For many of us, birth control is a fact of life. Whether we’re dealing with irregular periods, complications with endometriosis, or other reasons, birth control helps protect us and allows us to live a normal life. Depending on your situation, you might try a daily pill that puts you on a 28-day cycle, take extended cycle pills that decrease the amount of periods you have in a year, or a whole slew of different types of birth control!
But how exactly does birth control affect our bodies? That’s definitely something you should speak to your physician or OB/GYN about, especially since all of our bodies are different, but for some of the basics, read below.
First and foremost, hormone-based birth control, like pills and patches, is very effective when it comes to preventing pregnancy, as long as you stay consistent. Taking this form of birth control increases levels of estrogen and progestin in the body, both of which are made naturally by our bodies. The increased levels stop our ovaries from releasing the egg.
For those of us with severe menstrual cramps, unpredictable or heavy periods, or PMS, hormone-based birth control can lighten and shorten the period and ease cramps and other symptoms. Most commonly, those with PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome) can benefit from regular cycles. The hormones also thin the uterine lining, which lightens heavy periods to be more manageable. Pain from endometriosis or menstrual cramps can also be lessened with the use of hormonal contraceptives.
Other hormone-based symptoms like PCOS, acne, and hirsutism (excess hair growth) can be treated with birth control pills by reducing the level of androgens (male hormones) produced by the ovary.
When women suffer from amenorrhea (or a lack of period), that may mean that they are not producing enough estrogen on their own. No period may sound like a blessing to some of us, but lack of estrogen isn’t! We need estrogen for healthy bones. Because estrogen is a main component of hormonal birth control, taking the pill can jumpstart the menstrual cycle by increasing the amount of estrogen in our bodies.
They can also decrease the risk of endometrial and ovarian cancer, and can also decrease the number of women who suffer from anemia.
Other side effects include spotting or bleeding between periods and an increase in blood pressure (and in turn, increased risk of blood clots, heart attack and stroke, especially for smokers.) Most side effects, like headaches and weight changes, will go away after the first few months.
If side effects persist, or you develop severe pain (abdominal, stomach, chest, or leg), see your physician or OB/GYN right away!
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