Cancer Risk Reduction: Some types of cancer risks can be lowered by taking the Pill. “When you take the Pill, you reduce your risk of endometrial and ovarian cancer,” says Dr. Minaya.
Nausea: “The first versions of the Pill had much higher doses of estrogen (as high as 50 micrograms!), and that’s a lot of estrogen! A lot of women experienced a lot of nausea with it,” explains Dr. Minaya. “Nowadays, the more popular ones are usually 30 micrograms or below, and the most popular is 20. Most women have very little nausea.” And the doctor’s advice? “Always take it with a meal.”
Going Off the Pill
Mood Changes: You may find yourself a little…grumpy. “For some women,” says Dr. Minaya, ” does stabilize their mood. Every month our hormones fluctuate, and the Pill is very beneficial to those women who are sensitive to that.”
Heavier Flow: Bad news. If you experienced much lighter flow while on the Pill (“it really reduces the flow and curbs cramps significantly,” says Dr. Minaya), you’re likely return to a heavier flow when you stop the Pill.
Increased Libido: I’d always heard going off the Pill could heat things up in the bedroom, assuming that the steady hormones somehow decreased fluctuations in your libido, but Dr. Minaya disagrees. “I’ve only had a handful of people complain about , and only one person where we actually proved it. Ninety-five percent of your libido is in your head.”
Pregnancy: This is the most important one—don’t assume that the hormones stick around for a while to protect you. “We’re more likely to get pregnant right after we stop taking the Pill,” Dr. Minaya cautions. Great news if you’re ready, but be careful (and use another method of protection) if you aren’t!
Of course, every woman’s body is different, and millions of women take birth control pills for health reasons as well, so talk to your doctor about any concerns you might have and to get a full exam before starting any prescription contraceptive.
Let us know in the comments what your experiences have been like going on or off the Pill.
- The Risks of Going On and Off the Pill
- Hormone build-up?
- Serious health risks?
- What should you do?
- I Refuse to Use Birth Control. Here’s Why.
- 1. Too Many Choices
- 2. I’m Team Natural
- 3. Too Many Side Effects
- 4. It’s My Body & I’ll Decide If I Want To
- Pooja Parikh Traveled Across The World For The HS Diagnosis That Changed Her Life Forever
- Depression and suicide: The dark side of the birth control pill
- The Effects of Hormonal Birth Control on Your Body
- Reproductive system
- Cardiovascular and central nervous systems
- Digestive system
- Integumentary system
- Study Finds The Birth Control Pill Has a Pretty Terrible Impact on Women’s Wellbeing
- Estrogen-Containing Birth Control (Pill, Patch, and Ring)
- Should I get on birth control?
- How do I get birth control?
- What if I mess up or don’t use birth control?
- When Should a Woman Start Birth Control?
- When Should Women Start Taking Birth Control?
- What are the reasons women take the pill?
- What is the earliest age that birth control is prescribed?
- Besides preventing pregnancy, how else can birth control help young women?
- Why Is Everyone Hating On Birth Control Pills Right Now?
The Risks of Going On and Off the Pill
There are almost as many birth control myths as there are birth control options. One misconception is that women need to quit taking birth control pills occasionally to give their body a “natural” break. The truth is that going off and on the Pill frequently (aka yo-yoing) is a good way to get pregnant and may even put your health at risk.
Women start taking the Pill for lots of reasons; contraception, of course, but also to regulate their menstrual cycles and hormones and to treat premenstrual symptoms, migraine headaches, heavy bleeding, acne and perimenopausal symptoms.
There are just as many reasons why women quit taking birth control pills including:
- They want to get pregnant,
- They don’t have a sexual partner,
- They don’t like how birth control pills feel,
- They’re worried about birth control pill safety
- They’re worried about weight gain
- They can’t afford their prescription
But after a period of time they decide they were better off on the Pill than off the Pill, so they start taking them again. This on-again, off-again birth control yo-yo creates a hormonal roller coaster ride that can be challenging for women’s bodies to deal with. It can cause unpleasant side effects and symptoms (like mood swings, nausea, spotting and headaches) and for some women, especially those with menstrual bleeding disorders or for whom pregnancy is risky, it can be dangerous.
Desiree Bley MD, OB-GYN in Portland, OR says, “Women worry about the risks associated with the Pill, but it has been widely tested and safely used by millions of women for 50 years. The risks of health complications or death associated with taking the Pill are extremely low. The risks for health complications or death from pregnancy are significantly higher. If women are taking the Pill for bleeding, clotting, cramping, migraines or other health problems, going on and off can make those problems more physically challenging. When women take the pill, their bodies don’t have to produce reproductive hormones and their symptoms settle down. When they quit taking the Pill their body gets busy producing hormones again. It’s physically confusing though and they may produce too much or too little for a while they’re getting back in the hormone-making business. That’s going to increase odds of getting pregnant, having bleeding and cramping issues and more. I tell patients it’s easier on the body to stay on the Pill than to go on and off frequently.”
But what should a woman do if she wants to quit the pill? Bley says, “The pill’s hormones wash out of the body within 36 hours and then our natural hormones pick up the job from there. It can take up to a few months for hormone levels to adjust. Be extra careful about using another form of contraception unless you want to get pregnant right away. Be patient while your body works out the kinks in its hormone production. Then, if you decide being off the Pill isn’t working out, go talk with your doctor about why you quit in the first place. If you didn’t like the way your pill felt, there are lots of other hormonal contraception choices that might work better for you.”
National Women’s Health Information Center
Birth Control Methods
ON THE PILL: In this seven-part series we explore the history, myths, side-effects and alternatives of the pill, and why it’s the most popular form of contraception in Australia.
More than half of 18- to 19-year-old women in a recent survey agreed that “women should ‘take a break’ from oral contraceptive pills every couple of years”.
You may be surprised to know there is no biological evidence for “giving your body a break” and, in fact, it could do your health more harm than good.
There are many different types of contraceptive pills, most commonly containing both oestrogen and progestogen (called combined oral contraceptive pills).
Doctors use detailed medical eligibility criteria to assess whether a method of contraception is suitable for you on the basis of your medical history. The pill is not suitable for some people. Others may start taking it but find that it doesn’t suit them.
But for many women the pill provides a convenient, easily accessible method of contraception. In fact, it’s the most popular form of contraception for women under the age of 30.
Studies in the United States and Australia have found that many women worry about overdosing or having a build-up of hormones in their body if they use hormonal contraception. These types of misconceptions about the way the pill works fuel the erroneous idea that it’s good to take a break from the pill.
Read more: Monday’s medical myth: the pill increases your risk of cancer
For some people, the pill can be associated with unpleasant side effects such as breast tenderness, bloating, headaches and nausea.
But rather than being an effect of the hormones themselves, these unpleasant side effects are most commonly associated with the hormone-free interval which allows a “withdrawal” bleed to occur, mimicking a natural menstrual cycle.
These side effects may be lessened by new pills or pill regimes with reduced or no hormone-free intervals (and therefore fewer or no withdrawal bleeds).
Once a doctor prescribes the pill for you, it’s generally recommended that you keep taking it for at least three months to allow any unpleasant side effects to resolve themselves.
