Hormonal contraceptives: pros and cons

Pregnancy-preventive preparations contain hormones that have been manufactured artificially. In their mode of action, these are similar or nearly identical to the body's own hormones such as estrogens and progestins. Both hormones control the monthly cycle. The most well-known and also most frequently used hormonal contraceptive preparation is the pill, which is often offered in the form of a micropille. This means that the estrogen-progestin combination was low-dose. The anti-baby pill is taken in tablet form, that is orally and feigns in the body an existing pregnancy. If it is a pure progestin preparation, so is the talk of the mini pill, which is also taken orally. There are also other hormonal contraceptives, which differ in their dosage form. These include the vaginal ring, the contraceptive stick, the contraceptive patch, the hormonal spiral and the three-month injection, which is shown as a depot preparation. All listed contraceptives are used before sexual intercourse to prevent fertilization of the egg. However, if there is unprotected intercourse, without any of the above preventive measures has been taken, the implantation of the egg can be prevented by the "morning after pill". However, this is only an emergency contraception, which is why the high-dose progestin added preparation should not be taken permanently.

The advantages at a glance

Hormonal contraception methods have many advantages, which is why this form of contraception is widely used. Nevertheless, the user should be aware that the pill is a drug that can also cause unwanted effects. For this reason, every woman should talk with her doctor about which medicine is best for her. The desired effects include, first and foremost, pregnancy prevention. Hormonal contraceptives are provided with the so-called Pearl Index, which provides information about the safety of the individual modes of action. This index indicates the proportion of sexually active women who become pregnant despite taking a particular preparation. (This proportion refers to the duration within one year). This means that the lower the indicated value, the safer the respective contraceptive method. The following values ​​were indicated for the usual hormone preparations:

  • Hormone implant: 0 – 0.08
  • Hormone spiral: 0.16
  • Vaginal ring: 0.4 – 0.65
  • Depot spray: 0.3 – 0.88
  • Birth control pill: 0.1 – 0.9
  • Contraceptive patches: 0.72 – 0.9
  • Mini Pill: 0.5 – 3

But hormones can also have other benefits. For example, some forms of abdominal inflammation occur less frequently. Excluded here, however, the tubal inflammation, which was caused by chlamydia. Revenues of progestin-based drugs can also reduce the risk of having uterine cancer. However, the reduced risk does not relate to cervical cancer. And also the occurrence of cystic ovarian changes is reduced by the intake of hormones. In addition, some forms of cancer occur less frequently, if the preparation is taken over several years. The reduced risk of benign breast disease can be attributed to the regular intake of hormones.

What are the disadvantages of hormonal contraceptives?

In addition to the benefits that result from the intake of hormones, but they also bring with it undesirable effects. These are caused by the estrogens and increase, for example, the risk of thrombosis, especially in nicotine consumption. Also potential water retention is one of the undesirable side effects, which can lead to unpleasant tensions in the breasts. Taking hormones can also cause high blood pressure and negatively affect milk production during pregnancy. Therefore, it is advisable to abstain from taking estrogens while breastfeeding. Some women complain of migraine attacks during menstruation. These may be due to the sudden decrease in estrogen at this stage. There is also an increased risk of breast cancer, cervical cancer and liver cancer. Overall, these risks are classified as low. The side effects mentioned, however, relate only to estrogen-stressed preparations. Gestagen preparations also provide undesirable side effects, such as bleeding disorders. In some women, the use of bleeding leads to more frequent bleeding, while others are more rare. As a rule, the bleeding but after regular intake weaker and remain partially even completely off. Other side effects are defined by:

  • edema
  • Weight gain,
  • A headache,
  • Nervousness,
  • Insomnia as well as fatigue,
  • Acne,
  • Chest pain and feelings of tension,
  • Depression and mood swings.

But the cost factor also plays a role when it comes to assessing the pros and cons.


Hormonal contraceptives have both advantages and disadvantages. Basically, the consultation with the attending physician should come first. Together, he and his patient find the right solution for a safe and pleasant contraception.