Birth Control

Benefits of the pill beyond preventing pregnancy

2 min read

Beyond Pregnancy Prevention

There are many reasons why someone might be interested in birth control pills. While preventing pregnancies is the most common, according to a study conducted by the Guttmacher Institute, 1.5 million women use birth control pills exclusively for non-contraceptive purposes. In fact, 31% of women use the pill to reduce cramps or menstrual pain, 28% for menstrual regulation, 14% to manage acne and 4% to treat endometriosis. So, if you are interested in birth control for more than pregnancy prevention, you are not alone! Here are some health concerns that birth control pills can address.

Desire to Skip Periods

There are occasions that are already nerve wrecking enough - like the first day of a new job - without the stress of worrying about your period. Birth control pills give you the flexibility to skip your period.

First, it is safe to skip your period - whether it is for a few months or even years! The only time healthcare providers are concerned about patients not having a period is when there isn’t a medical reason such as using birth control or breastfeeding. There are several options if you are looking to have fewer periods or skip your period altogether.

  1. Extended-cycle pills that have 91 pills in a pack and are designed so that periods only occur 4 times per year.
  2. With brands that have 28 pills in a pack, you can take the 21 active pills, skipping the 7 day placebo pills and start the next pack immediately on the 22nd day.
  3. With brands that have 21 pills in a pack, you can take the 21 active pills and start the next pack immediately on the 22nd day.

Treating Acne

For some people, acne can be a chronic source of worry. Instead of the occasional pesky breakout, some experience consistently inflamed skin that can be painful. This is where birth control can come in to help.

Birth control changes a woman's hormone levels. Birth control pills that contain estrogen reduce the amount of testosterone in the body, which decreases the amount of oil produced by the pores. This lowers the likelihood of blocked pores that can lead to the formation of acne. A paper, published in the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology in 2018, found low-estrogen triphasic birth control pills are the most effective at clearing skin, whereas hormone-releasing IUDs or implants can worsen acne. The FDA has approved four birth control brands to treat acne: Yaz, Ortho Tri-Cyclen, Beyaz, and Estrostep FE. Your healthcare provider may also prescribe other birth control brands to improve acne.

Birth control pills can be effective to treat all types of acne - including blackheads, white heads and inflammatory acne - and be patient to see the results! It can take some time, ranging from a few weeks to a few months, to see the positive effects on your complexion.

Alleviating Painful Periods

Hormonal birth control, including oral contraceptives, can help with painful periods by making your periods lighter. Hormonal birth control makes the lining of the uterus thinner, and when there’s less tissue for the uterus to shed, periods are lighter.

Another option to alleviate painful periods, is to eliminate the periods altogether by taking extended-cycle combination pills (see Desire to Skip Periods above). Combination pills contain estrogen and progestin, and you can find out more about the differences between combination pills and progestin-only pills here.

Managing Endometriosis Pain

Birth control can help manage endometriosis pain. Progestin-only pills - also known as the minipill - may be better than combined estrogen-progestin contraceptive pills for endometriosis because progestins have demonstrated benefits in reducing pain and suppressing the anatomic extent of endometriotic lesions. A monophasic pill may also be recommended because it provides a consistent dose of hormones each day.


Treating Symptoms of PCOS

PCOS can cause multiple cysts to develop on the ovaries. Patients with PCOS often have heavy, irregular, or painful periods. It is common for people with PCOS to not ovulate each month, thus resulting in irregular cycles. Symptoms of PCOS include weight gain, acne, skin tags, thinning hair on the head, and excess body hair.

Hormonal birth control can help to manage the symptoms of PCOS, including painful periods, acne and excess body hair. The hormones in the pill, the patch, and the ring work to prevent ovulation, which decreases ovarian cysts. Many people with PCOS use the combination pill to treat their symptoms. However, if you are unable to take estrogen, progestin-only pills may also alleviate the symptoms of PCOS.

Other Health Benefits of Birth Control

Beyond the benefits above, there are some additional health perks from birth control. Both combination and progestin-only pills can lower your risk of ectopic pregnancies, and the combination pill can also prevent or lessen:

  • Bone thinning
  • Cysts in your breast and ovaries
  • Endometrial and ovarian cancers
  • Serious infections in your ovaries, fallopian tubes, and uterus
  • Iron deficiency anemia
  • Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms

Finding the right birth control for you isn’t a one-time decision. Your healthcare provider can work with you to find the best method for you today, and then, as your life changes, can assist in modifying your method as needed. Interested in getting birth control? Get started with Twentyeight here.

P.S. Here are 5 signs that it’s time to switch birth control methods from Bedsider.

Looking for more personalized info? Message a doctor through Twentyeight to get medical advice based on your needs and lifestyle.

With the participation of
Dr. Alejandra Moscoso

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