Whether or not a particular pill is problematic for a woman does not change with the duration of use. In fact, any initial side effects you had on starting will be experienced again after a break. For these reasons, it’s best to find a pill that suits you and stick with it.
Of course, as you age your contraceptive needs will change, so it’s important to review your contraception periodically. Research shows that Australian women reduce their reliance on the oral contraceptive pill over time as they try to conceive, have children, complete their families, and move towards menopause.
There are many different types of oral contraceptive pill.
Serious health risks?
Like all medicines, there is a small risk of serious health effects associated with the pill. The risk of serious adverse side effects is highest in the first few months of starting the pill, or when restarting after a break. So it may be more risky to start and stop the pill than it is to use the pill over many years.
Despite the very low risk of health complications associated with the pill, people’s fears are exacerbated by “pill scares” – misrepresented studies reported in the media – which are usually not based on an accurate understanding of the risks.
Read more: Don’t panic about the pill – it’s safer than driving to work
One of the most serious adverse health effects associated with the pill is thrombotic complications such as stroke, myocardial infarction, and venous thromboembolism (VTE) – in other words, blood clots in the brain, heart, legs, arms and groin. This is why the pill may not be suitable for older women, particularly those who smoke.
However, the pill is suitable for women in mid-life who aren’t at increased risk of heart disease.
Although potentially very serious, the absolute risk of blood clots is very low. This risk is marginally higher than for women not taking the pill, but is lower than the risk associated with pregnancy, delivery and the postpartum period.
Some people may be concerned about the risk of cancer associated with long-term use of the pill. There is a slightly increased risk of cervical cancer but a reduced risk of ovarian and endometrial cancer. The findings about the risk of breast cancer are not conclusive.
It’s also important to note there are a number of non-contraceptive benefits of the pill, including better cycle control; improved premenstrual symptoms, acne, pain, heavy menstrual bleeding and iron-deficiency anaemia; and a reduction in ovarian cysts, benign breast disease and possibly pelvic inflammatory disease.
These non-contraceptive side effects often form the basis for women’s choice of contraception.
The pill can help reduce period pain. Rawpixel.com/
One of the concerns women have about long-term pill use is that they will find it difficult to conceive. Research across a number of countries shows women want their fertility to return quickly after they stop using the pill.
Many factors influence the time it takes for a woman to conceive so it’s difficult to determine the role of the oral contraceptive pill. Some research documents a temporary delay in conceiving, usually only lasting a few months.
However, a review of 17 studies found typical one-year pregnancy rates following discontinuation of the pill ranged between 79% and 96%, which is similar to women who stopped using condoms or weren’t using another form of contraception.
Read more: Monday’s medical myth: the pill affects long-term fertility
What should you do?
If the pill suits you, there’s no need to “give your body a break”.
But it’s important to have regular health checks and also review your contraceptive needs periodically. This is particularly relevant at significant times in your reproductive life – on becoming sexually active, being with a new partner, if you’re thinking of having a baby, after having a baby, and when you’ve decided not to have any more children.
It’s always worth finding out about the latest contraceptive options so you can be sure you’re using contraception that’s right for you.
18 Reasons to Avoid Birth Control Pills
By: Hotze Health | Comments: 0 | December 18th, 2018
Have you been prescribed birth control pills by your doctor for irregular periods, cramps or PMS? Today, so many young girls and women are put on birth control pills for these reasons, but this does not solve the underlying cause of their symptoms and can cause many serious health problems. Birth control pills are prescribed all too often by conventional doctors, and while they can be an effective form of birth control, they do have dangers that aren’t worth risking your health, or even your life, for.
Reasons Women are Prescribed Birth Control Pills
- Prevent pregnancy
- Heavy bleeding
- Menstrual cramps
- Hot flashes and night sweats
- Menstrual migraines
- Irregular periods
What Birth Control Pills Do To Your Hormones
Hormonal contraceptives are prescription drugs or devices that reduce risk of pregnancy. Birth control pills, the option most widely used by women, contain the synthetic hormones estrogen and progestin, and some contain only progestin. They are created to stop your body from ovulating and prevent the egg from being released from the ovary. Normally, when an egg is released from your ovary at ovulation, progesterone is also released. Since birth control pills stop you from ovulating, they prevent this release of progesterone. This is where the problem lies. Without the release of progesterone, estrogen dominance can occur and cause many negative health symptoms.
Progestins are NOT Progesterone
Before we go any further, it’s important to make the distinction between progestin and progesterone. They are not the same thing, at all. Progesterone is the natural female hormone that promotes pregnancy by preparing the body for conception, regulating the menstrual cycle and maintaining the pregnancy. It also balances the estrogen in your body and plays an important role in your overall well-being.
Progestins are synthetic chemicals with a different molecular structure than progesterone, which makes them patentable by the pharmaceutical companies, but they do not have the same beneficial effects as your body’s naturally occurring progesterone. In fact, progestins are used in hormonal contraceptives and in the “morning after pills” to prevent pregnancy.
Mainstream medicine still erroneously uses these two terms interchangeably today. If you’re still in doubt, just ask your doctor if you can take progestin while you’re pregnant. You’ll hear a resounding “no”!
1. 6 times greater risk of thrombosis (blood clot in a blood vessel)
2. 4 times greater risk of dying from a stroke (blood clot or broken blood vessel in the brain)
3. 4 times the risk of heart attack
4. 3 times greater risk of headaches
5. Double the risk of migraine headaches
6. Double the risk of high blood pressure
7. Double the risk of death from an accident or violence
8. Double the risk of dying from cancer, especially cervical, breast, and endometrial cancer in women age 25 to 50 years old
9. Increased risk of ovarian cancer
10. Increased cancer risk in smokers, especially melanoma and lung cancer
11. More thyroid and liver cancers
12. Altered immune function
13. Reduction of antioxidant levels, especially in the liver
14. A higher rate of birth defects and birthmarks in the children of women who have used oral contraceptives
15. Increased risk of osteoporosis caused by blood vessel abnormalities in the bone
16. Increased risk of ovarian cysts, infections, urinary tract problems, cervical erosion (dysplasia), allergies, gallbladder disease, sinus infections, ulcerative colitis, Chron’s disease, lung disease, epilepsy, loss of libido, intertility, pituitary tumors, and schizophrenia
17. Higher rates of antianxiety drug, antidepressant, or sleeping pill usage
18.Higher likelihood of having their uterus and/or ovaries removed
Do you have symptoms of a hormone deficiency?
A common reason that many women are on birth control pills is to help with their symptoms of PMS, heavy periods, and cramps. If you are struggling with these symptoms of hormone imbalance, please know that there is a natural, safer way to get relief. Bioidentical progesterone can help relieve your symptoms. If you have a teenage daughter who is struggling with her menstrual cycle, progesterone may be all she needs to get it back on track. Help her start off her menstrual journey right by replacing what’s missing, not by taking a drug that can cause many more health issues.
Why take a drug that is foreign to your body? By restoring your hormones with bioidentical hormones that are identical to those made by your body, you can achieve hormone balance and your symptoms will go away. Plus, you will be much healthier without any negative side effects.
