What is Progestin?

Progestin Can Help Prevent Pregnancy

Morning after pill
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Progestin is the generic name for synthetic progesterone. A women's body naturally produces this steroid hormone during the menstrual cycle.

Oral contraceptives, some intrauterine devices (IUDs), and other medications contain this synthetic form.

Progestin therapy is not recommended for women who've had a hysterectomy.

Over-the-Counter Emergency Contraception

The brand name products Plan B and One-Step, as well as the generic form Take Action, are all progestin-only morning-after pills you can purchase without a prescription at your local, or online, drug store.

They contain a type of progestin called levonorgestrel.

Over-the-counter emergency contraception pills are about 88 percent effective at preventing pregnancy after sex. The morning-after pill prevents you from getting pregnant and does not cause a miscarriage or an abortion.

It's important to take the morning-after pill as soon as possible after your chosen method of birth control fails. Emergency contraception works up to 120 hours after you and your partner have sex, even though the label says to take it within 72 hours, according to information from Princeton University. Anyone, male or female, can buy the morning-after pill at the drugstore without showing proof of age, even though the label says it's only intended for women age 17 and older.

Prescription Emergency Contraception

Ella is the prescription form of the morning-after pill and is the most effective emergency contraception available in the United States.

It's made with a combination of progestin and estrogen.

Progestin-Only Birth Control Pills and Implants

Pharmaceutical companies produce some progestin-only contraception, although a combination of progestin and estrogen is more commonly prescribed.

The mini-pill is a progestin-only oral contraceptive given as an alternative to progestin-estrogen pills when you cannot tolerate extra estrogen, usually due to concerns about an interaction with a pre-existing condition or medication.

Implanon and Nexplano are progestin-only implants, which are about the size of a matchstick and inserted under your skin.

Progestin-only contraceptives prevent pregnancy by:

  • preventing ovulation
  • thinning the lining, called the endometrium, of your uterus
  • thickening your vaginal mucus

Alternate uses for oral contraceptives

Your health care provider may prescribe birth control pills for reasons other than avoiding pregnancy, including treating acne and to alleviate the physical and emotional symptoms of PMS -- premenstrual syndrome.

Some IUDs contain progestin

An intrauterine device is one of the most effective birth control methods. Inserted into your uterus by a medical professional, you can leave it in for 3 to 10 years, depending on the brand and your health. The modern IUD is plastic and T-shaped.

IUDs contain the active ingredient progestin or copper, which prevent the sperm from joining with the egg and prevent a fertilized egg from attaching to the wall of your uterus. Brand names for IUDs containing progestin include Mirena, Liletta, and Skyla.

Progestin is an out-dated treatment for menopause

Only 7 to 9 percent of women have menopause symptoms serious enough to disrupt their quality of life.

Hormone regimes using estrogen-plus-progestin or only estrogen are outdated treatments for hot flashes and night sweats, known as vasomotor symptoms. Clinical trials supported by the Women's Health Initiative found these "old school" hormone regimes increase the risk of:

Sources:

National Institutes of Medicine, Medline Plus: Estrogen and Progestin - Oral Contraceptives (2015).

Our Bodies Our Selves: Progesterone-Alone for Hot Flashes and Night Sweats? (2012).

Princeton University, The Emergency Contraception Website: Progestin-only Emergency Contraceptive Pills, "Morning After Pills" (2015).

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