WHAT ARE HORMONES?
What are they and what do they do?
In short, they are just natural chemicals in your body that help to keep things functioning the way that they should. Only sometimes, like during puberty, what it should be doing can be a bit of a shock. Because your body is changing you will start feeling different, but different isn’t always a bad thing, it’s just different.
You’re feeling different because your hormones are regulating your body changing, growing and maturing, your menstrual cycle (periods) and the emotional changes. So if you’re feeling moody, confused or just different, that’s your hormones working, and right now they’re probably working overtime.
How hormones affect the menstrual cycle?
The menstrual cycle lasts an average of 28 days (it can last more or less). To find out the length of your cycle, count from the first day of your period one month to the first day of your period the next.
Day 1: The cycle starts with the first day of menstruation. The lining of the womb begins to break down and bleed away. The bleeding usually lasts for 5-7 days. Some eggs begin to develop in one of the ovaries. Normally only one egg will reach maturity and is released from the ovary around day 14.The egg begins to travel down the fallopian tube toward the uterus. The lining of the womb thickens to prepare for implantation of a fertilized egg. If the egg does not join with a sperm, and become fertilized, the egg dies. Together with the thickened lining of the womb it leaves the body through the vagina. This is menstruation.
How does pregnancy happen?
When a man ejaculates during sex, the semen, filled with sperm, leaves the man's penis and enters the woman's body through the vagina. Some semen may still enter the vagina even if the man ejaculates outside of the vagina.
If an egg has been released by the ovaries, it can join with the man's sperm, this is called fertilization. Pregnancy starts when a fertilized egg is implanted in the uterus.
Important: sperm can survive inside a woman`s uterus for up to five days. This means that if a woman has not ovulated when she has sex, she could still become pregnant in the next few days.
How do hormones in contraception work?
Hormonal methods are highly effective in preventing pregnancies, they control the menstrual cycle are used by many women around the world to prevent unplanned pregnancies. They contain either one or two female sex hormones, named progestogen and estrogen, that are similar to the hormones that your body produces naturally, it’s just these ones trick your body into acting slightly differently. Some stop the act of releasing eggs completely, some just make it more difficult for sperm to move around freely, others make the lining of the womb thinner and prevent the implantation of a fertilized egg, but the end product is always the same, they help to stop you from getting pregnant. Hormonal methods include oral contraceptive pills, the ring, the patch, contraceptive injections, implants and the intrauterine system (IUS) as well as emergency contraceptives. Some hormonal methods are short acting, and some are long-acting, or for emergencies only.
How will contraception affect my period?
FYI, using hormonal contraceptives can affect your periods and may cause a change in bleeding pattern. In fact, hormonal contraceptives can have positive effects on menstruation such as making periods more regular, shorter, lighter or less painful. Some women will eventually not bleed at all and from a medical point of view, this is not a problem.
However mainly during the first few months of use they can cause irregular bleeding or spotting which may take a while to settle down. It’s nothing to worry about and is only temporary. So, if you do find your periods change after starting with a hormonal contraceptive, it may take a while for it to all settle down. Talk to your healthcare provider if anything concerns you, don’t just stop using it because you think something is wrong.
And by the way, no hormonal contraceptives have a noticeable long-term effect on body weight.
Each is used differently, has somewhat different side effects, and has slightly different advantages and limitations. Explore the different specifics of each method and talk to you healthcare provider to make sure you have no health conditions that may make a method unsuitable for you.