Hormonal Contraception Tricks the Body

The female menstrual cycle may be common knowledge for many of you; however, when I am counseling someone at the pharmacy counter I feel it is important to start at the beginning to assure we are all on the same page.  Understanding the basics of the menstrual cycle is key to understanding how hormonal contraception works.

In simple terms, the first day of menstruation (menses or period) is the first day of the female hormonal cycle.  The menstrual cycle is counted, in days, from the first day of menses until menses begins again. This cycle usually takes about 28 days; however, it is not uncommon for the menstrual cycle to last somewhere between 21-35 days.

After the female body has shed its uterine lining, estrogen levels will be very low.  The brain will then send out a message for the body to start developing an egg.  As the egg matures over approximately two weeks (the first half of the cycle) estrogen levels significantly increase.  With a surge of hormone, somewhere between days 10-15, the mature egg breaks through the ovarian wall (ovulation) 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 (the second half of the cycle), if there is no fertilized egg, the progesterone will decrease and the uterine lining will shed (menses, menstruation or period).  Here we are back at the first day of the menstrual cycle, 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 thickens the vaginal secretions, making it more difficult for sperm to reach an egg while also affecting the lining of the uterus, making it more difficult for a fertilized egg to attach to the uterine wall. 

Please visit the HormonalContraception patient medication education page at AudibleRx and listen to any of the seven different Medication Specific Counseling SessionsTM which cover the different categories of hormonal contraception.

Each hormonal contraceptive patient medication education session will discuss the important treatment information regarding that particular medication, including the Black Box Warnings, how the medication works, how to use it, what to expect, potential risks, side effects, adverse reactions and interactions, and importantly; what to do if you miss a dose.


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