Take our symptom checker today to find out if hormone imbalance could be the cause of your symptoms. Don’t wait – it’s time to get relief and feel your best!
Dr. John Lee – What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Premenopause
I Refuse to Use Birth Control. Here’s Why.
- Birth Control + Abortion
- April 7th, 2018
- by Jen Glantz
I was 13 the first time someone suggested that I go on birth control. It wasn’t because I was sexually active (I hadn’t even made eye contact with guys I had crushes on yet). It wasn’t because my periods were irregular or painful. They were normal, in the sense that they’d come and they’d go every month around the same date. They told me to try it because it would clear up my acne-ridden skin.
I had pimples but so did other people at that age. I didn’t mind them. They give me a defining characteristic. There were four Jennifers in my grade and people would refer to me as the Jennifer with the pimples, which wasn’t the worst thing to be called in middle school.
Over the years, conversations about birth control have popped up in what feels like all areas of my life. At brunch, friends share how they are switching from one kind birth control pill to another because the one they were on made them moody, depressed, or gain 10 pounds. Over text messages, friends will share the news that they’re getting an IUD or going off the pill to try and get pregnant.
It’s also a topic that’s been in the news a lot recently. The Affordable Care Act gave millions of women access to no-copay birth control. However, the Trump administration changed that and eliminated the guarantee of no-copay birth control.
Even though I wasn’t on the pill, reading the news and learning that politicians are still controlling whether or not women have access to a pill, made my (period) blood boil.
It’s a topic that also comes up every time I visit the gynecologist for a yearly exam.
“Birth control will solve all these problems,” she promised as she scanned my face, feels tissue lumps in my breast, and hears about the ovarian cysts I recently found out I had.
“I’m not going to give you the option to say no,” she told me, handing me a prescription slip for birth control pills I can pick up at my local pharmacy.
I’ve become good at telling her, “I’ll think about it,” and then going home and ripping up the birth control prescription. Just because she recommends it year after year, doesn’t mean I will change my mind.
These are the four reasons I refuse to use birth control and why nobody will change my mind.
1. Too Many Choices
Finding the right birth control feels like dating. You have to try one out for a month or two, before seeing how it affects your body, your mood, and your cycle. Then decide if you want to keep using it or kick it to the curb. There’s Alesse, Lessina, Levora, Yaz, Yasmin, Nordette—and they all sound like names of people I used to be friends with in high school. There’s also the option of taking a pill, wearing a patch, getting an IUD, inserting a ring, or getting a shot every 12 weeks.
Every time I consider trying one out, I ask my close friends if they’ve ever tried that one and, just like Yelp reviews, I find out that some love it while others had such a negative reaction (like weight gain, depression, even more pimples) and my frustration sinks in.
I don’t want to go through a trial and error phase with my body, my mind, and my cycle just to find a birth control that works well for me. To me, It seems like a better idea to just ride out my symptoms instead.
2. I’m Team Natural
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been against putting things in my body that aren’t natural. I won’t take Advil when I have a headache and I won’t take cough medicine when I have an uncontrollable cough. I don’t like medicine or anything that changes the natural state of your body.
Birth control pills or patches contain man-made estrogen and progestin hormones. These hormones work to inhibit the body’s natural cyclical hormones to prevent pregnancy and stop the body from ovulating.
It’s always seemed unnatural to me to take something that stops you from doing something your body was designed and meant to do.
3. Too Many Side Effects
While friends and gynecologists will say that birth control has its perks, it also has a handful of side effects that I’m not eager to come face to face with.
According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the effects of continuously raised estrogen levels in the female body due to taking birth control pills may include an increased risk of breast cancer, blood clotting, migraines, liver problems, increased blood pressure, weight gain, and spotting between periods.
Those symptoms are serious and keep turning me off from just giving birth control a “casual” try.
4. It’s My Body & I’ll Decide If I Want To
Going on birth control isn’t something I have ever wanted or needed to do. If I’m willing to handle my menstrual cycle symptoms, acne, and keep monitoring my ovarian cysts, there’s no health reason that makes me desperate to lean into the Pill. I believe that birth control should be an option available to all women, whether they need it, want it, or just want to know it’s readily available to them. Still, it’s not for me.
Featured image by Karen Cantuq
A Monthly Experience Unlike Any Other. Shop Cora.
Pooja Parikh Traveled Across The World For The HS Diagnosis That Changed Her Life Forever
Yegide Matthews / Unsplash
Should girls in general be on birth control? As a 26-year-old millennial woman, still single and still dating–these questions are unavoidable.
I met someone on OkCupid last year, we’ll call him Jim. He had green eyes, an infectious smile, and adventurous spirit; which is exactly what I liked and wanted. I am prone to worry and feelings of anxiety despite my longing to explore and create; I wanted to emulate that carefree, adventurous, and fearless spirit that he harbored. He was also from upstate New York while I was born and raised in the city — we were complete opposites. He is tall and Caucasian, and I am mixed (both Hispanic and Asian) and petite with darker features.
Our first few dates were great –we went to Central Park, chatted at a café, had dinner, went to an outdoor concert, ect. We had similar tastes in movies and music and I got the sense that we were both intrigued by each other.
It was refreshing to meet someone new that I actually really liked for the first time in a while.
After a week of dating the question came up as we were hanging out in his Brooklyn apartment. “Are you on birth control?”.
I’ve never been on birth control, it seems to be the thing to do nowadays and the thing for girls to be expected to do if they are sexually active but after researching for myself I made the decision to never use it. A substance that creates chemical changes to my body and hormones which then puts me at risk for blood clots, heart attack, stroke, ect. didn’t seem appealing to me. I also didn’t agree with the moral and societal aspects of taking the pill. It seemed counter-intuitive and yes, sexist.
“No, are you on birth control?” I joked.
He seemed confused and we had a discussion and many discussions thereafter about birth control. He thought it was normal and common for girls to be on birth control and on some deeper level I’m sure that he also thought that they were solely responsible for birth prevention. Guys get a free pass on this one apparently.
He was five years younger than me and had no idea or knowledge about the pill other than that it prevents the girls he has sex with from getting pregnant. Essentially, he can ejaculate inside them without consequence.
Thankfully, I was born and raised in a household that promotes equality for the most part and I grew up naturally wanting to see this world to be more equal for everyone. From my experience, we’ve come a long way but unfortunately we still have a long way to go. I still see the inequalities even with my relatives, I see it in school, and I also see it where I work currently. I am proud to call myself an activist and yes, the f-word: an intersectional feminist.
I used to volunteer at a feminist bookstore and out of nowhere found myself reading books on the history of birth control. About how many female patients suffered and some even died during the early stages of birth control development. Many of the test subjects were women of color. It sickens me to the core when the recent birth control study for men, although 98% effective (studies were administered shots over a period of time) was cut because a few men complained of mood swings and side effects that many women experience today with their birth control. It was also interesting to see that a majority of the men administered shots said that they would take it again –save for those few men that complained of side effects women regularly experience.
Women who take birth control experience these common side effects: mood swings, depression, cramping, nausea, vomiting, breast tenderness, bleeding between periods, weight gain, and changes in sexual desire, to name a few. Blood clots, heart attack, stroke are side effects that can cause death with certain types of birth control.
