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What if I Don't Like to Take Pills?


Updated April 23, 2012

What if I Don't Like to Take Pills?

Hormonal Contraceptives for Those Who Don't Like Pills

Photo © 2009 Dawn Stacey
Question: What if I Don't Like to Take Pills?

If you don't like to take pills or can't swallow pills, oral contraceptives, also known as birth control pills, may not be the best method of hormonal birth control for you. Birth control pills were the first commercially available hormonal contraceptive method and tend to be the most popular of all prescription birth control methods. The pill is available in progestin-only varieties -- the mini pill, and combination birth control pills, those that contain both estrogen and a type of progestin, are available as well.

But, there is good news for those who don't like to take pills or can't swallow pills. There are several types of hormonal methods that basically work the same way as the pill, but offer an alternate delivery system. You may wish to further explore these options with your doctor if you can't swallow pills or don't like to take pills. These hormonal birth control methods include:

  • Ortho Evra Patch: a 4 x 4 cm, thin, beige patch that easily sticks to your skin. The patch releases both estrogen and progestin (Ethinyl Estradiol and Norelgestromin) through your skin and into the bloodstream.

  • Implanon: a contraceptive implant that consists of a thin rod, 40 mm in length and 2 mm in diameter (about the size of a matchstick) and is made from a flexible plastic. This contraceptive implant is inserted just under the skin on the inner side of your upper arm and continually releases a low dose of etonogestrel (a progestin) to protect against pregnancy for up to 3 years.

  • Depo Provera: this is a birth control shot that protects against pregnancy for a period of 11 to 14 weeks. Depo Provera slowly releases the synthetic form of progesterone, medroxyprogesterone acetate. The original Depo Provera injection must be injected into a muscle (either the buttock or upper arm), and you must get a shot 4 every 11 to 13 weeks. The newer Depo-subQ Provera 104 contains 31% less hormone than the original Depo shot, so it may lead to fewer progestin-related side effects. The subQ stands for subcutaneous, which means this contraceptive shot only has to be injected under the skin (either into the thigh or abdomen). It has a smaller needle, may cause less pain, and you must get the injection every 12 to 14 weeks.

  • NuvaRing: a comfortable, discreet, flexible vaginal ring that is about 2 inches in diameter. This birth control ring is inserted it into the vagina once a month and left it in place for 3 weeks. The NuvaRing slowly releases a low dose of synthetic hormones (estrogen and etonogestrel), which are activated by contact with the vagina. The walls of the vagina absorb the hormones and distribute them into the bloodstream to protect against pregnancy for one month.

  • Mirena IUD: the IUD is a totally discreet contraceptive method and is the most popular form of reversible birth control in the world. Mirena is a small, flexible device, shaped like the letter T, that is inserted into the uterus. This IUD releases a low amount of the progestin, levonorgestrel, continuously over a 5-year period as a way to prevent pregnancy.

  • Femcon Fe Birth Control Pill: this is the first and only FDA-approved chewable combination birth control pill. Each pack of Femcon Fe supplies a steady dose of the hormones, norethindrone and ethinyl estradiol to last for one month. Femcon Fe consists of small, spearmint-flavored pilla that can be either swallowed or chewed, so it is a great birth control pill alternative if you don't like pills or can't swallow pills. If you decide to chew the pill, you must wash it down with an 8-ounce glass of any drink.

Back to Main Page: Hormonal Birth Control Questions

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