicle. You know, the one that was growing on the ovary to burst and it releases an egg from the ovary.

And this is the process called oscillation, which occurs on or around day 14. So someone is most likely to get pregnant. If they have vaginal intercourse on the day of ovulation or during the three days prior to ovulation, since the sperm will already be in place and ready to fertilize the egg, once it's released, because sperm can actually live for three to five days and the reproductive organs and an egg lives for about 12 to 24 hours.

In days 15 to 24, the fallopian tubes help the newly released egg travel away from the ovary toward the uterus, the ruptured follicle on the ovary. It makes more of the hormone progesterone, which also helps to thicken the uterine lining, making it more hospitable for a potential fertilized egg. So often fertilization occurs in the fallopian tube.

And then the fertilized egg is guided down to the uterus to implant. Now if an egg is not fertilized, it breaks apart around day 24, your estrogen and progesterone levels drop. And so this rapid change can also affect your moods and you may experience premenstrual symptoms like irritability, anxiety, or sadness.

And in the final step of the menstrual cycle, the unfertilized egg leaves the body along with the uterine lining beginning on day, one of your next period and menstrual cycle. So that it is a very, very brief overview of how menstrual cycles work. I know when I took reproductive biology in graduate school, we learned a lot more about them, but I think that was a good overview.

I love talking about periods if we're being 100% honest. So now that we understand a bit more about them, let's talk about how hormonal birth control methods work. Now, a lot of this information I took. From planned Parenthood's website, which is a great resource for sexual health information. And the first thing I want to highlight is for y'all to remember they do not protect against sexually transmitted infections.

I wrote that in all caps, in my notes, and I wish I could scream it here, but I don't want to hurt your eardrums, but remember they do not protect against sexually transmitted infections. Use a barrier method in addition to one of these in order to prevent STS. So hormonal methods of birth control all work generally in the same way.

So they all work to stop sperm from joining with an egg, the hormones and the method safely stop oblation from happening. The synthetic hormones prevent the hormone changes of the menstrual cycle to prevent a follicle from growing and subsequently releasing an egg. The hormones, they also thick in the cervical mucus and the cervix in case you don't know is the entrance to the uterus on the internal end of the vagina.

And this mucus blocks sperm. So it can't swim to an egg. Now for the particulars of each kind, let's start with the birth control pill. So remember it has two different types, the combination pill and the mini pill. So the combo pill contains both estrogen and progestin, which is a synthetic version of progesterone.

The pill is taken daily and it's better to take it at the same time each day. It is prescribed by your doctor. And generally in a pack, you'll get four weeks of pills, three weeks contain hormones. And then the last week are sugar pills. And that's generally when you have your period, now you might be thinking, why don't they just give you three weeks of pills and be done with it, but giving you the full four weeks actually keeps you on the routine of taking the pill at the same time each day.

Typically there are about 91% effective. So every kind of birth control method, whether it's hormonal or barrier method, it has a. A typical use and that a perfect use. So we always like to report on the typical use because we're all humans and we all make mistakes. Now with the combination pill, there are some health concerns if you're older or if you smoke.

So your Dr. May not recommend this method. If you meet a certain criteria, And there are actually a lot of different options for this particular method. And you may have to work with your doctor to try a few different pills before finding one that works for your body. If that's the method that you want to stick with now, the mini pill, which is just progestin That works basically the same.

So it's taken daily at the same time each day. It's a good option for folks who can't take estrogen for a variety of health reasons. And again, it's about 91% effective. Next up is the birth control patch. Now this is a skin patch it's worn on specifically parts of your body. So it could be the lower abdomen, the buttocks, or the upper body, but not on the breasts.

It's another one that's prescribed by your doctor. It releases progestin and estrogen right into the bloodstream, through your skin. And you actually change the patch weekly for three weeks, and then you don't wear a patch during the fourth week. And that's when your period happens. It's about 91% effective.

And to be honest, It's not an extraordinarily popular choice. I'm not quite sure why it fell out of favor. Some people experienced like some skin irritation with the patch itself. But it is still an option if you're interested. Next we have the birth control ring us the most popular brand or the most commonly known brand that y'all might have heard of is the Nuva ring.

So basically the person who has this, they insert a small, flexible ring into the vagina and it sort of hangs out around the cervix. And then you wear it for three weeks. And then you take it out during the fourth week and you have your period. It's another one that is prescribed by your doctor. It releases progestin and estrogen.

And with this one, the hormones are absorbed directly through the vaginal lining. So again, pretty cool. And it's about 91% effective. The birth control shot is our next one. So this is when your doctor gives you a shot that contains just progestin every three months, or really about every 12 to 13 weeks it's prescribed and distributed by your doctor.

So this isn't one that you can do from home. You can't give it to yourself. You have to have a clinic visit. This one's a little bit more effective. It's typical effectiveness rate is 94%. Okay. The birth control implant is actually just come into popularity over the last couple of years. It's really low maintenance.

That's why a lot of people like it. It's a tiny, thin rod. That's about the size of a matchstick and it's implanted under the skin of your upper arm. It's really cool. I had someone show me theirs once and you can kind of see it. But it releases progestin to prevent pregnancy. And what's cool is it's effective for up to five years.