So why does society deem it okay and “normal” for women to experience these side effects but men don’t have to? The birth control shot exists for men, but we give them a free pass and cut studies for men because a few complained of mood swings.
We still live in a sexist society after all.
Another reason why I will never take birth control is because one of my long term friends from college went to the ER last year due to a blood clot. She almost died and was in the ICU for days, the doctors found a correlation with the blood clot attributed to her birth control–birth control that she had taken since she was 16 years old. She wasn’t sexually active, it was mostly used to regulate her period but still– my friend almost died because of the pill.
The fact that the FDA and pharmaceutical companies allow these life threatening contraceptives to be on the market for women because we deem it a woman’s job to prevent birth instead of the man (who impregnates the woman in the first place) makes my stomach turn in disgust. In contrast, the first signs of discomfort and complaints from a few men lead to the contraceptive and study being cut altogether, and are thus prevented from being put out on the market.
Back to Jim–all of his ex-girlfriends took birth control, and they were also all Caucasian as far as I know. He got away with many things it seemed, he didn’t have to worry about much. I spent a few months on-and-off dating him and also educating him in the process, not just about birth control and sexism, but also about my race and my culture. I remember on one occasion he called me white (my skin) and I had to correct him (my skin is actually tan) and tell him that I’m a mixed American and proud of being mixed. American’s aren’t solely white folks I reminded him.
What people don’t realize is that even though women are on birth control –that doesn’t protect anyone from STDS/STI or HIV/AIDS. Currently STD rates are at an all time high (which is another reason why I opt for condoms instead of birth control). According to the center for disease control and prevention–In 2016, Americans were infected with more than 2 million new cases of gonorrhea, syphilis and chlamydia, the highest number of these sexually transmitted diseases ever reported. At least half of these occur in sexually active young people between the ages of 15 and 24.
This freaks me out! And it should freak everyone else out as well. Just because there is a pill for birth prevention doesn’t mean there is a pill for STD prevention. Wearing condoms is courteous to you and your partner and others. You also never know what you can contract from others because men can’t get tested for HPV but are carriers. With Jim having unprotected sex with his ex-girlfriends, there was no way I was going to take that risk.
All in all, birth control is a woman’s choice –whether you want to take it or don’t want to take it. But for me it just doesn’t appeal or coincide with who I am. I would also suggest for women everywhere to do research on their birth control and to be more vocal about male birth control. For men as well, my hope is for more men to advocate for male birth control and to also continue to advocate for equality for women on all fronts. If men had birth control it would help many things. It would alleviate anxiety from both partners, it would be more effective in preventing pregnancies (provided if both used protection), and it would be incredibly effective in preventing abortions and reducing the number of abortion procedures taken each year.
At one point, Jim was trying to get me to agree to an abortion if he ever got me pregnant; that really annoyed me. My answer: no and no. Condoms are the way to go. Sure enough, he ended up buying a box of condoms, thank god! And until pharmaceutical companies decide to put male birth control out on the market, I won’t ever be on birth control.
If you’ve ever leafed through the packet of prescribing information that comes with your birth control, you were probably thoroughly terrified. It’s about as scary as those television commercials that ask if anyone you know has died while taking a certain form of contraception.
It’s true that some health risks have been associated with birth control, but it’s also a fact that hormonal contraception is a safe and effective way to prevent pregnancy, as well as help with a host of other health issues—like alleviating PCOS and endometriosis, calming PMS and acne, and even lowering your risk of ovarian cancer.
So to find out how worried you should really be about these scary health risks, we reached out to three experts: Mary Jane Minkin, M.D., clinical professor of obstestrics and gynecology at Yale School of Medicine; practicing ob-gyn Alyssa Dweck, M.D., coauthor of V is for Vagina; and renowned breast cancer researcher Marisa Weiss, M.D., founder and president of BreastCancer.org. Here’s what they had to say. (Note: In some instances, their answers have been edited for length and clarity.)
WH: One of the first health risks most women associate with birth control is a blood clot. Is it true that your risk of these goes way up on birth control?
There’s no getting around it. All contraceptives have a slight increased risk of blood clots. However, it’s not huge, and it’s certainly less than the blood clot risk associated with pregnancy. Pregnancy is far and away the riskiest thing for developing a blood clot. The higher the dose of estrogen, the higher the risk of blood clots. For example, with the low dose pills we use today there’s a very slight increased risk of blood clots. I’m not a big believer in the slight differential between other forms and pills. It’s a very minimal difference in risk between them.
The Pill, particularly the estrogen-containing pills, do afford a higher risk of blood clots, but I think what women need to know most is that your risk of having a blood clot while pregnant is a whole lot more than that. Third generation progestin-containing pills may have a slightly higher risk of blood clot than some of the older ones, but again, it’s all about perspective. You may not want to put an obese, over 35-year-old smoker on one of those pills, because their risk of having a blood clot is already higher.
MORE: Is the NuvaRing ACTUALLY Going to Kill You? A Look at the Evidence
WH: So what should you do to reduce your risk of a blood clot?
No one can say ‘I’ll never get a blood clot,’ because anyone can get one. The safest methods of birth control to keep you from getting a blood clot may be condoms or a diaphragm or the copper IUD, which does not come with an increased risk. Then, get lots of exercise, stay as close to your ideal body weight as you can, and of course, don’t smoke cigarettes.
WH: What about the increased risk of stroke and heart attack on the Pill? Is this something most women should be worried about?
If you’re over 40—some say over 35—and a smoker, there is an increased risk of heart attack and stroke. For nonsmokers, there’s really no significant increased risk as long as you have normal blood pressure. The other exception is people who get migraines with aura. If you start seeing spots and dots dancing in front of your eyes before you a get a migraine, those are people who are not supposed to take birth control pills because of an increased stroke risk.
WH: We’ve seen a lot of research on the . How worried should women be about this?
Some of the really high-dose birth control pills that contain 50 micrograms of estrogen—some of the older pills—might have a higher breast cancer risk, especially if you’ve been on them for a long period of time. But again, you have to keep in mind that another risk factor of breast cancer is never getting pregnant, so there may be confounding variables. The short answer is yes, if you’re on a really high-dose birth control pill, which we really don’t use anymore, you have an increased risk. But after 10 years of being off the Pill, your risk of breast cancer is basically the same as someone who has not been on the Pill. And this also goes for people who have a family history of breast cancer.
We know that the data on the old birth control pills did show a small increased risk in people taking it over time. In current and recent users who have been taking it for a long stretch of time, we see the risk tends to wear off after you’ve stopped it. It’s also true that taking birth control pills for about five years—either continuously or in combination—lowers the risk of ovarian cancer.
When women are young and their breast cancer risk is low, taking birth control pills, which may increase the risk a little bit, doesn’t add up to a lot. But as you extend your use over decades and you’re now older and your natural risk of breast cancer is higher, then increasing a moderate risk a little bit can start to add up. Those women should ask their doctor about a non-hormonal method of birth control, like the Paraguard IUD.
MORE: 7 Awesome Benefits of Birth Control
WH: What about weight gain on birth control? Should I expect to go up a size?
