Written by Aariyana Britton, B.Sc. Updated on March 25, 2021
You probably know that hormonal birth control is primarily used to prevent pregnancy, but you might be surprised to learn that it also provides other benefits that are seldom advertised by the media (and even some gynecologists). Perhaps this is because we live in a heteronormative, patriarchal culture that often sidelines that which does not indirectly or directly benefit men.
Perhaps the omission is unintentional. Either way, birth control’s reach extends far beyond pregnancy prevention, and it is time that we get candid about this issue and start to shed the stigma that often accompanies it.
The truth is, birth control can be life-changing, but it is not a one-size-fits-all. The earlier you cozy up to a trusted medical professional (at Pandia Health we have birth control expert doctors) who can help you find the right fit, the sooner you will find the birth control glass slipper to your Cinderella. And off to the ball you go…
Listen up: if you are a person who menstruates — whether trans, gay, abstaining from sex, or unable to get pregnant for medical or other reasons — you might want to consider birth control as a healthcare #lifehack. Here’s why:
Skipping Your Period
Picture this: Your wedding to the Ariana Grande or Harry Styles of your dreams is coming up. You do the math and realize Aunt Flo has decided to crash the party and the honeymoon. Maybe you and your significant are cool with period sex but would rather forgo the cramps. Maybe you want to be considerate of the hotel maids and avoid the whole mess entirely. I have good news: If you are on the pill or the ring, you can skip your period by ditching the sugar pills or skipping over the ring-free week.
Or for those not yet that committed in a relationship, I’m sure most of you can attest to the fact that getting your period unexpectedly can be the stuff of Carrie-inspired nightmares. Who here has not been caught off guard at the most inopportune of moments, even staining a chair or two?
Reasons to go on Birth Control
Going on the birth control ring, birth control patch, or birth control pill will allow you to predict your periods usually to the day and sometimes to the time of day (depends on your body and level of stress). Also, you can MOVE the period away from things like exams (finals, SATs, GRE, MCAT, LSAT, etc), sports competitions, spring break, summer vacation, special occasions where it would be good NOT to stain your dress/clothing.
Learn more about Making #PeriodsOptional from our CEO/Co-Founder Dr. Sophia Yen here, especially check out her TEDx talk on the bottom of the page to learn about the science/safety of #skippingPeriods.
Lower Risk of Endometrial and Ovarian Cancer
Observational studies suggest that women who take oral contraceptives have a lower risk of endometrial, ovarian, and colorectal cancer. In fact, your risk of ovarian cancer is decreased by 50% if you are on birth control for 5 years.
However, researchers have found that some women who use oral contraceptives also show a slightly higher risk of breast cancers. One study showed that for women who are under 35, the risk was only one additional breast cancer case for every 50,000 women who used hormonal contraceptives for a year.
Another study of 46,000 women for 44 years found that although there were increases in breast and cervical cancers among women using hormonal birth control, there was NO effect on overall cancer rates because the rates of other cancers were reduced. Other studies have shown the same results. This is a developing story and definitely one to keep on your radar.
If you’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer or have a higher-than-average risk of breast cancer because of a family history or a genetic mutation linked to a higher risk of breast cancer, such as a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation, you should consider non-hormonal birth control instead.
Birth Control for Acne
Whether you are suffering through good-ole puberty or have a bad case of adult acne, birth control can be used to prevent difficult breakouts if your acne is hormonally triggered or related. You can use it alone though our CEO/Co-Founder Dr. Yen suggests you always pair it with at least topical creams (tretinoin, available by prescription only AND benzoyl peroxide [but not at the same time of day because the benzoyl peroxide kills the tretinoin]) and topical or oral antibiotics (if needed, and available by prescription only). If your acne gets worse with your periods, ask your doctor about using birth control as acne treatment.
Best Birth Control for Acne
The FDA has approved four birth control pills for the use of acne treatment: Ortho Tri-Cyclen, Estrostep, Beyaz, and Yaz. These particular contraceptive methods named above have been through a series of clinical trials in order to be approved for use by the general public. To treat acne, dermatologists may prescribe a combined oral contraceptive pill that contains estrogen and progestin. (pills with only progestin can make acne worse). Combination birth control pills help with acne by preventing androgen levels from spiking, which keep sebaceous glands from producing too much oil to clog pores. The estrogen component can be noted as the key to improvement of acne.
Making Periods Regular
Last, but not least, birth control can help regulate irregular menstrual cycles. Not getting your period for months at a time can be just as frustrating, especially because this makes it hard to tell if you are or are not pregnant (and so we come full circle). Based on your symptoms, medical history, and lifestyle, your doctor (or Pandia Health’s expert birth control doctors) can recommend the right method to help make your cycle more regular. (though also know that you can make #PeriodsOptional)
And if your periods are irregular make sure you read about … PCOS!
What is PCOS?
Polycystic-ovary syndrome, also known as PCOS, is a hormonal disorder that affects one in 10 women. While there are several causes for it (each person with a uterus is different), this hormonal imbalance often results in irregular periods, excessive hair growth (upper lip, back, and more), and acne. The good news? Most of the effects of PCOS can be treated with birth control. You can choose from several methods — from the birth control pill to the patch, ring, implant, shot, or IUD with progesterone — to help manage your symptoms. It can also be treated with metformin (ask your doctor).
