Health benefits of the birth control pill

By Mina Radman • Published: April 6th, 2017
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Did you know the birth control pill does more for women than just preventing pregnancy? More than 1.5 million women in the United States are on “The Pill” for reasons other than contraception, according to a survey from the Guttmacher Institute.

The most common birth control pills contain estrogen and progestin. These two hormones, taken around the same time every day, stop the ovaries from releasing an egg, thus preventing pregnancy. By stabilizing hormones throughout a woman’s body, the birth control pill can provide other health benefits.

The pill helps regulate women’s menstrual cycles. Women take three weeks of daily pills with active hormones, followed by one week of pills with inactive ingredients. During this fourth week, the uterine lining sheds, resulting in a period.

Some women also take birth control pills to reduce acne. Because the pill keeps hormone levels steady, the skin’s oil glands produce less, which leads to fewer clogged pores and clearer skin.

The pill can be used to treat two other health conditions, endometriosis and polycystic ovary syndrome, or PCOS. In endometriosis, the tissue inside the uterus also grows outside of it, usually along the ovaries, causing immense pain. The pill reduces the growth of this tissue. PCOS is caused by high testosterone levels, leading to excessive body hair, ovarian cysts and severe acne. The pill can treat this condition by stabilizing hormone levels.

Women should be aware of the potential negative side effects of taking the pill, ranging from nausea and weight gain to a risk of blood clots, and should speak with their physician about whether taking the pill makes sense for them.