The implant definitely seems to have a higher risk of weight gain, and the shot has a higher risk of weight gain. But the jury is still out. It’s always been a controversial thing about weight gain on the birth control pill. I think the general science is that about a third of women gain on the Pill, a third of women lose on the Pill, and a third stay the same.
It’s minimal. What I can tell you is basically anything with estrogen in it can increase fluid retention to some degree. However, the drospirenone pills like Yaz actually act like a diuretic.
WH: Some studies have linked depression and birth control usage. Is this something women should be worried about?
There is a fair amount of older data on this. One of the issues is that birth control contains estrogen—which is a mood upper—but they also contain progestins, which can give mood fluctuations. There are certain people who are susceptible to mood issues on certain progestins. The key thing is not to be afraid of taking birth control pills, but have your antennae heightened. If you start noticing your mood going down, let your doctor know, because you may be able to change to a different pill.
WH: What about sexual dysfunction? Will my libido tank while I’m on the Pill?
Most women have a surge of testosterone around ovulation, so birth control suppressing ovulation will suppress that testosterone boost. So if you like that mid-cycle surge, you’re not going to get that. That’s primarily the issue.
There are two sides to this coin. From a science standpoint, yes, because it prevents ovulation which can alter libido by lowering it, and some women notice a decline in their orgasm potential on the estrogen-containing pill. However, some women find they’re so relieved that they have adequate birth control and they’re not afraid of getting pregnant that their libido may be enhanced because they’re not having that psychological block. It may also decrease your vaginal secretions and lead to vaginal dryness or painful sex for some people.
If someone comes into my office complaining of low libido and vaginal dryness and they’re on the Pill, I’ll consider taking them off the estrogen-containing pill. Progesterone-only options, particularly the IUD, may be better. They don’t necessarily prevent ovulation and therefore the hormonal fluctuations may not be as bad.
MORE: 10 Birth Control Myths—Debunked!
Depression and suicide: The dark side of the birth control pill
Jasmin is 20 years old and has responded to a Facebook call. I was looking for women who suffer or have suffered from depression and suicidal thoughts, and who associate this psychological suffering with taking the contraceptive pill.
I found what I was looking for in the “Generation Pill”Facebook group. The group has more than 6,000 members. Some of them contacted me and wanted to tell me about the mental lows they have gone through for years, and about the therapies and antidepressants that were supposed to help, but often didn’t.
Jasmin’s story is representative of the stories of these women, and representative of the result of two scientific studies, according to which depressions and a higher risk of suicide may be side effects of the pill.
Read more: Hormones and depression: Does the pill lead to suicide?
“I was just 11 years old when my period started. I always had severe abdominal pain during my period. When I was 14, my mother took me to the gynaecologist to have the pill prescribed.
I was certainly a little mentally stressed by bullying. After I started taking the pill, however, I became more and more depressed. At the time I didn’t blame it on the pill.
But I felt worse from day to day, I had more and more suicidal thoughts and even tried to commit suicide. Finally I ended up in a closed psychiatric ward. The diagnosis: adaptation disorders. I spent three weeks in the clinic, followed by outpatient psychotherapy.
After one-and-a-half years of treatment, my therapist said that there was nothing more she could do for me and that I should be better now. We finished therapy. After that it went well for about half a year.
But in the summer of 2016 it got worse again. I had mood swings all the time. I hurt myself. I had no real sense of self and didn’t know what to do with myself. A friend of mine who suffers from borderline herself advised me to get examined.
So I went to a clinic in Cologne for an examination. There it turned out: I had eight out of nine borderline symptoms. But because there was no therapy spot there, I was transferred to Mannheim. At the beginning of 2017, I started my second in-patient therapy there for two weeks.
No pill, no symptoms
But there, the therapist in charge asked me why I was there. She could not detect any symptoms at all. I also noticed that. It was during this time that I first thought that my condition could possibly be related to the pill. I had stopped taking it during the two weeks of in-patient therapy because I didn’t want to think about swallowing a pill every day during this time.
I expressed my suspicion to the therapist. She suggested that I should try the pill again at home. If this would make me feel worse again, she said, I should stop taking the pill altogether.
I followed her advice, came home and took the pill again. Not even a week later my mental state went downhill again. The mood swings returned, as did the depression and suicidal thoughts.
Read more: 5.3 million Germans suffer from depression each year
Hormones, hormones, hormones …
My gynaecologist advised me to stop taking the pill and look for an alternative method of contraception. His suggestions were the three-month injection, the hormone stick or the hormone patch.
I thought, however, that if I already have such problems with the pill then all the other hormonal contraceptives would either have the same or even worse effects. That’s why I switched to the copper spiral in August of last year. Since I finally stopped taking the pill in February 2018, I’ve been doing great.
My first cycle after stopping the medication lastet 102 days. During this time I was always a bit afraid that my period might come at some inappropriate moment. I also had quite a lot of hair loss for almost nine months. But I just waited and then all of a sudden it was over again.
I think it’s important not to trust doctors blindly. The pill is not the one and only contraceptive. There has to be sufficient information about possible side effects. How often have I heard that the pill has no significant effect on your body? Of course it does! The pill basically paralyses your entire cycle. Meanwhile, I think it’s grossly negligent to intervene in the hormone balance in this way.”
Read more: Bayer sued over controversial contraceptive pill Yasminelle
The Effects of Hormonal Birth Control on Your Body
Most believe that hormonal birth control serves one purpose: to prevent pregnancy. While it’s very effective compared to other forms of birth control, the effects aren’t just limited to pregnancy prevention. In fact, they can even be used to help treat other health concerns such as menstrual relief, skin changes, and more.
However, hormonal birth control isn’t without side effects. As with all drugs, there are beneficial effects and potential risks that affect everyone differently.
Birth control pills and patches are dispensed only with a prescription. Hormone-based contraceptives are available in many forms, including:
- pills (or oral contraceptives): The key difference between brands are the amounts of estrogen and progestin in them — this is why some women switch brands if they think they’re getting too little or too much hormones, based on the symptoms experienced. The pill must be taken every day to prevent pregnancy.
- patch: The patch also contains estrogen and progestin, but is placed on the skin. Patches must be changed once a week for full effect.
- ring: Similar to the patch and pill, the ring also releases estrogen and progestin into the body. The ring is worn inside the vagina so that the vaginal lining can absorb the hormones. Rings must be replaced once a month.
- birth control shot (Depo-Provera): The shot contains only progestin, and is administered every 12 weeks at your doctor’s office. According to Options for Sexual Health, the effects of the birth control shot can last up to a year after you stop taking it.
- intrauterine devices (IUDs): There are IUD’s both with and without hormones. In ones that release hormones, they can contain progesterone. IUD’s are inserted into your uterus by your doctor and must be changed every 3 to 10 years, depending on the type.
- implant: The implant contains progestin that releases through the thin rod into your arm. It’s placed under the skin on the inside of your upper arm by your doctor. It lasts for up to three years.
Each type has similar benefits and risks, although how the body responds is up to each individual. If you’re interested in birth control, talk to your doctor about which type is most effective for you. Effectiveness is based on how consistent your birth control use is. For example, some people find it difficult to remember to take a pill every day so an implant or IUD would be a better choice. There are also nonhormonal birth control choices, which may have different side effects.