So a lot of people like it because. They don't have to take a pill every day or get a shot or change a patch or change a ring. And it's not permanent either. The doctor can take it out at any point. Now this, again, this is something that has to be inserted and removed by your doctor. And what's really awesome is that it is 99% effective.

You really can't beat that. Next up is the IUD or the intrauterine device. This is another one of those low maintenance options. It can last anywhere from three to 12 years. Cause that depends on the type that you get. And basically it's a tiny T-shaped device that a doctor places into your uterus.

To prevent pregnancy. So there are two types, there's a hormonal version and there's a copper version. So the copper also known as ParaGard. There's no hormones in that. And this is the one that can actually last up to 12 years and how it prevents pregnancy is it's because, because it's made of copper and sperm, doesn't like copper.

So this kind of IUD makes it impossible for sperm to get to an egg. Another thing about ParaGard specifically is that it can be used as a really effective means of emergency contraception on it can be inserted up to five days after unprotected sex to prevent pregnancy. The other type of IUD is a hormonal one.

These all use progestin and they can last from three to seven years based on the brand that you get. So there are four different brands that are widely available. Marina, Kylie, Lena Liletta and Skyla. A lot of names. Interesting. Now all of these, all of the IUD, they have to be inserted and they have to be removed by a physician.

So that's really important. This is not something that can be inserted itself. Cause it's going into the uterus, not to the vagina. And then this is another one of those that's highly effective at 99%. And now let's talk briefly about emergency contraception. So there are two options, the Paragard IUD, which we just mentioned, or the emergency contraception pill, some people might call it the morning after pill.

Now for the pill, there are actually two types. The first is a pill with ULA, crystal acetate. The brand name for that is ELA. It's the most effective type of emergency contraception. You do need a prescription from your doctor. It's not one that you can buy over the counter and it can be taken up to 120 hours, which is five days after unprotected sex.

But it's best to take it as soon as possible. And if you, one of the drawbacks is if you weigh 195 pounds or more, this pill may work less. Well, now the second type of pill has leaven or gestural. And there are a lot of different brands for that. Plan B one step is probably the one that most folks have heard of because they have a lot of commercials and this can be bought over the counter and drug stores it's most effective when it's taken within 72 hours or three days after unprotected sex.

Now it can be taken up to five days, but the sooner you take them, the better they work. So it's better to stay within that three-day window. Unfortunately, if you weigh 155 pounds or more, These types of pills may not work. Now, the pills work by temporarily stopping your ovary from releasing an egg. It is not the abortion pill.

That's really important to remember. It is not the abortion pill. It won't work if you are already pregnant and it won't harm an existing pregnancy keep in mind, it does not terminate a pregnancy. It prevents one, and that's a different story. So now in terms of side effects, I mean, it's like any other prescribed medication.

All these hormonal methods are generally prescribed. Every method here can have side effects. So most of them are mild and they disappear after a few months. But if they don't or you experience something more severe, you really need to talk to your doctor about whether that method is best for you.

You need to make that decision of what works for you and your body, because what works for one person might not work for the next one. Now the benefits of taking a hormonal birth control are just plentiful. So, well, first of course, you have the peace of mind of knowing you're protected from pregnancy so that maybe you can enjoy sex a little bit more, and that's a great valid benefit.

Some other benefits include, it helps with acne. It helps with symptoms of PCOS, which is polycystic ovarian syndrome. It helps with the symptoms of endometriosis. It can help kickstart your body's natural hormone production. Birth control hormonal birth control is actually used for hormone therapy for our trans friends.

It can help regulate focuses periods. They can ease pre-menstrual symptoms and it helps with lighter periods as well. So in case someone has a really heavy flow or. It gets really bad cramps and just the symptoms are debilitating. These kinds of methods can definitely help. So if you're interested in learning more about these methods you can talk to the folks here at WVU at student health services.

You can also talk to the folks over in the women's resource center. You can talk to folks at planned Parenthood or WV free. I'm going to throw some links in the description, just in case you want to take advantage of any of those resources. Both here at WVU and also statewide. Now some of you might know, March is women's history month and actually the women's resource center.

And celebration of that is offering students free organic cup menstrual crops from March 8th through the 22nd as part of a nationwide campus cup 2021 campaign. So there's actually going to be a virtual discussion on environmental sustainability, how to use the period cup and how to determine cup size, the pros and cons menstrual hygiene, and menstrual equity at the campus cup period panel saved money.

Save the planet on March 8th at 3:00 PM. So I will actually also throw the registration link for that activity into the description in case you want to do that. We have well actually one of our graduate assistants at well WVU will be sitting on the panel. So that is really exciting. So take advantage of that opportunity.

If you like me, love to talk about periods. Well that about wraps it up for me. This was a really dense episode with a lot of information. So hopefully you learned a little bit. A little bit of something. But I appreciate you all listening. I promise I will have a guest next week, so you don't have to hear me ramble, but thank you all so much and we'll catch you next time on Wellbeing Wednesdays.