When people think of oral contraceptives, they understandably consider them first and foremost to be birth control pills. They perform that role very well, but it turns out there are alternative uses for these pills too, some of them just as effective. Though this isn't to say they should be relied upon exclusively for other purposes. Here are some other useful functions for oral contraceptives and why they should be carefully considered.
1. Delaying your period
These pills work effectively by introducing different hormones into your system, thereby producing some of the secondary effects we're going to cover here. One of these effects is delaying your period, and some women may choose to use them for this purpose for an extended time. Some may skip their periods completely, while others will have lighter bleeding, meaning this can be useful for women who have particularly bad experiences with periods and want to ease the pressure it may be putting on their bodies.
Bear in mind there may be other reasons for missing your period while on birth control pills though. These can include stress, sudden dietary changes, or of course, pregnancy - of which there is still a very small chance even while using oral contraception. Should you miss more than one period in a row while using birth control, it's recommended you take a pregnancy test to be sure (assuming you're also sexually active).
Your doctor may recommend alternative pills for controlling your period too, so this isn't your only option.
2. Fighting depression
Another secondary benefit from taking oral contraception can be easing depressive symptoms. Studies have found that women of reproductive age are particularly susceptible to clinical depression, so this revelation is a welcome one for some.
There are two types of depression unique to women: postpartum depression, which affects those who have recently given birth, and premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). The latter affects women just before they start their period, and this is the specific type for which birth control can help ease symptoms due to the additional hormones mentioned above.
If you instead suffer from a different variation of depression, remember that there are often many factors involved, and treatments can vary from case to case. This is as true for birth control pills as it is for any other kind of treatment, meaning while they may ease depression in cases like PMDD, in others it can actually worsen symptoms. Therefore, it's always recommended to consult a medical professional first. Regardless, if you are a PMDD sufferer, oral contraception appears quite effective in fighting depression.
3. Preventing/reducing acne
Acne may not be the most serious health condition, but it can be harmful to your confidence if it gets out of control. Thankfully this is another area in which oral contraception can help save the day.
One reason for this is that those hormones it releases contribute to decreasing the secretion of oil from your glands, thereby helping to deal with the symptoms of acne and prevent possible breakouts. Certain pills may have different hormone ingredients though, so if you want to use them specifically for this purpose, you'll want to make sure they include both oestrogen and progestin to counteract the bodily oils that produce acne.
4. Reduced risk of certain cancers
Some will argue that taking oral contraception increases cancer risk, while others will say they reduce it. So who's right? Well, both, to some extent. But one is slightly more right than the other.
It's true that there could be a very slight increased risk of breast and cervical cancer when taking birth control for around five years, though this risk disappears after taking it for ten years or more. On the other hand, the longer you take oral contraception, evidence shows a more significant reduction in the risk of ovarian and endometrial cancer proportionally. Ultimately this reduces your risk overall. Still, always check with and rely on medical advice from your doctor if you have any concerns.
Who'd have guessed oral contraception could have such interesting secondary benefits? Like everyone who makes use of them, these pills are about so much more than what you see on the surface.