If the pill is used perfectly — defined as being taken every single day at the same time — the rate of unplanned pregnancy falls to only one percent. Skipping your pill for one day, for example, will increase your risk for pregnancy.
However, no form of hormonal birth control protects against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). You’ll still need to use condoms to prevent STDs.
Ovaries naturally produce the female hormones estrogen and progestin. Either of these hormones can be synthetically made and used in contraceptives.
Higher than normal levels of estrogen and progestin stop the ovary from releasing an egg. Without an egg, sperm have nothing to fertilize. The progestin also changes the cervical mucus, making it thick and sticky, which makes it harder for sperm to find its way into the uterus.
When using certain hormonal contraceptives such as the IUD Mirena, you might experience lighter and shorter periods and an easing of menstrual cramps and premenstrual symptoms. These effects are among the reasons why some women take birth control specifically for premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), a serious form of PMS. Some women with endometriosis also take birth control to ease painful symptoms.
Using hormone-based contraceptives can even decrease your risk of endometrial and ovarian cancer. The longer you take them, the lower your risk becomes. These therapies may also offer some protection from noncancerous breast or ovarian growths. However, controversy remains regarding the possibility that hormonal contraceptives may somewhat increase the risk of breast cancer.
When you stop taking hormone-based birth control, your menstrual period will likely go back to normal within a few months. Some of the cancer prevention benefits accrued from years of medication use may persist for several more years.
Reproductive side effects of when your body is adjusting to oral, inserted, and patch contraceptives include:
- loss of menstruation (amenorrhea) or extra bleeding
- some bleeding or spotting between periods
- vaginal irritation
- breast tenderness
- breast enlargement
- change in your sex drive
Serious but uncommon side effects include heavy bleeding or bleeding that goes on for more than a week.
Hormonal birth controls may slightly raise the risk of cervical cancer, although researchers are unsure if this is due to the medication itself or if it’s simply due to an increased risk of HPV exposure from having sex.
Cardiovascular and central nervous systems
According to the Mayo Clinic, a healthy woman who doesn’t smoke is unlikely to experience serious side effects from oral contraceptives. However, for some women, birth control pills and patches can increase their blood pressure. Those extra hormones can also put you at risk for blood clots.
- These risks are even higher if you:
- smoke or are over age 35
- have high blood pressure
- have a pre-existing heart disease
- have diabetes
Being overweight is also considered a risk factor for high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes.
These side effects are uncommon in most women but when they do occur, they’re potentially very serious. That’s why hormonal birth control methods require a prescription and routine monitoring. Seek medical attention if you feel chest pain, cough up blood, or feel faint. Severe headache, difficulty speaking, or weakness and numbness in a limb could be signs of stroke.
Estrogen may aggravate migraines, if you already experience them. Some women also experience mood changes and depression when taking contraceptives.
Since the body works to maintain a hormone balance, it’s possible that the introduction of hormones creates a disruption, causing changes in mood. But there are few studies on the mental health effects of birth control on women and their well-being. Only recently did a 2017 study look at a small sample of 340 healthy women and find that oral contraceptives significantly reduced overall well-being.
Some women experience changes to their appetite and weight while taking hormonal contraception. But there are few studies or evidence showing that birth control causes weight gain. One review of 22 studies looked at progestin-only contraceptives and found little evidence. If there was weight gain, the mean increase was less than 4.4 pounds over a 6- or 12-month period.
But hormones do help regulate your eating habits, so a change in eating pattern may affect your weight, but it’s not a direct cause of birth control. It’s also possible to experience some temporary weight gain, which may be the result of water retention. To combat weight gain, see if you’ve made any lifestyle changes after taking birth control.
Other side effects include nausea and bloating, but these tend to ease up after a couple of weeks as your body gets used to the extra hormones.
If you have a history of gallstones, taking birth control may lead to faster formation of stones. There’s also an increased risk of benign liver tumors or liver cancer.
See your doctor if you have severe pain, vomiting, or yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice). Dark urine or light-colored stool can also be a sign of serious side effects.
For many women, this method of birth control can improve acne. A review of 31 trials and 12, 579 women, looked at the effect of birth control and facial acne. They found that some oral contraceptives were effective in reducing acne.
On the other hand, others may experience breakouts of acne or notice no change at all. In some cases, birth control may cause light brown spots on the skin. Every woman’s body and hormone levels are different, which is why it’s difficult to predict which side effects will occur as a result of birth control.
Sometimes, hormones in birth control cause unusual hair growth. More commonly though, birth control actually helps with unwanted hair growth. Oral contraceptives are also the main treatment for hirsutism, a condition that causes coarse, dark hair to grow on the face, back, and abdomen.
Talk to your doctor if you feel that your current birth control isn’t right for you. Being open and honest about your side effects and how they make you feel is the first step to getting the right dosage and type you need.
Study Finds The Birth Control Pill Has a Pretty Terrible Impact on Women’s Wellbeing
A new study has reinforced what many women have been saying for years – the oral contraceptive pill is associated with reduced quality of life and wellbeing in healthy women.
The double-blind, randomised, placebo-controlled trial found that healthy women reported reduced quality of life, mood, and physical wellbeing after taking a common birth control pill containing ethinylestradiol and levonorgestrel for three months.
The findings reinforce earlier research and anecdotal claims that women are struggling with the side effects of the contraceptive pill.
But there was no significant evidence that the contraceptive increased depressive symptoms in the latest study… so, there’s that.
Surprisingly, this is one of the most rigorous studies to date to look into the impact of the pill on women’s quality of life.
“Despite the fact that an estimated 100 million women around the world use contraceptive pills we know surprisingly little today about the pill’s effect on women’s health,” said lead researcher Angelica Lindén Hirschberg from the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden.
“The scientific base is very limited as regards the contraceptive pill’s effect on quality of life and depression and there is a great need for randomised studies where it is compared with placebos.”
To fix that, her team took 340 healthy women aged between 18 and 35 and gave them either placebo pills, or contraceptive pills containing ethinylestradiol and levonorgestrel over a three-month period.
Ethinylestradiol and levonorgestrel-containing pills are among the most common form of combined oral contraceptive pills around the world because they’re the least associated with a risk of blood clots, and they include brand names such as Levlen, Microgynon, Portia, and Alesse.
The study was double blind, which meant that neither the researchers giving out the pills or the women taking them knew whether they were getting a placebo or not.
At the start of the study, the women had their general health measured, including weight, height, and blood pressure.
They then went through the same tests at the end of the three months so the researchers could compare the results.
The women who were given contraceptive pills reported that their quality of life was significantly lower at the end of the study than those who were given placebos.
This was true for general quality of life and also specific aspects of wellbeing, such as self control and energy levels.
No significant increase in depressive symptoms was observed.
While it’s an interesting first step towards better measuring the pills’ side effects, the researchers caution that the changes were relatively small so we can’t read too much into them just yet. And we can only apply these findings to ethinylestradiol and levonorgestrel-containg pills.
Also, the study only looked at women over three months – it will require longer monitoring to get a more accurate idea of how the contraceptive pill affects women.