Best Birth Control for PCOS
PCOS is a hormonal disorder that is common in women of the childbearing age. Although PCOS can be a tricky disorder to diagnose and treat, doctors can prescribe birth control pills, patches, or rings to not only manage symptoms, but limit the rate of unplanned pregnancy too. Although doctor’s have not found a cure for PCOS, it’s great that you can have a birth control that also treats your PCOS as well. Technically, any birth control pill can be used to treat PCOS but ones with lower androgenic effects might be best. Below are some common combination pills used for PCOS patients:
- Yasmin and its generics
- Yaz and its generics
- Apri and other generics with desogestrel
- Sprintec and other generics with norgestimate
Best Birth Control for Weight Loss
Yasmin is the only birth control method that has no effect on women gaining weight. It isn’t marketed as a weight loss pill and women who take it have stated that they have lost a weight of two in excess water weight. Research has also shown that the other combined pills (such as Yasmin), patch, and ring do not appear to cause weight gain in women.
What is Endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a painful disorder in which tissue similar to the uterine tissue grows outside of the uterus. The tissue, termed endometrium, refers to the area outside of the uterus where the excess tissue begins to grow. It most commonly involves the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and tissue lining of the pelvis. In endometriosis, the endometrial tissue acts as normal tissue does in the uterus – thickens, breaks down, and bleeds during menstruation. But, because this particular tissue doesn’t have an exit point, it gets trapped inside of the body. Surround tissue becomes irritated and eventually causes scarring and adhesion. Endometriosis often causes pain that isn’t always associated with menstruation. Fortunately, there are treatment plans available for those who suffer from it. Some causes of Endometriosis are:
- Retrograde menstruation
- Transformation of peritoneal cells
- Embryonic cell transformation
- Cell transport
- Immune disorders
Best Birth Control for Endometriosis
Birth control does not stop the growth of endometriosis, but in some cases it can suppress the symptoms of it. Because combined birth control pills contain estrogen and women are able to skip the placebo pills, this creates a boundary of how many periods having to be experienced. Less bleeding in menstruation, in this case, means less pain for the individuals who suffer from it. Some birth control, or examples of progestin only methods, include:
Controlling Mood Swings, PMS, and PMDD
Best Birth Control for Mood Swings
Yaz is the only hormonal birth control pill that’s FDA approved to treat PMS or PMDD. However, any birth control pill can be used to skip the menstruation (monthly bleed) and thus get rid of PMS and PMDD. No menstruation/bleed equals no PMS, no PMDD because there’s no “M” = menstruation.
Best Birth Control for Migraines
Finding a contraception method for migraines can be hard, because there are currently no FDA approved or recommended birth control methods for reducing migraines. It depends on not only the patient, but the symptoms relating to their migraines such as if they have them with auras and the level of pain they are typically on. If you are unable to take the combination pill because of your symptoms, the progestogen-only pills are a good alternative.
Best Birth Control for Anemia
Any form of hematological disorders in patients should be taken in consideration when choosing a birth control method. Anemia is commonly seen mostly in women who are in the childbearing age because they suffer from painful and sometimes heavy menstrual bleeding. Birth control pills can come in handy because they reduce the duration and amount of bleeding during the menstrual cycles. This allows women to restore their iron stores and make their periods less painful and aggressive. Many methods such as the pill, patch, and IUD are used to treat women who qualify but a professional opinion from a doctor or nurse should be considered before making any final decisions.
Frequently Asked Questions
Benefits of birth control pills other than preventing pregnancy?
Birth control has been known to be used for acne treatment, period management, less pain, reduced risk of cancer, PMS or PMDD relief, Endometriosis management, migraine relief, and reduction of anemia.
Does birth control help with acne?
Yes, there are certain birth control pills that are FDA approved to help manage acne.
Does birth control regulate your period?
Birth control can regulate your period and gives you the advantage of managing the symptoms associated with it as well.
Does birth control help with cramps?
Birth control minimizes the symptoms related to menstruation and furthermore shortens the length of time needed to bleed.
Can birth control stop your period?
Birth control is able to stop your period by skipping the placebo, or “sugar”, pills at the end of the pack. It has also been reported of women who are on the IUD or shot to have less periods as well.
Why is birth control important?
Birth control is important because it gives women the freedom to take control of their own bodies. It not only prevents unplanned pregnancies but can also manage symptoms of other disorders as well such as acne, menstruation pain, migraines, anemia, PMS, cancer, STI’s, etc. The benefits are highly important to most women and have been noted to make everyday life smoother. It is the perfect way to decide how your body operates monthly.
- The best birth control pill for acne treatmen By AMY WILKINSON | FEBRUARY 12, 2020 Medically reviewed by MARISSA WALSH, PHARM.D., BCPS-AQ ID
- Best birth control for acne
- What are the best birth control pills for PCOS Medically reviewed by Debra Rose Wilson, Ph.D., MSN, R.N., IBCLC, AHN-BC, CHT — Written by Zawn Villines on November 17, 2017 https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/320055
- Endometriosis – Mayo Clinic https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/endometriosis/symptoms-causes/syc-20354656
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article intend to inform and induce conversation. They are the views of the author and do NOT necessarily represent the views of Pandia Health, and are for informational purposes only, even if and to the extent that this article features the advice of physicians and medical practitioners. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment, and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. Please ask your doctor/provider before changing any treatment.