Hormonal birth control in the form of pills is available to help females avoid unwanted pregnancy. Non-hormonal pills in other forms, such as barriers, can also be effective. However, birth control pills offer many additional benefits that other birth control methods do not. Additionally, other methods like IUDs and implants also offer benefits beyond preventing pregnancy. Let’s explore 10 benefits of birth control beyond pregnancy prevention.
1. Regularity in the menstrual cycle
Hormonal birth control pills and other methods work best by balancing hormonal fluctuations that occur abnormally during the entire duration of one menstrual cycle. Birth control pills usually contain a combination of specific hormones, including oestrogen and progestin. Balancing hormonal fluctuations can help make periods more regular and/or lighter, especially for women suffering from heavy menstrual bleeding. Newer options for birth control pills allow women to choose the time during which they would like to menstruate. Women engaged in intense physical sports may benefit from such pills.
2. Relieving pain symptoms
Hormonal birth control pills can help prevent ovulation, which may result in a thinner lining of the uterus. Having lighter periods can be beneficial for women who suffer from symptoms of anaemia and can ease painful menstrual cramps. Hormonal birth control pills can also help relieve painful periods during menstruation.
3. Preventing hormonal acne
Hormonal imbalances often trigger acne, and this issue is worse in adolescents. Hormonal birth control pills can help minimise these fluctuations, thereby helping to manage hormonal acne. Doctors may prescribe pills containing both oestrogen and progesterone to control acne.
4. Reduces the risk of various cancers specific to women
Hormonal birth control pills can offer long-term benefits in reducing the risk of ovarian and/or uterine cancer in women. Taking a combination of oestrogen and progesterone pills can significantly decrease the chances of developing uterine cancer by nearly 50%, compared to those who have never taken the pills. Moreover, these effects can last for as long as 20 years or even more. The continuous use of hormonal birth control pills may also help women reduce the risk of ovarian cancer and endometrial cancer, in comparison to those who are not using the pills.
5. Preventing & managing ovarian cysts
Ovarian cysts are fluid-filled sac-like growths that can form in the ovaries during ovulation. Women with PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) may have numerous ovarian cysts that, although benign, can be quite painful. Hormonal birth control pills can prevent ovulation, subsequently reducing the formation of ovarian cysts. Additionally, hormonal pills may also aid in preventing the growth of previously formed cysts.
6. Relieving symptoms of PMS
Almost every woman goes through a period of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) in the week or days leading up to the first day of their period. PMS is usually a mix of physical and emotional symptoms, mostly resulting from hormonal fluctuations. Hormonal birth control pills may help manage PMS symptoms by balancing the hormones in the body, especially if these symptoms become severe and disruptive.
It should be noted that different combinations of birth control methods have varying effectiveness. Therefore, different doses and various methods may need to be tested in combination before determining what suits the individual best.
7. Managing endometriosis
Endometriosis is a medical condition in which the uterine lining or endometrium can grow in places other than the uterus, leading to painful symptoms. During periods, the endometrium lining sloughs off and bleeds out. However, in the case of endometriosis, the lining may not be able to exit the body, resulting in symptoms of pain and inflammation. Hormonal birth control pills may help manage endometriosis by allowing women to take continuous doses of pills, thereby skipping menstrual cycles.
8. Preventing unwanted hair
Birth control pills can benefit women with heavy hair growth in their bodies by reducing the amount of male hormones (androgens) that the ovaries produce. Women with higher than normal levels of male hormones in their bodies, or those who are sensitive to these hormones, may be susceptible to growing unwanted hair on their upper lip line, under the chin, in the area between the breasts, as well as in the area between the belly button and the pubic bone, and on the inner thighs.
After starting on the pill, hair growth may decrease, and the difference may become visible after 6 months.
9. Reduces risk of anaemia
Some women who experience heavy bleeding during menstruation may suffer from symptoms of anaemia due to excessive blood loss. This can lead to several problems for women, as the body does not have enough red blood cells to carry oxygen. In such a condition, they may experience weakness and fatigue. Hormonal birth control pills can help prevent excessive blood loss during periods by balancing hormonal fluctuations. These pills can also work by skipping periods, thereby preventing menstruation-related anaemia.
10. Control the duration and time of periods
For most menstruating women, the timing and duration of periods are not something that they can control of their own will. Hormonal birth control pills may grant individuals the freedom to make choices in this regard. These pills can help alter hormonal functioning by delaying periods—achieved by taking hormonal pills before the expected date. Certain birth control pills may induce withdrawal bleeding in some women. Extended-cycle birth control pills might even allow women to altogether suppress menstruation for those who experience withdrawal bleeding.
Hormonal birth control pills may not be suitable for everyone, especially for those who smoke and/or are above 35 years of age. They may face the risk of blood clots and high blood pressure. However, it is best to discuss all the options with a certified healthcare provider before starting any birth control pill on your own. It must also be noted that birth control pills do not protect against sexually transmitted diseases, which can be prevented by using physical protective barriers during sexual activities.
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