According to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, birth control pills are used by more than 11 million women all over the world. We know their primary purpose is to prevent pregnancy, but LiveStrong.com reported that they have many other health benefits as well. In fact, it’s becoming increasingly more common for birth control pills to be prescribed for uses other than contraception.
First, they help protect women against some cancers. The University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point Health Service (UWSP) said protection against uterine and ovarian cancer is probably one of the most important health benefits of oral contraceptives (OCs). Using the pill for one year or more considerably reduces the risk of developing endometrial cancer. The risk of developing ovarian cancer is reduced with only three to six months of use. Protection against these cancers increases with continued pill use and is thought to continue for at least 15 years after pill use is stopped.
Another benefit is less cramping. A LiveStrong.com article said birth control pills reduce the intensity of dysmenorrhea, or menstrual pain caused by uterine cramping. Up to 70 to 80 percent of women with dysmenorrhea get some relief from cramping through OC. The article went on to say the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals reported hormones in birth control pills also decrease other premenstrual syndrome symptoms, including breast tenderness, bloating and weight gain. In fact, it has been prescribed for this purpose for more than 40 years.
Oral contraception also helps women have more regular and lighter menstrual periods.
UWSP said the pill is useful in treating endometriosis. Plus, the risk of developing ovarian cysts is greatly reduced because the pill helps prevent ovulation.
UWSP also said many pill users have less excess hair because androgens and testosterone are suppressed by oral contraceptives. High androgen levels can cause darkening of facial and body hair, especially on the chin, chest and abdomen.
YoungWomensHealth.org said another benefit is clearer skin. The hormones in most types of oral contraception can help prevent acne.
UWSP and YoungWomensHealth.org both reported the birth control pill helps against infertility. OC has been found to reduce the incidence of PID (pelvic inflammatory disease), a serious bacterial infection of the fallopian tubes and uterus that can result in severe pain and potentially, infertility. By reducing the risk of PID, OCs also reduces the risk of ectopic pregnancy, another potentially serious emergency.
UWSP said these positive health benefits apply to women throughout their reproductive years until menopause. And they continue to have long-term impact even after pill use has stopped.
Reviewed July 5, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg R.N.
Edited by Alison Stanton