A Short Tour Through The World Of Hormonal Contraceptives

Love is a strange game. But it’s not just with love, but the circumstances surrounding it that are such a thing. Sooner or later, young couples reach the point where they want to become intimate with each other. Most of the time, this first time is not yet meant to produce children together. The education not yet completed, hardly any experience in dealing with the opposite sex, and still so many dreams – there is no room for a baby.

Nowadays, it is no longer a problem for couples to prevent an unwanted pregnancy. And that’s a good thing! Because unwanted children sometimes don’t always have it easy in life. Today, all it takes to decide for yourself when to start a family is a little background knowledge and possibly a visit to the gynecologist. Gynecologists (also called “gynecologists”) are well versed in contraceptive methods of all kinds and perform examinations of women’s abdomens. Through regular examinations, diseases can be detected in time and treated if necessary. Gynecologists also routinely examine the breast for lumps that may indicate the onset of breast cancer.

In the following, we will introduce you to the contraceptives currently in use, including their good and bad points. With a critical eye, we try to find out what is best for kids and teenagers and what is less suitable.

Which method you choose is up to you and the couple. In any case, it’s better to be well informed than unintentionally pregnant.

Hormonal Contraceptives

Hardly any contraceptive is as popular as the pill. Its advantages are obvious: it works quickly and safely. Those who take the pill need not worry about unwanted pregnancies. Besides the pill, there are other contraceptive methods that act on the body by supplying hormones. You will find out what they are and what they can do in the course of this article.

In any case, you should never forget that hormonal contraceptive methods cannot provide protection against sexually transmitted diseases. That’s why it’s recommended to use a condom additionally if you haven’t known your boyfriend that long. The use of condoms during lovemaking is also called safer sex. This term comes from English and means something like “safe sex”. Because: Only sexual intercourse with a condom protects against HIV (also: “Aids”) and Co.

The Birth Control Pill

Most young women today take the contraceptive pill (or “pill” for short). This is partly because gynecologists and pill manufacturers profit from it. After all, a customer who needs prescriptions and medication, again and again, is a good customer. Unfortunately, some gynecologists are far too quick to prescribe the pill without thoroughly checking their patients. Now, however, you don’t need to think that we believe in a conspiracy of the evil pharmaceutical industry.

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The simple fact is that not all girls who are given the pill should take it. Because the pill is not suitable for

  • Gals who smoke cigarettes occasionally or even regularly.
  • Teenagers who have already had a case of thrombosis in their family.
  • young ladies who sit a lot and move very little (according to the motto “sport is murder”).

If you don’t know what a thrombosis is, let us explain it briefly:
A thrombosis is a blood clot in a vein. This, therefore, creates a kind of clot that can block the blood vessel. Such thromboses cut off the blood supply to the affected organ and, in the worst case, can lead to damage to the brain or lungs.

The above-mentioned risk groups may prefer to use other contraceptive methods. This is because thromboses can also occur in young people. Gynecologists usually do not provide their patients with sufficient information in this regard. That is why we consider it our duty to inform you about this at this point.

As you can see, the pill is not necessarily harmless. By now, at the latest, it should be clear to you that you are not taking a lozenge with the pill. Like all hormonal contraceptives, it has certain side effects. You can find out the details by asking at the pharmacy or in the package insert of the respective preparation.

Now that you can approach hormonal contraceptives like the pill with a more critical eye, we would also like to tell you about some of the advantages.

As already mentioned, the pill is extremely safe. Its Pearl Index ranges from 0.1 to 0.9 (the Pearl Index indicates how many women would become pregnant within a year using the respective contraceptive method – purely statistically, of course).

You can read more about the pill, its effects, and side effects in our detailed article on this topic under the heading “Children’s topics → Health”.

Three-month Injection

The three-month injection creates a reservoir in the body that slowly releases the hormone progestin. Similar to the pill, it prevents the implantation of an egg in the uterus and ensures that ovulation does not occur. The three-month injection is also very safe with its multiple effects (Pearl index: 0.3 – 1.4).

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However, the high hormone dose has a disadvantageous effect. Some girls’ bodies cannot cope with this concentrated hormone load. This can lead to bleeding disorders and other side effects.

Compared to the pill, the three-month injection eliminates the risk of using it incorrectly. While it is possible to forget to take the pill, the three-month injection takes effect as soon as it is administered.

However, it only does this if the dates for the booster are kept. The three-month injection is suitable for girls who want to use hormonal contraception and have difficulties with taking the pill (e.g. because they often forget to take it).

Hormone Implant

The implant is a small rod that is inserted under the skin. This may sound a little scary to you. But because it is placed on the inside of the upper arm, it is hardly noticeable.

This contraceptive works even longer than the three-month injection. Most implants (which, by the way, also work through progestins) can stay in the body for about 3 years before they start to not work properly.

For the insertion of the implant, you get a local anesthetic from the doctor. This means it hardly hurts when he places the implant under the skin. As with hormone injections, there are often side effects with this method, such as changes in menstruation due to the high hormone dose.

The implant is expensive at the beginning. Over the years, however, it is one of the cheapest contraceptives, as you only have to have it changed every three years. It is also very safe, with a Pearl index of 0.05.

Vaginal Ring

You usually don’t feel this soft ring at all. You can insert it yourself without having to go to the doctor every time. It then remains in the vagina for three weeks. There it releases estrogen and progestin and thus protects against pregnancy.

The vaginal ring releases a smaller dose of hormones than the pill. In terms of effect, however, it is very similar.

Monthly ovulation is prevented
A plug remains in the cervix that does not allow sperm to enter.

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To guarantee good effectiveness, you must follow the correct application. Your gynecologist will give you advice on this. When used correctly, the ring has a Pearl index of 0.65 to 0.9, which makes it very safe.

Like all hormonal contraceptives, the vaginal ring has some side effects. Therefore, it requires a prescription and must be prescribed by a gynecologist. You can then buy the ring at any pharmacy.

Hormone IUD

The “spiral” is actually not a spiral at all in terms of its shape. With its two supports, it looks like a “T”. It is very small, which is why you usually don’t feel it. At the bottom of the IUD is the part that continuously releases hormones.

Because these hormones are released directly in the uterus, very little of them gets into the bloodstream. This is good because you can expect fewer side effects. The hormonal IUD releases the least high dose of hormones of all hormonal contraceptives.

It works in the same way as the vaginal ring and thus reliably protects against unwanted pregnancies. More precisely, it has an extremely low Pearl index of only 0.16. This safety lasts for up to five years. Then it either has to be replaced or you switch to another contraceptive.

A disadvantage is the insertion of the hormonal IUD. This is done directly by the gynecologist. First, you have a consultation. On this occasion, the gynecologist explains in detail what the IUD can do and how it is inserted. He also does a short examination to measure your uterus. This way he can determine which IUD is right for you.

At the insertion appointment, things get serious. The gynecologist inserts the IUD into the uterus using a small tube. This is very quick but can be quite painful. If everything has gone well, the doctor checks the position of the IUD in the uterus using ultrasound. Usually, you will have no further discomfort and can go home normally.

To check the correct position, one should make an appointment with the gynecologist at least every twelve months. However, since sexually active young women should see a gynecologist regularly anyway, this is not really a disadvantage.

The IUD can be pulled out of the uterus by the gynecologist using the retrieval thread on it as soon as you want to have it removed.

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The biggest advantage of the IUD is probably that once it is in place, you don’t have to worry about anything (except regular checkups) when it comes to contraception. So, unlike the pill, there is no risk of misuse by forgetting.

Hormone Patch

The contraceptive patch is a small plaster that sticks to the skin. It works very similarly to a normal sticking plaster that you put on wounds.

At about 4.5 by 4.5 centimeters, it is relatively small. That’s why it’s virtually non-intrusive. The patch is similarly safe as the pill and has a Pearl index of 0.9. However, it does not work so well if you are overweight. Especially for women who weigh over 90 kilograms, the effect can change.

The patch is applied to the skin on the first day of menstruation. After seven days it must be changed (preferably always on the same day of the week). After three weeks (i.e. three patches), there is a break of seven days. During this time, menstruation occurs as usual. After this week, a new patch is applied.

A three-month pack of hormone patches costs about €50. Talk to a gynecologist or pharmacist about possible side effects.

Just as with the pill, you have to keep to the exact times when you change the hormone patch. If you forget to take it, you can do so within 48 hours. If you do not apply it until after these 48 hours have elapsed, you will no longer have reliable protection. Without an additional contraceptive (condom or similar), you could then become pregnant despite the patch.

The patch can be applied to the following areas of the body:

  • Butt.
  • Abdomen.
  • Upper arms.
  • Upper body (but not on the chest).

Worksheet For The Text

1) Explain the difficult words from the text.
What does…

  • Pearl index?
  • Thrombosis?
  • Gynecologist?
  • Safer sex?

2) Why is contraception with hormonal contraceptives alone not enough? What are the dangers of having sex without a condom? Write down here what you have remembered about this.

3) Hormonal contraceptives are convenient, but they are not safe. Did you remember why? Write it down here.

4) This question is for girls. Which contraceptive method appeals to you most? Describe why here. What are the advantages and disadvantages of using this method? How safe is it?

Photo: Karimala / bigstockphoto.com

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