“This might in some cases be a contributing cause of low compliance and irregular use of contraceptive pills,” said one of the researchers, Niklas Zethraeus.
“This possible degradation of quality of life should be paid attention to and taken into account in conjunction with prescribing of contraceptive pills and when choosing a method of contraception.”
With recent research also providing insight into why periods can be so damn painful and heavy, it seems scientists are finally starting to take women’s reproductive health and contraceptive side effects seriously.
And we’re getting some male options too – scientists are making progress with a hormonal contraceptive injection for men, as well as a reversible, condom-free gel that blocks sperm.
More research is needed before we can identify more accurately how the pill impacts women, but these early results are reassuring for many women who’ve struggled with side effects while on the pill.
The research has been published in the journal Fertility and Sterility.
Estrogen-Containing Birth Control (Pill, Patch, and Ring)
Three kinds of birth control use estrogen: the combination pill, the patch, and the vaginal ring.
There’s a slightly increased risk in blood clots with the methods containing estrogen, particularly from pills that contain drospirenone (these include the brands Syeda, Yasmin, and Yaz, among others).
“A woman’s general risk of blood clots is around 1 in 10,000; while on estrogen-containing birth control it rises to about 3 in 10,000-so while it does triple, it is still extremely low,” Krajewski says.
Because of the higher risk for blood clots, strokes, and heart attacks, estrogen-containing birth control is not recommended if you have other risk factors, including:
- You smoke and you’re over age 35.
- You have a history of heart disease, deep vein thrombosis, or a pulmonary embolism.
- You’ll be undergoing surgery that will keep you off your feet for a long time.
One other concern many women have about estrogen-containing birth control is whether it raises the risk of breast cancer. A study published in 2010 that followed more than 100,000 women found there was a very slight increase in risk for women on the triphasic type of pills — the dose of estrogen in those changes in three phases over the month. But a later study that looked at women on 38 different formulations of birth control pills found no rise in risk with any of them.
One thing we do know for sure about birth control pills is that they lower your chances of getting ovarian and uterine cancer.
Some versions of the pill contain only progestin, which may be a better choice for some women. But you need to take them within the same 3-hour window each day for them to be effective.
In This Section
- Preventing STDs & Pregnancy
- What do I need to know about STDs?
- What do I need to know about birth control?
- What’s the best kind of birth control?
- How do I talk to my parents about birth control and STDs?
- I think I’m pregnant. Now what?
- Parental Consent and Notification Laws
If you have vaginal sex and you don’t want to get pregnant, use birth control. Birth control can have other benefits, too (like helping with PMS and acne).
Should I get on birth control?
You can get pregnant anytime you have penis-in-vagina (AKA vaginal) sex, including the very first time you have sex. So if you have vaginal sex — or think you might sometime soon — and you don’t want to get pregnant, use birth control.
There are lots of different kinds of birth control. Some work better than others. But using any type of birth control is better than using nothing at all. People who have vaginal sex without birth control have an 85% chance of getting pregnant within a year.
Preventing pregnancy isn’t the only reason people use birth control — it can have lots of other benefits, too. Some kinds of hormonal birth control (like the pill, patch, ring, shot, implant, and the hormonal IUD) can do things like ease cramps and PMS, and make your periods lighter. The pill, patch, and ring can also help with acne and make your periods more regular. Almost everybody uses birth control at some point.
Bottom line: if there’s a chance you’ll be doing any sexy stuff that can lead to pregnancy, birth control is your friend. You can ask your doctor or local Planned Parenthood health center about getting on birth control, whatever your reason.
How do I get birth control?
You can get some types of birth control, like condoms, at drugstores or convenience stores. Anybody can buy condoms, and you don’t need to show your ID. Sometimes you can get free condoms from community clinics, your school nurse, or Planned Parenthood health centers. Condoms help protect you from STDs, too! So it’s good to use condoms even if you’re on another method of birth control.
Some types of birth control work better than others. You need to see a doctor or nurse to get the types of birth control that work best to prevent pregnancy — like the IUD,implant, shot,pill,patch, orring. You can get these kinds of birth control from your regular doctor or gynecologist, or at your nearest Planned Parenthood health center.
Usually you don’t need a full exam to get birth control. But what happens at your appointment depends on your personal health, the doctor’s policies, and the kind of birth control you want. Here’s some stuff you can expect:
Your nurse or doctor will talk with you about your medical history (ask you questions about your health in the past) and check your blood pressure. Sometimes they do a pelvic exam, but they usually don’t need to.
The nurse or doctor may ask about your sex life: whether you’ve ever had sex, what kinds of sex, how many people you’ve had sex with, if you’ve used birth control before, etc. It’s super important to be honest so they can give you the best possible care. Doctors aren’t there to judge and they’ve heard it all before — they just want to help you stay healthy.
You can also ask any questions you have about birth control. You might want to talk with your doctor about the IUD or implant — these types of birth control are the easiest to use and work the best.
If you get the IUD, implant, or shot, your doctor will give it to you in the health center. If you choose the pill, patch, or ring, you’ll probably get a prescription. You can use the prescription to pick up your birth control at a drugstore or pharmacy. Some doctors might even have pills, patches, or rings in the health center to give to you at your appointment.
If you have health insurance, you probably won’t have to pay anything for your birth control. If you don’t have health insurance, ask your local Planned Parenthood health center about how to get free or low-cost birth control.
Will your parents find out if you birth control from your doctor? It depends on the laws where you live and/or your doctor’s policies. But many places have special laws that let teens get birth control privately. Either way, talking to your parents about birth control can be really helpful. Read more about birth control, your parents, and privacy.
What if I mess up or don’t use birth control?
If you make a birth control mistake or have sex without using birth control at all, don’t freak out — you still have a few days to try to prevent pregnancy.
Emergency contraception is a kind of birth control that can help prevent pregnancy up to 5 days after unprotected sex. Emergency contraception means taking a “morning-after pill” or getting a copper IUD.
You can get some kinds of morning-after pills (like Plan B) at the drugstore or at your local Planned Parenthood health center without a prescription. But it’s important to take it as soon as possible after unprotected sex, or it won’t work as well. Another kind of morning-after pill, called ella, is more effective than morning-after pills like Plan B — but you need a prescription from a nurse or doctor to get it.
Getting a copper IUD within 5 days after unprotected sex is the most effective kind of emergency contraception. But a doctor needs to put the IUD in, and sometimes it can be hard to get an appointment on short notice.
Call your doctor or your local Planned Parenthood health center as soon as possible after unprotected sex for help figuring out the best type of emergency contraception for you. Learn more about emergency contraception.
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When Should a Woman Start Birth Control?
When Should Women Start Taking Birth Control?
When the birth control pill became widely available to U.S. women in the 1970s, it revolutionized their lives. For the first time in history, the average woman had the freedom and ability to pursue higher education, earn more money, and decide when she would get pregnant and how often. In addition to those benefits, the pill also created healthier pregnancy outcomes for both women and the children they chose to have. Reproductive choice has been shown to improve positive economic outcomes for children and adults alike.
