Any blog that discusses contraception has the potential of being labeled as controversial. My goal here is education, not controversy.
The deal is, every day women receive hormonal contraception medication from pharmacies and clinics and I am not convinced that they all receive appropriate counseling.
One particular college student recommended to me that I address this issue because, as she stated, “There are way too many students on campus that have questions about birth control and don't know where to go to get answers”. She said they ask each other questions and more often than not come away misinformed. As a pharmacist, it is my responsibility to provide effective patient education and counseling in all situations involving medication treatment.
The hormonal process of the female menstrual cycle may be common knowledge for many of you; however, when I am counseling someone at the pharmacy counter I do not like to assume anything. Understanding the basics of the menstrual cycle is key to understanding how hormonal contraception works.
In simple terms, the first day of menstruation is the first day of your cycle. At this point your body is very low in estrogen. This triggers your brain to send out a message for your body to start developing an egg. As the egg matures over 10-15 days your estrogen level significantly increases. With a surge of hormone, the mature egg breaks through the ovarian wall and starts traveling down the fallopian tube ready for fertilization.
At this point, another hormone, progesterone, starts increasing. Progesterone helps thicken the uterine lining, preparing a home for a fertilized egg. After about 13-16 days, if there is no fertilized egg, the progesterone will decrease and the uterine lining will shed. Here we are back at the first day of menstruation, estrogen levels are again low, and the whole process starts over again.
Hormonal contraception therapy tricks the body. By maintaining a moderately constant level of hormones in the body, the surge of hormones around ovulation is avoided and an egg is not released. This therapy also thickens the vaginal secretions making it more difficult for sperm to reach an egg and it also affects the lining of the uterus, making it more difficult for a fertilized egg to attach to the uterine wall.
My goal here is to help educate consumers. Take a moment to click on the hormonoal contraception you would like to learn more about. After listening to the education session on the AudibleRx platform, you will have a clear idea of what you do and don’t know about your medication and be in a position to take educated questions back to your own health care provider.
- Combination pill pack, Progestin/Estrogen, 28 day
- Extended Cycle pill pack, Progestin/Estrogen 91 day
- Progestin only 28 day pill pack
- Patch, Progestin/Estrogen (Ortho-Evra)
- Vaginal Ring, Progestin/Estrogen (Nuvaring)
- Injection, medroxyprogesterone, (Depo-Provera)
- Emergency Contraception (Plan B)