Hormonal contraception is arguably the most popular method followed today. As on date though it is primarily restricted to use by women, though a male hormonal contraceptive is being vigorously researched.
The most common of the female hormonal contraceptives is ‘the pill’ or ‘birth control pill’ which was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration and introduced in 1960.
Hormonal contraception prevents pregnancy with more than one approach. It might stop ovulation thereby preventing fertilization; it may thin the endometrium making it difficult for the fertilized egg to implant itself; or it might thicken the female cervical mucus which would make it more or less impossible for the sperm to enter the uterus.
Hormonal contraceptives are remarkably successful, perhaps only exceeded by absolutely positive methods such as vasectomy, tubal litigation, or abstinence. The use of the intrauterine device is yet another method that might be termed as ‘positive’. A distinct advantage of hormonal contraception is it allows for spontaneous intercourse.
The single biggest disadvantage with hormonal contraception is that it offers no protection against STDs or sexually transmitted disease. Furthermore, in order to be effective, they need to be properly used by the woman. Implants usually are ‘fit and forget’ but others require the scrupulous maintenance of a careful schedule.
Another major disadvantage in hormonal contraception is the risk of cancer. According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer, oral contraceptives are carcinogenic with a small increased risk of breast and cervical cancer. On the other hand there is evidence that hormonal contraception offers protection against ovarian cancer and that of the endometrium.
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