While preventing unwanted pregnancies is the most common reason people use the pill, 14 per cent of users take it for other reasons.
Hormonal birth control offer a range of benefits beyond family planning as Jasmine Atieno explores. However, talk to your doctor if you intend to use it for other purposes.
It helps with Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)
Over 90 per cent of women experience Premenstual Syndrome (PMS) symptoms usually a week or two before their period, which may include fatigue, mood swings, irritability, bloating, and breast tenderness. The symptoms are typically caused by a change in hormones. Because birth control including the pill, some Intrauterine device (IUDs), implants, and patches deliver a steady dose of estrogen and progesterone throughout the month, it can help reduce the hormone fluctuation that causes PMS.
It can help women sail through perimenopause
Normally, birth control is associated with women of childbearing age, but staying on the pill while you are going through menopause can make the transition a little easier. It helps keep your hormone levels balanced and controls some menopause symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats, and irregular bleeding.
It can reduce migraines
Many women experience a migraine that is tied to their menstrual cycle— a hormone headache, which starts before or during a period and usually happens every month. These migraines are related to a drop in oestrogen before the cycle, and that drop of oestrogen then induces a migraine. Taking a hormonal birth control pill can help keep estrogen levels consistent throughout the menstrual cycle and ultimately prevent those migraines.
It can ease painful periods
Dysmenorrhea is the medical term for painful menstrual cramps that occur before or during your period. They are caused by chemicals called prostaglandins that are released from the lining of the uterus. During your period, your uterus contracts to help expel its lining, and higher levels of prostaglandins are associated with more severe cramps. You can’t eliminate prostaglandins, but the pill can help reduce the release by thinning the uterine lining. Plus, the heavier or longer the period, the more blood inside the uterus. The uterus then contracts to get rid of that blood. But since a hormonal birth control pill reduces the uterine lining, there will be less blood. Being on the pill can shorten the cycle or reduce the amount of blood in the uterus, which will hopefully reduce the cramps that are associated with it.
It helps to manage endometriosis
Endometriosis is a painful condition that happens when the tissue lining your uterus, called the endometrium, grows in places other than inside your uterus. This tissue bleeds during your period, no matter where it’s located. When the tissue bleeds in places where blood can’t easily get out of your body, it causes pain and inflammation. Continuous birth control pills and IUDs are usually good options for managing endometriosis
Reduces risk of anaemia
How much red you see in each month varies from woman to woman. If your flow is really heavy, though, it could potentially up your chances of anaemia, resulting in fatigue and lack of energy. The pill can help by lessening your monthly tides.
It can banish hormonal acne
Hormonal fluctuations are often major acne triggers. That’s why acne is usually at its worst during adolescence. By minimising these fluctuations, hormonal birth control can help to tame hormonal acne. Pills that contain both oestrogen and progesterone (known as combination pills) are the most effective acne fighters.
It can shield against pelvic inflammatory disease
Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) is a sexually transmitted infection of the female reproductive organs. Left untreated, it can cause chronic pelvic pain or infertility. And while the birth control pill doesn’t protect against the sexually transmitted infections that may cause PID, it can still offer protection by thickening your cervical mucus, making it more difficult for bacteria to make it to your uterus, fallopian tubes, or ovaries.
Help with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a common condition among teen girls and young women, is a hormone imbalance in which the ovaries make extra amounts of testosterone. It can cause irregular periods, unwanted hair growth, and acne. Taking birth control pills can improve these symptoms by balancing your hormones, lowering the level of testosterone, and regulating your period.
It reduces risk of uterine cancer and ovarian cysts
Hormonal birth control also has some long-term benefits. Women who take combination birth control pills are 50 per cent less likely to get uterine cancer. These effects can last for up to 20 years after you stop taking the pill. It can also reduce your risk of ovarian cancer.
On the other hand, ovarian cysts are small, fluid-filled sacs that form in your ovaries during ovulation. They aren’t dangerous, but they’re sometimes painful. Women with PCOS often have a large number of small cysts in their ovaries. By preventing ovulation, hormonal birth control can prevent these cysts from forming. They may also stop former cysts from regrowing.