Women taking birth control pills for reasons other than contraception

 
By Carrie Johnson Weimar • Published: February 1st, 2012
Category: Health in a Heartbeat
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Birth control pills: They’re not just for birth control any more. At least according to a new study, which found that more than one-point-five million women in the United States take birth control pills for reasons other than preventing pregnancy.

In fact, more than 726,000 women who take birth control pills have never had sex. More than 95 percent of those users say they take the pill for reasons other than contraception.

The research was compiled by the nonprofit Guttmacher Institute, which used data from the National Survey of Family Growth. They found that 14 percent of all women who take the pill do so for reasons unrelated to controlling pregnancy.

Birth control pills are a kind of medication that are made up of hormones — typically estrogen and progestin. The hormones in the pill work by preventing a woman’s ovaries from releasing eggs, which keeps her from becoming pregnant.

So why else would someone take a birth control pill? More than 30 percent of the women surveyed said they take the pills to reduce menstrual pain and cramps. About 30 percent said they wanted to regulate their menstrual cycles, which can help prevent side effects such as migraine headaches.

Another common reason is controlling endometriosis, a condition where tissue from the uterus grows in other areas of the body, such as the ovaries, bowel or bladder. Some women also take birth control pills to reduce acne. In fact, almost half of the women surveyed said they took the pill for multiple reasons.

There are also some risks associated with the pill. Users are at a slightly higher risk for rare but serious problems such as stroke, heart attack or blood clots. The risk is much higher for users who are thirty-five and older, overweight or are smokers.

Your doctor can help you assess these risks and choose what form of birth control is best for you.