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Birth Control: Time-Release Hormones

Healthcare provider holding out written prescription.
Time-release hormones require a doctor's prescription.

Certain hormones can help prevent pregnancy. Hormones like the ones used in birth control pills can be taken in other forms. These must be prescribed by your healthcare provider. Because there’s very little for you to do, you may find one of these methods easier to stick to than pills. Side effects for this method will vary depending on the type of time-release hormone you use. Talk to your healthcare provider for more information.

Pregnancy rates

Talk to your healthcare provider about the effectiveness of this birth control method.

Using time-release hormones

Methods to deliver hormones include:

  • A skin patch placed on your stomach, buttocks, arm, or shoulder. You replace the patch weekly.

  • A ring that you insert in your vagina, leave in for 3 weeks, and remove for 1 week.

  • Injections given in your arm or buttocks once every 3 months by your healthcare provider.

  • An implant placed under the skin in the upper arm by your healthcare provider. This can be left in place for up to 3 years.

  • The progestin IUDs placed by your healthcare provider. These can be left in place for 3 to 5 years depending on which one is chosen.


  • Lowest pregnancy rate of the birth control methods that can be reversed

  • No interruption to sex

  • Easy to use

  • Don’t require taking a pill each day

  • May decrease menstrual cramps, menstrual flow, and acne


  • Don't protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs)

  • May cause irregular periods

  • May cause side effects such as nausea, weight gain, headaches, breast tenderness, fatigue, or mood changes (these often go away within 3 months)

  • May take up to a year for you to become fertile (able to get pregnant) after stopping injections

  • May increase the risk of blood clots, heart attack, and stroke

Time-release hormones may not be for you

Time-release hormones may not be for you if:

  • You are a smoker and over age 35

  • You have high blood pressure, gallbladder disease, liver disease, certain lipid disorders, cerebrovascular disease (stroke), or heart disease

  • You have diabetes, migraines, clot in a vein or artery (thromboembolic disorder), lupus, or take medicines that may interfere with the hormones

In these cases, discuss the risks with your healthcare provider.

Online Medical Reviewer: Donna Freeborn PhD CNM FNP
Online Medical Reviewer: Heather Trevino
Online Medical Reviewer: Irina Burd MD PhD
Date Last Reviewed: 4/1/2020
© 2000-2022 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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