With all the controversy surrounding birth control these days, especially thanks to the extremely old school and right wing leaders in politics, I thought it would be a good idea to review some of the non-contraceptive benefits of birth control, and why it is important to be aware of these benefits when visiting your gynecologist. For a review on the types of birth control, take a peek at You should have a period. Your period shouldn’t have you!
Period issues: One of the most common uses for birth control besides preventing
pregnancy is helping to lessen women’s symptoms during her menses. Some women deal with heavy bleeding during their period, which can leave them fatigued and worn out (not to mention it’s so distracting having to worry about changing a pad or tampon every few hours—surgeons, am I right???) and eventually lead to anemia. Independent of bleeding, cramping and pelvic pain can also be debilitating during menses. Birth control is one of the best ways to reduce bleeding and pain. There are so many options out there, and it’s very rare that we can’t find one that doesn’t work.
Headaches: During a normal menstrual cycle, there is a natural rise and fall of estrogen
and progesterone. When it’s time to have a period, these hormones drop into their lowest state. This abrupt withdrawal of hormones can lead to menstrual migraines. If you are someone that suffers from migraines, I recommend tracking their timing. If you notice an association with your menses, it may be time to discuss these issues with your gynecologist instead of your neurologist. (Important side note: Women who have migraines with an aura should NOT be on estrogen therapy. It is very important to let your physician know if you have these. Women who use estrogen and have migraines with aura are at an increased risk for stroke.)
Mood changes: In addition to headaches, the withdrawal of estrogen and progesterone especially the week before your menses can lead to some feelings of irritability, anger, overall not feeling like yourself. Birth control can help temper some of these changes because without the fluctuating hormones, our mood tends to stabilize.
Acne: In addition to estrogen and progesterone, we also have testosterone that naturally occurs in our system. Testosterone is what causes acne, male pattern baldness, and forgetting to put the toilet seat down at night (lol jk!). For some women, controlling testosterone levels can help reduce acne. Birth control helps by essentially binding the testosterone so it isn’t free in the blood stream to wreak havoc on our skin.
Ovarian cysts: Every month our ovaries grow a little follicle on them, which fills with fluid and an egg. This cyst then ruptures and releases the fluid and egg (the process known as ovulation) into the abdomen to be picked up into the tube, and then either shed during menses or combined with sperm to make a baby.
Review the anatomy of the lady parts here Lady Bits Exposed: Why Knowing Your Anatomy Matters. Although most of the time these cysts are small and pain free, some women create large cysts, or have cysts that fill with fluid and blood, and upon rupturing can be extremely painful. If you are experiencing lower abdominal pain and cramping two weeks before your cycle that knocks you out and is fairly predictable in timing, birth control can absolutely help prevent ovulation and reduce the pain and discomfort associated with this.
Cancer: Women that experience abnormal menstrual cycles have an increased risk of endometrial cancer because of abnormal and unopposed estrogen exposure. Birth control regulates these hormones, reducing the risk of cancer in high risk women. It has also been shown to reduce the risk of ovarian cancer, especially in those women that have a family history of breast or ovarian cancer. The less ovulatory cycles a woman experiences means the lower her risk of cancer. For an overview on female cancers and their warning signs, Is this normal? Or is WebMD right??
This is by no means a comprehensive list of the benefits of birth control. Besides allowing women to choose when conception happens for them Stop, The Love You Save May Be Your Own: Birth control and other options for preventing pregnancy until you’re ready, the various forms of birth control can really improve your quality of life if you are dealing with issues associated with the fluctuations of hormones. Remember to speak to your physician about any concerns you have, as well as medications you are already taking.