Prescription-Only

Most hormonal forms of contraception are only available by visiting a healthcare provider and receiving a prescription. Typically, prescription contraceptives are more effective at preventing pregnancy than over the counter options. Some hormonal contraceptives require a healthcare provider to administer (including, IUD, the shot, etc.) while others are administered on your own (including, the pill, the ring, the patch, etc). The only non-hormonal form of contraception that requires a healthcare provider is the non-hormonal version of the IUD.

It is important to remember that while prescription-only contraceptives protect against pregnancy, a barrier method of protection is needed to protect against STIs.

Read more about the various types of prescription-only contraceptives below.

The IUD

The IUD, or Intrauterine Device, is a small “T” shaped device that gets inserted into your uterus.  There are two types of IUDs: one that contains hormones and one that does not.

Effectiveness

When used as directed, the IUD is over 99% effective in preventing pregnancy.  The IUD does not protect against STIs (sexually transmitted infections).

How it works

There are two types of IUDs: copper and hormonal. The copper IUD releases a small amount of copper into the uterus, which helps prevent the sperm from reaching the egg.  The hormonal IUD stops the ovaries from releasing the egg and thickens the cervical mucus to keep the sperm from joining the egg.  Both IUDs also work by preventing the egg from implanting in the uterus if fertilization does occur.

How to use it

The IUD is inserted into your uterus by a healthcare provider and stays in place for 5-12 years.

Side effects

People with an IUD may experience side effects including:

  • Cramping/spotting (bleeding between periods)
  • Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)
  • Mood changes
  • Tear in the uterus (very rare)
  • Infertility

The IUD may not work as well for women who are overweight or obese.

Please consult a healthcare provider about the risks and benefits of each method of contraception to determine which option is best for you.

The Patch

The patch is a skin patch that you stick on 1 of 4 locations on your body.  It contains the hormones estrogen and progestin, which prevent pregnancy. The patch is only available by prescription.

Effectiveness

When used as directed, the patch is 99% effective against preventing pregnancy. The patch does not protect against STIs (sexually transmitted infections).

How it works

The hormones in the patch stop the ovaries from releasing the egg and thicken the cervical mucus to keep the sperm from joining with the egg.  When the patch is on, you typically do not have your period; your period should come for the 1 week when you remove the patch.

How to use it

Remove the patch from the package and apply it to your lower abdomen, buttock, outer arm, or upper body (excluding breasts).  The patch should be applied to healthy skin (not reddened or broken) that is clean, dry, and free of make-up, lotions, or oils.  A new patch is applied to 1 of the 4 locations every week for 3 weeks then removed for 1 week.  When removed, you should get your period for 1 week then reapply the patch to repeat the cycle.  Activities including showering, bathing, swimming, exercising, and sweating should not loosen the patch.

Side effects

People using the patch may experience side effects including:

  • Changes in your period and mood
  • High blood pressure
  • Blood clots
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Spotting (bleeding between periods)

Smoking while using this contraceptive is dangerous as it increases several of these risks.

The patch may not work as well for women weighing over 198 lbs.  There may be a higher exposure to estrogen compared to other methods, which may increase your risk blood clots.

Consult a healthcare provider about the risks and benefits of each method of contraception to determine which option is best for you.

The Pill

The pill is an oral contraceptive that contains hormones to prevent pregnancy.  There are 2 types of pills: Progestin Only Pills and Combined Oral Contraception, which contain both progestin and estrogen. The pill is only available by prescription.

Effectiveness

When used as directed, the pill is 95% effective against preventing pregnancy. The pill does not protect against STIs (sexually transmitted infections).

How it works

The hormones in the pill stop the ovaries from releasing the egg, thicken the cervical mucus and thin the uterine lining to keep the sperm from joining with the egg.  When taking the “active pills” you typically don’t have your period; your period should come for 1 week when you take the “reminder pills.”

How to use it

The pill is taken at the same time everyday.  Each pack contains a 28-day supply of pills: 3 weeks of “active pills” that contain hormones to help prevent pregnancy and 1 week of “reminder” pills that do not contain hormones.  There are 2 types of pills depending on how often you want your period.  The “traditional cycle” causes you to have no period for 3 weeks and then 1 week of having your period.  The “extended cycle” causes you to have no period for 12 weeks and then 1 week of having your period.

Side effects

People using the pill may experience side effects including:

  • Dizziness
  • Upset stomach
  • Changes in your period
  • Changes in your mood
  • Weight gain
  • High blood pressure
  • Blood clots
  • Heart attack,
  • Stroke
  • Vision problems
  • Sore breasts
  • Spotting (bleeding between periods).

Smoking while using this contraceptive is dangerous as it increases several of these risks.

Antibiotics may reduce the effectiveness of the pill.

Consult a healthcare provider about the risks and benefits of each method of contraception to determine which option is best for you.

The Ring

The ring is a small, flexible ring, 2 inches in diameter that you insert into your vagina.  It contains the hormones estrogen and progestin, which prevent pregnancy.  The ring is only available by prescription.

Effectiveness

When used as directed the ring is 95% effective against preventing pregnancy. The ring does not protect against STIs (sexually transmitted infections).

How it works

The hormones in the ring stop the ovaries from releasing the egg and thicken the cervical mucus to keep the sperm from joining with the egg.  When the ring is in place, you typically do not have your period; your period should come for the 1 week when the ring is removed.

Using the ring

Wash and dry your hands, then hold the ring between your index finger and thumb. Insert it into your vagina until it feels comfortable.  The ring stays in place for 3 weeks and then is removed for 1 week.  When removed, you should get your period for 1 week then reinsert the ring exactly 1 week later to repeat the cycle.  For example, if you put the ring in at 10am on Sunday January 1st you would take it out at 10 am on Sunday January 21st and put a new ring back in at 10am on Sunday, January 28th.

Side effects

People using the ring may experience side effects including:

  • Changes in your period and mood
  • High blood pressure
  • Blood clots
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Vaginal irritation
  • Vaginal swelling
  • Vaginal discharge

Smoking while using this contraceptive is dangerous as it increases several of these risks.

Consult a healthcare provider about the risks and benefits of each method of contraception to determine which option is best for you.

Additional Resources

Student Health Services

Go Ask Alice! Health Q&A Internet Service

Planned Parenthood

 

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