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Progestin-only Contraceptives

Birth control methods containing only one hormone - progestin (the man-made form of progesterone) - come in many brands, doses and forms. Examples of progestin-only contraceptives are: the 3-month "shot" and "mini-pills". All progestin-only contraceptives work the same way to prevent pregnancy. They primarily work by preventing the release of an egg from the woman's ovary. They also make the cervix stay closed up tight by thickening the cervical mucus. These actions prevent an egg from being fertilized by a sperm. There may be other ways that these methods work to prevent pregnancy that are not listed here.

All the progestin-only contraceptive methods are very effective when used correctly. They are very safe to use for most women and serious side effects are very rare. A prescription from your health care provider is needed for these methods.

Advantages of progestin-only contraceptives include:

  • Extremely high effectiveness and convenience for the "shot".
  • Estrogen-sensitive women might be able to use these methods.
  • Can be used while breast feeding.
  • Reduced risk of uterine and ovarian cancer.
  • Reduced menstrual periods and their sometimes painful symptoms.
  • Positive psychological effects associated with high effectiveness, convenience, and relief of menstrual distress and pain have been noted.

Possible disadvantages and side effects include:

  • Unpredictable bleeding or periods, especially in the first few months of use.
  • Delay in return of fertility after discontinuing the "shot" (but not the mini-pill).
  • No protection against HIV/AIDS or STDs, such as Chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, warts, hepatitis, or human papilloma virus (HPV).
  • Some women report weight gain with the "shot" (but not the mini-pill).
  • Negative psychological effects of moodiness or depression have been reported.

Possible health risks include:

  • Longer term users of the "shot" may develop decreased bone density but the bone density returns when the method is stopped.

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