Written by Allison Perry. Media by Tawnie Kozora.
A common belief is that women take birth control to avoid getting pregnant. However, birth control is used for more than contraception. These pills help regulate hormones in the body. They are made of two synthetic hormones: estrogen and progestin (similar to hormones made by the ovaries). There are very small amounts of hormones in the pills, but they have the potential to help those with certain medical needs. Hormone imbalances can result from a lack of female hormones (estrogen) or a high level of male hormones (progestin).
A benefit of birth control pills is the regulation and timing of a woman’s menstrual cycle. Birth control allows the cycle to follow a proper timeline, which is supposed to happen about every 27 days. If someone is having irregular periods (more than one each month), skipping periods, a heavy flow, or a period that lasts for longer than 5-7 days, birth control can help regulate the cycle.
Birth control can also help clear up acne. This is a result of the pill regulating androgens (male hormones) in the body. If a woman has higher levels of androgens, it can cause acne. However, the hormones in birth control can help level it out.
PMS, premenstrual syndrome, can be improved by birth control as well. Acne, bloating, mood swings, and many other symptoms, are caused by premenstrual syndrome. Birth control can improve these symptoms if taken continuously.
Endometriosis pain can be lessened by temporarily preventing periods while taking birth control. Endometriosis “occurs when tissue similar to the lining of the uterus is found outside its normal location.” It makes period cramps more painful than normal period cramps.
While birth control can help with these issues, as well as others, it’s important to remember a few things about birth control: If you miss a day or two of a pill, it can cause spotting or early periods. The pill should be taken at the same time every day. It’s important to remember that it does not prevent sexually transmitted diseases, and it is possible to get pregnant while on the pill.
Birth control does much more than prevent pregnancy. All women deserve access to affordable birth control if they want it. The Center for Young Women’s Health is a very helpful place to find out more information about birth control and answer questions.