7 Positive Side-Effects of Birth Control
When it comes to birth control, it may feel like all you ever hear about are negative side effects. But birth control actually has a number of positive attributes besides preventing pregnancy. Out of all U.S. women ages 15-44, 16% are on the pill, 1.6% are on the patch or vaginal ring, and 9.6% are using Long Acting Reversible Contraceptives, or LARCs (also known as IUDs and hormonal implants). While this amounts to millions of American women using birth control, most aren’t aware of the positive impacts of hormonal contraception. Here’s a list of side effects you may not have heard about.
1. Regular periods. The most obvious side effect of birth control, besides preventing pregnancy, is a regular period. That’s right, birth control can help treat both amenorrhea (lack of periods) and menorrhagia (intense periods), by regulating your body’s menstrual cycle. Going on the pill can make your periods shorter, lighter, and even less painful. The pill reduces your body’s amount of prostaglandins—the chemical that causes those painful muscle contractions—thus easing your cramps. If your periods are extremely intense, you can even use the pill to skip them entirely (it’s completely safe).
2. Less PMS. Does your period make you cranky, bloated, and emotional? If it does, you’re in the same boat as 90% of other women who experience PMS (Premenstrual Syndrome) at some point in their life. PMS is the result of shifting amounts of estrogen and progesterone in your body. Birth control provides a steady amount of synthetic versions of these hormones, allowing you to regulate your cycle and the emotions that come with it.
3. Acne treatment. Women’s acne is particularly related to hormonal balance, fluctuating based on one’s menstrual cycle (especially acne on the chin and jawbone). The hormones at play here are androgens and estrogen, created naturally by the body at different moments in the cycle. Excess androgens can cause acne. Hormonal birth control contains estrogen, so taking it orally can restore the body’s hormone balance, preventing painful pimples or clearing up existing ones.
4. Lower risk of ovarian cancer. Ovarian cancer is the fifth most deadly disease for cis women, taking 14,000 lives every year. About 1 in 75 people who have ovaries will get diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and it’s extremely difficult to treat unless it’s caught early. The good news is there’s a simple way to reduce your chances: birth control. Studies have shown that women who take the pill for 1-5 years can cut their chances by up to 40%, while women on the pill for 12 years or more can cut their chances by up to 70%.
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5. Manage Endometriosis. Endometriosis is a condition that causes the cells of one’s uterine lining to grow outside of the uterus, and even on other organs. It can be very painful and cause agonizing periods. Women with endometriosis can easily spend $10,000 annually on expensive surgeries to remove endometrial growths. Luckily, in some women, birth control can be a cost-effective way to treat endometriosis symptoms and prevent further growth. The pill regulates the body’s hormonal cycle, making periods less painful and easier to predict and manage. Further, monophasic, progestin-only pills in particular have been shown to suppress endometrial growth, making symptoms less likely to occur. While the pill cannot cure endometriosis, it can stop it from getting worse, and control pain in up to 75% of endometriosis patients. If you have endometriosis, talk to your doctor about your treatment options.
6. Treat Uterine Fibroids. Uterine fibroids are benign tumours on or around the uterus that can lead to heavy bleeding and discomfort. Similarly to endometriosis, uterine fibroids can cause excruciating periods that can be managed more easily by using birth control. While uterine fibroids’ growth is thought to be affected by estrogen, most birth control pills contain small enough hormone doses that they won’t worsen uterine fibroids, but rather halt their further growth and control their symptoms.
7. Protect against Pelvic Inflammatory Disease. Pelvic Inflammatory Disease, or PID, is a serious infection of the upper reproductive system that is usually caused by untreated chlamydia or gonorrhea. (As most people who get chlamydia and gonorrhea do not show symptoms, it’s important to get tested to prevent conditions like PID, since more than a million people are diagnosed every year.) PID can result in scar tissue forming in or around the fallopian tubes, ectopic pregnancy, infertility, and chronic pain. While PID can be treated, any damage it does to the reproductive system is irreversible. Some research shows that using birth control, which thickens the cervical mucus to prevent sperm from entering, is thought to prevent STI bacteria from moving further up the reproductive system, thus protecting the body from PID. However, the most surefire way to prevent PID is using condoms to stop STIs in their tracks.
If you’re interested in trying out birth control for all the added benefits, great news—you can now skip the hassle of the office visit. With Simple Health, you can get your prescription online and your refills delivered to your door, right when you need them.
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