Hormonal Contraception, How It Works

A few months back I wrote a blog discussing the barriers to effective counseling between a pharmacist and patient when it comes to hormonal contraception.  If you haven't read it, please click on this link and take a moment to read it before reading this discussion of how hormonal contraception works in the body. 

My goal here at AudibleRx is to educate people about their medications so they will become motivated to follow their own pharmaceutical regimen.  Understanding what the medication is doing and how it works in your body helps you realize the importance of compliance to therapy. 

The hormonal process of the female menstrual cycle may be common knowledge for many of you, however, when I am counseling someone at the pharmacy counter I do not like to assume anything.  Understanding the basics of the menstrual cycle is key to understanding how hormonal contraception works. 

In simple terms, the first day of menstruation is the first day of your cycle.  At this point your body is very low in estrogen.  Your brain sends out a message for your body to start developing an egg.  As the egg matures over 10-15 days your estrogen level significantly increases.  With a surge of hormone, the mature egg breaks through the ovarian wall and starts traveling down the fallopian tube ready for fertilization.  At this point, another hormone, progesterone, starts increasing.  Progesterone helps thicken the uterine lining, preparing a home for a fertilized egg.   After about 13-16 days, if there is no fertilized egg, the progesterone will decrease and the uterine lining will shed.  Here we are back at the first day of menstruation, estrogen levels are again low, and the whole process starts over again.

Hormonal contraception therapy tricks the body.  By maintaining a moderately constant level of hormones in the body, the surge of hormones around ovulation is avoided and an egg is not released.   Hormonal contraception also thickens the vaginal secretions making it more difficult for sperm to reach an egg and it also affects the lining of the uterus, making it more difficult for a fertilized egg to attach to the uterine wall. 

To listen to a Medication Specific Counseling SessionTM on any of the sevendifferent categories of hormonal contraception, please register to become a member of AudibleRx.

Each hormonal contraceptive Medication Specific Counseling SessionTM will discuss the important treatment information regarding that particular medication. This will include how the medication works, how to use it, what to expect, potential risks, side effects, adverse reactions and interactions, and what do if you miss a dose.


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