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How Does "the Pill" Impact Your Overall Health?

How Does "the Pill" Impact Your Overall Health?In the fifty-three years that the birth control pill has been available, the type of pills available and dosage levels have changed, but it remains a hugely popular and highly successful contraception method. While the benefits of this kind of birth control on preventing contraception are clear, the use of birth control pills may have ancillary effects, both positive and negative, on various aspects of a woman’s overall health.

A Cure for Acne?

Many women have long believed that using birth control pills can help improve acne, and there are studies that show this to be true. The estrogen in the pill can tamp down testosterone levels. Less testosterone means that your body is making less sebum, the oily secretions of the sebaceous glands, which can clog pores and lead to pimply skin.

Heavy and Painful Periods

Birth Control pills have long been the first line treatment for heavy and painful cycles. It is well established that Birth Control pills diminish the amount of flow and, therefore, help with pain.

Ovarian Cysts

The most common kind of ovarian cysts are functional ovarian cysts. This can result from an abnormal ovulation and/or an unruptured follicle. Birth Control pills work by suppressing ovulation, therefore, giving the body a chance to “heal” the cyst.

Endometriosis

Because birth control pills are progesterone dominant and endometriosis lesions absorb under the presence of progesterone, birth control pills are a powerful treatment for this chronic disease.

The Risk of Blood Clots

The risk of getting blood clots in your legs are another problem that you may have heard associated with taking birth control pills. The risk may depend on the kind of pill you take. A study in the British Medical Journal found that women whose pills contained drospirenone – a newer type of progesterone – were three times more likely to develop blood clots than those taking a pill with an older version of progesterone call levonorgestrel. In either case, the rate of women who develop clots is only about three in 10,000. Two big factors to consider are whether there is a history of blood clots in your family and whether you smoke. Women on the pill should not smoke if they are over age 35. Talk with your AOA physician about your family medical history and discuss your level of risk for developing blood clots.

Cancer Risks

There is a lot of conflicting information about whether the estrogen in birth control pills increases a woman’s risk of getting breast cancer. Studies have shown contradictory results. Even in the studies that did show an increased risk, the increased risk was very small. Talk with your AOA doctor about your family history of breast cancer and if you are at high risk before taking the pill.

There is some good news about the link between birth control pills and other types of cancer, however. Studies show that birth control pills may lower your risk for both ovarian cancer and endometrial cancer. The reduction is significant with a 50% reduction in endometrial cancer after 5 years of use and a 50-80% reduction in ovarian cancer after 5 years of use.

Birth Control Pills and Sexual Desire

The impact that taking birth control pills can have on your level of sexual desire can be of some concern, as the spike in SHBG (the protein that combats acne) can lower your testosterone levels, and make you less likely to be in the mood. Many women make sufficient testosterone on their own that it isn’t a problem, however, if you find that you are rarely feeling up for sex, talk with your AOA doctor about finding another form of birth control that doesn’t involve estrogen, such as an IUD.

Learn more about the impact of birth control pills on your body: