How Much Do You Really Know About Today’s Birth Control Pill?
- You eat well.
- You try to exercise regularly.
- You care about your health.
- But what does that have to do with birth control?
Birth control methods have a wide range of benefits other than pregnancy prevention— they can help you protect your health.
If you are comparing contraceptives, you have a lot to consider: safety, convenience and effectiveness. You should also consider how they affect your health.
Let’s look at the pill. It is one of the most popular and effective forms of birth control, used daily by more than 10 million American women. For most women, the risks of using today’s lower dosage pills are very small and the health benefits can be great.
So what do we know about the health benefits of today’s pill? Let’s look at the facts. There’s more good news than you may think.
Birth control pills can help regulate your monthly period.
Women using the pill tend to have less bleeding and fewer cramps during their monthly periods. Some advantages of regular periods include a decrease in: midcycle pain, iron deficiency anemia, certain types of migraine headaches, and pre-menstrual tension syndrome (PMS). Regular periods can also allow you to plan vacations and work-related travel with confidence. .
Birth control pills can provide relief from acne and facial hair.
Many women have acne throughout their reproductive years. Some have excess hair on their chins and upper lips. Birth control pills can help control the hormones that cause these problems.
Birth control pills can provide relief from symptoms of menopause.
The hormones in birth control pills can help ease the symptoms of menopause, such as hot flashes, night sweats and irregular monthly periods.
Birth control pills can strengthen your bones.
Studies show that by regulating hormones, the pill can help prevent osteoporosis, a gradual weakening of the bones which affects millions of American women.
Birth control pills may help protect you from cancer of the ovaries and womb.
Studies show that using the pill over a period of time may decrease the chance of cancer of the ovaries by 40% to 60% and cancer of the womb by 50%. Reproductive cancers (ovaries, womb, breast and cervix) result in about 70,000 deaths each year in the U.S.
Despite conflicting reports, most studies do not show that the pill causes breast cancer. Studies show that the pill greatly reduces benign breast disease or cysts on the breasts. The pill can also protect against cysts on the ovaries and pregnancies outside the womb, which can be life- threatening.
Some studies show that cervical cancer may be more common among women using birth control pills for more than five years, but evidence does not show that the pill causes this kind of cancer. In fact, researchers suggest that cervical cancer may be transmitted more like a sexually transmitted disease (STD). The steps you take to avoid STDs, such as using barrier contraceptives (condoms, diaphragms, etc.) and spermicides, can reduce your risk of cervical cancer. You should discuss your personal risks with your healthcare provider.
Birth control pills provide some protection against pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), a major cause of infertility among women.
PID is a general term for infections of the reproductive system. It is caused by bacteria primarily associated with STDs and can result in severe pelvic and stomach pain. If left untreated, it can also result in infertility. Birth control pills can help prevent bacteria from entering the womb and doing damage.
Birth control pills can help prevent pregnancy after sex.
Certain birth control pills, taken in high doses, can help prevent pregnancy up to 72 hours after unprotected sex. Sometimes called the “morning after” treatment, emergency contraception should be considered when a birth control method fails (for example, the condom broke) or is not used at all. Ask your healthcare provider for more information or call the Emergency Contraception Hotline at 800-584-9911.
You may still have questions about birth control pills. Here are answers to a few of the most common concerns. You should discuss your personal situation with your healthcare provider.
Does the pill make you gain weight?
Many studies consistently show no significant weight gain with the use of the pill. In general, women gain and loose weight over the course of their lives, no matter what birth control method they chose. Ask your health care provider any questions you may have about your weight.
Does the pill protect you from sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)?
No. The pill provides no protection against STDs including HIV and AIDS. To help prevent STDs, use a latex condom correctly every time you have sex. If you think you may have contracted an STD, see your healthcare provider immediately.
Does taking the pill affect your blood pressure?
A number of large studies have shown no significant increase in blood pressure in women who take birth control pills.
For more information and instructions on using birth control pills, talk to your healthcare provider.
Copyright © 1996
About Audrey Kelly, PharmD