• Birth control information

    Hormonal birth control methods -- Oral Contraceptive Pill (OCP), Ring (NuvaRing) and Patch (Ortho Evra) are very effective, reversible methods of birth control and safe for most young, healthy women. Before you start any of these methods, please read the material accompanying your pack.

    These methods do not provide protection against sexually transmitted infections (STIs) including HIV infection. Latex condoms used consistently and correctly reduce your risk of becoming infected with a STI. Latex condoms are free to any UK student and are available in the health educator's office, University Health Service room 246. For information on lambskin condoms, polyurethane condoms, or female condoms, call the health and wellness nurse at 323-5823, ext. 83264.

    Please contact University Health Service if you have any questions:

    Appointments 323-2778 (APPT)
    Health & wellness nurse 323-5823, ext. 83264
    Phone information nurse 323-4636 (INFO)
    Health education specialist 323-5823, ext. 83258

  • How it works

    Combination hormonal methods contain the hormones estrogen and progestin, much like those produced by a woman's body. They work primarily by suppressing ovulation. Other actions include altering cervical mucus making it hostile to sperm penetration and altering the uterine lining preventing implantation of a fertilized egg.

  • Benefits

    Using hormones is an effective method of birth control. If used consistently and correctly it not only prevents pregnancy but provides added benefits.

    • Regular periods, lighter flow, less menstrual cramping
    • Improvement of acne (with some)
    • Reduction of excessive facial or body hair (hirsutism)
    • Reduced risk of noncancerous lumps or cysts in the breasts
    • Reduced risk of cancer of the ovary and cancer of the endometrium (lining of the uterus)
    • Reduced risk of ectopic pregnancy (pregnancy that occurs outside of the uterus)
    • Reduction in iron deficiency anemia due to less bleeding with periods
    • Reduced risk of pelvic inflammatory disease, a major cause of female infertility
    • Reduced risk of functional ovarian cysts
  • Side effects

    Minor side effects may occur during the first two or three cycles but usually resolve spontaneously. See your health care provider if any of the symptoms persist after three months of use.

    • Nausea. Try taking your pill with food or at bedtime. Avoid skipping meals. Eating small amounts of healthy food more frequently during the day may also help.
    • Spotting or light bleeding between periods. Take your pill at the same time every day. See your clinician if bleeding is heavier than a period or if severe cramping or abnormal discharge accompanies bleeding.
    • Weight gain. With a healthy diet and appropriate exercise, it is unlikely that you will gain weight.
    • Breast tenderness. Wear a bra that provides good support.
    • Hormonal methods may increase sensitivity to the sun in some women, increasing the risk of sunburn. Increase your time in the sun slowly and follow usual skin and sun precautions, such as a good sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15. If you use a tanning bed (never a good idea), build up your time slowly for the same reason.
    • Some women notice increased skin pigmentation (darkening of the skin) on the upper lip, under the eyes, and on the forehead. Sun exposure can increase the risk of pigmentation in susceptible women. This is not dangerous and is not an indication to stop hormonal methods, but may be slow to fade when they are stopped. Increased pigmentation may even be permanent in some women.
  • Major risks

    Although the risk of serious, life-threatening complications is small, users of hormonal birth control have a slightly greater risk of certain cardiovascular problems than nonusers. The most serious is the possibility of blood clots in the legs, lungs, heart, or brain.

    Smoking places a woman using hormonal methods of birth control at greater risk for cardiovascular problems. You are strongly encouraged to stop smoking if you are using these methods. For information on smoking cessation or for assistance in becoming smoke free, please call 323-APPT(2778) to make an appointment with our health educator.

    The majority of studies have found no overall increase in the risk of breast cancer in hormonal birth control users.

    If you develop any of these symptoms, seek prompt medical attention.

    • Severe headaches
    • Numbness or weakness of one side of body
    • Eye problems such as blurred or double vision, loss of vision, or other unusual visual symptoms
    • Sudden shortness of breath or coughing up blood
    • Sudden or constant pain or redness and swelling in your leg
    • Worsening or severe depression
    • Yellowing of the skin or eyes (jaundice)
    • Breast lump