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Not just contraception: other uses of the pill

Birth control for PMS, period pain and PCOS etc.

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Exploring 10 additional benefits of birth control

It may come as a surprise, but birth control pills do a lot more than just preventing pregnancy. Owing to synthetic doses of the hormones estrogen and progesterone contained in the pills, they not only help to alleviate symptoms associated with problematic periods, but also a whole host of other health-related issues triggered by hormonal imbalances.

We often think of side-effects as having harmful consequences on our bodies, and while this may be the case with many prescription drugs, when it comes to the combination pill, many of its secondary effects can be far from undesirable for your health because of its hormone-regulating properties. Read on to discover how you can enjoy the many perks of the pill, from improving acne and anaemia to relieving migraines and menopause, and many other things in between.

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Pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS)/ pre-menstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD)

As if getting a period each month wasn’t enough to deal with, many women also have to manage those pesky PMS symptoms, or worse still, PMDD, which is a more severe version. PMS and PMDD are characterized by both physical and psychological symptoms including mood swings, irritability, cramping, bloating, weight gain, and breast soreness, among other things, all thanks to the spike in hormones before and during your period.

Taking the pill on a regular basis will prevent ovulation by significantly reducing the amount of hormones your body produces, and at the same time, keeping the associated symptoms at bay.

 

Painful periods

The pest responsible for painful periods is called prostaglandin. This chemical forms in the uterus in preparation for your period and causes the muscles to contract, triggering the intense cramping sensation. Because birth control pills prevent ovulation, they also reduce the amount of prostaglandin produced, thereby banishing the pain.

 

Migraines

It is believed that migraines are caused by drops in estrogen and progesterone levels right before your period is due; a problem that affects over 20 million American women. If you’re prone to getting such intense headaches around the time of your period, then your doctor may recommend the combined pill to help regulate your hormone levels.

 

Acne and excess hair

Although not originally intended for acne and excess hair, the combined birth control pill helps curb the level of male hormones – androgens – produced by the ovaries that can lead to unwanted skin and hair troubles. Having surplus androgens floating around in the body can cause hormonal acne, which can be a real pain (literally and figuratively), and is likely to show up in areas like the chin, jawline, back, and chest. Unwelcome hair can also sprout up in unlikely places like the chin, upper lip, chest, below the belly button, and down the inner thigh.

If you’re thinking about taking birth control specifically for this issue, make sure that you speak with your doctor about getting the right combination of drugs, as some pills can make your acne worse. You will also have to persevere with the medication for at least 6 months before you begin to notice any effective results.

 

Irregular and heavy periods

Women who do not produce normal progesterone levels often may go a long time without having a period and then getting a really heavy period all at once, which can be a nuisance at best. A menstrual cycle that typically lasts longer than 35 days is classed as irregular. Low levels of this hormone mean that during this time, the lining of the uterus grows excessively, causing heavy bleeding when you finally start your period; it may also cause abnormal growth patterns in the uterus, including cancer.

Combination birth control pills that contain progesterone can regulate your cycle and also help to keep your uterine lining thinner, so you can enjoy the relief of knowing exactly when your next period is coming and that it will be lighter and more manageable.

 

Endometriosis

The endometrium is just a fancy name for the uterus lining mentioned above; endometriosis is when this tissue starts to grow in other areas outside of the uterus, including the ovaries, bladder and bowels. At the time of your period, this lining will shed and bleed in any area of the body it may be growing, causing inflammation, and any woman who suffers from the condition will vouch that it can be quite painful. While birth control pills won’t cure endometriosis, consistent use can alleviate the pain by inhibiting the growth of the uterine lining, wherever it may be located.

 

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)

Like endometriosis, PCOS is another incurable condition, but the troublesome symptoms can be reined in with birth control pills. PCOS is when small, fluid-filled cysts form in the ovaries during ovulation, preventing them from releasing mature eggs each cycle as normal, which can cause infertility.

Because hormonal imbalances are the culprit behind this condition, contraceptives (depending on the type you take) can either help even out these levels and allow your body to release eggs on time each month, or prevent ovulation altogether and stop the cysts from forming or regrowing.

 

Ovarian and uterine cancers

Cancer can be a worrying prospect for anyone, so it is reassuring to know that certain contraceptives can lower your chances of developing ovarian and uterine cancers by a staggering 50% and 70%, respectively. This significantly reduced risk is owing to the pill stopping ovulation, as well as thinning out the uterus lining, both of which provide added protection from the disease. What’s even more encouraging is that the longer you take the pill, the more you are safeguarded from these cancers, even for years after you stop taking it.

On the downside, though, oral contraceptives can raise your odds of developing breast and cervical cancers due to the increased levels of estrogen. If you’re worried about taking birth control, for this reason, it is best to speak with your doctor and weigh out the benefits and risks to make sure that you’re making the best decision.

 

Perimenopause

It may sound counterintuitive, considering that birth control pills are designed to prevent pregnancy in women of childbearing age, but they can also provide some benefit for women who are going through the menopause. During this time, hormones begin to deplete drastically within the body, bringing about a whole host of unwanted symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats, decreased libido, and irregular bleeding. By helping to keep hormonal levels steady, the pill can bring relief from such issues during this notoriously tricky transitional period.

 

Anaemia

If your periods are particularly heavy or last longer than usual, then your likelihood of developing anaemia (a condition characterized by low red blood cell count) becomes markedly higher due to the increased loss of blood each month. As a result, you may feel weak and lethargic, making it difficult to go about your daily life as normal. Thankfully, contraceptives can help with this condition by either lessening the amount you bleed each month or allowing you to skip your period altogether.

 

What are the drawbacks of the contraceptive pill?

Despite its extensive benefits, hormonal birth control isn’t for everyone. By and large, most women should be able to take the pill without experiencing any problems or side-effects; however, as we are all unique beings, each type of pill can affect each woman differently. Such effects can range from physical to emotional, including:

  • Spotting or irregular periods
  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Mood changes
  • Breakouts
  • Sore or enlarged breasts
  • Weight gain or loss

Rest assured, these symptoms should correct themselves within 3-4 months of being on the pill, but if they persist, speak to your doctor about changing your dose or switching you to a different pill.

Because estrogen-based birth control can increase your chances of developing blood clots and high blood pressure, it is not recommended for women who smoke and are aged over 35. As mentioned earlier, such pills can also increase your chances of developing certain types of cancers.

Consult with your doctor if you’re not sure whether birth control is the best option for your distinct issue; their knowledge and expertise will help you make an informed decision on what will work best for you. 

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