While the birth control pill is highly effective at protecting women against unintended pregnancies, it can also improve the symptoms of numerous different health conditions, and free women from the pain and inconvenience of heavy periods and hormone fluctuations.
On the surface, it might seem like women should start the pill or other forms of hormonal birth control once they become sexually active, but that’s not necessarily the case. The following article will explore when it’s safe to start taking the pill and how young women can benefit from taking oral contraceptives.
What are the reasons women take the pill?
Most women start using oral contraceptives to prevent unintended pregnancy. Currently, there are 61 million U.S. women of reproductive age, meaning they are between the ages of 15 and 44. 70% of those women are at risk of unintended pregnancy, meaning that they are sexually active, but do not want to become pregnant. The women who are at the highest risk of unintended pregnancy are between the ages of 15 and 19.
Arguably, it is women in this age group who would experience the most disruption to their lives if they were to become pregnant unintentionally. Recent studies indicate that 42% of teens between the ages of 15 and 19 have had sexual intercourse. 99% of those sexually active teens use some form of birth control. The most common forms are:
- Male Condoms
- The Pill
Many adults may be uncomfortable with teenage sexual activity, but when around half of all teens are sexually active, it’s important that they have access to safe and effective birth control.
Male condoms have an effectiveness rate of 82%, and the withdrawal method as an effective rate of 78%. The pill, in contrast, has an effectiveness rate of 91%. Out of these three birth control methods that teens are most likely to use, the pill is the only one that teenage girls have direct control over.
What is the earliest age that birth control is prescribed?
Age 16 is the most common age for teenagers to start taking the pill. At this age, most young women have established a cycle. It’s true that some teenagers are ready to start the pill at a younger age, but it’s crucial to discuss this with a doctor first.
It’s also important to consider the psychological maturity of the individual because the pill does require that the user sticks to a schedule or regimen when taking it. Forgetting to take a pill or skipping and then doubling up on a dose can have many side effects, including ovulation and also hormonal imbalances that can manifest as headaches, nausea or vomiting. Not taking the pill correctly means the user loses most of its benefits.
Besides preventing pregnancy, how else can birth control help young women?
7% of birth control pill users take the pill strictly for medical reasons, and not to prevent pregnancy. A woman does not have to be sexually active to benefit from the pill. The pill can help regulate hormones, decrease the risk of uterine and ovarian cancer, and also prevent bone loss as women age. Also, the pill can also help teens and young women with other health issues as well.
Heavy, irregular periods
Teenagers are more likely to suffer from heavy, irregular periods than older women. Severe PMS symptoms can cause acne, cramping, and bloating that can make it harder to concentrate in school or even attend school. This can be painful, and emotionally distressing for young girls. In addition, heavy bleeding can cause iron deficiency anemia, and teens are at higher risk of this disorder because their bodies use up iron stores more quickly than adults. The pill can alleviate these issues because it regulates hormone levels and also lessens bleeding during a period.
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
PCOS is a hormonal imbalance that can cause heavy periods, irregular menstruation, excess hair growth, weight gain, and insulin resistance. Symptoms typically start in the teen years and can be incredibly difficult for teenagers to navigate. Birth control pills can alleviate many of the symptoms associated with PCOS.
Hormonal swings related to the menstrual cycle can make adolescent acne worse. Teenage girls are often prescribed hormonal birth control to lessen acne severity and improve the condition of the skin. Untreated acne can be painful, leave permanent scars, and also cause emotional distress in teens as well as adults.
Endometriosis is a condition where the cells that comprise the uterine lining, or endometrium, begin to grow outside of the uterus. They can attach to the outside of the uterus, on the kidneys, bladder, ovaries, fallopian tubes, or intestines. Left untreated, endometriosis can cause excruciating pain, anemia, and can also lead to infertility from internal scarring and increase the risk of ovarian cancer. The symptoms of endometriosis usually start in the teenage years. Birth control pills can be used to suppress the growth of endometrial cells and protect women’s fertility.
While birth control pills are the most commonly prescribed hormonal contraceptive for teens, forgetfulness can be a concern. If parents or guardians are worried their teenager will be forgetful taking the pill, an IUD or a vaginal ring can give the same health benefits and protections as the pill without as much user intervention.
It’s now easier than ever before to access safe and effective hormonal contraceptives. Pandia Health is leading the way with convenient birth control delivery services for women who wish to start the pill, patch, or birth control ring. Contact Pandia Health today to explore your birth control options.
Disclaimer:The views expressed in this article intend to inform and induce conversation. They are the views of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Pandia Health, and are for informational purposes only, even if and to the extent that this article features the advice of physicians and medical practitioners. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment, and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.
Why Is Everyone Hating On Birth Control Pills Right Now?
Photo: Megan Madden / Refinery29 for Getty Images
For more than 50 years, the Pill has been celebrated-and swallowed-by hundreds of millions of women around the world. Since hitting the market in 1960, the Pill has been lauded as a way to give women the power to plan their pregnancies-and, in effect, their lives.
But in recent years, a birth control backlash has been brewing. In a wellness world that prizes all-natural everything-from food to skin care-the Pill and its exogenous hormones have become less of a godsend and more of necessary evil, if not an outright enemy.
On Instagram and on the internet, wellness “influencers” and health experts alike expound the virtues of going off the Pill. The apparent problems with the Pill include issues like low libido, thyroid issues, adrenal fatigue, gut health issues, digestive distress, nutrient deficiencies, mood swings, and more. (Here: The Most Common Birth Control Side Effects)
Even major websites are joining in with headlines like “Why I’m Happier, Healthier, and Sexier Off Hormonal Birth Control.” (That particular piece credits going off the Pill for increasing the writer’s sex drive, breast size, mood, and even her confidence and social skills.)
Suddenly, going Pill-free (like going gluten-free or sugar-free) has become the hottest health trend du jour. It’s enough to make someone like me, who’s been on the Pill for 15 years, wonder whether I was hurting myself somehow by swallowing that little pill every day. Did I need to quit it, like a bad habit?
Apparently, I’m not the only one wondering. More than half (55 percent) of sexually active American women currently use no birth control method, and of the ones who do, 36 percent say they would prefer a non-hormonal method, according to a survey conducted by The Harris Poll for Evofem Biosciences, Inc. (a biopharmaceuticals company dedicated to women’s health). Plus, a Cosmopolitan survey found a shocking 70 percent of women who’ve taken the Pill reported they’ve stopped taking it, or have thought about going off it in the past three years. So, has the once-celebrated medication become a thing of the past?
“It’s an interesting trend,” says Navya Mysore, M.D., a primary-care physician specializing in women’s health at One Medical, of the Pill backlash. “I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad trend since it pushes people to look at their overall nutrition, lifestyle, and stress levels.” It can also be linked to the fact that more and more women are opting for a hormone-free IUD, she notes.
But, the generalizations and slogans about the “bad” effects of BC aren’t necessarily accurate for every person. “Birth control should be a neutral topic,” she says. “It should be an individual choice-not an objectively good or bad thing.”
Like anything else circulating on the internet, we need to be wary of something that sounds too good to be true. A lot of those posts promoting birth control freedom may sound promising, but there may be ulterior motives, says Megan Lawley, M.D., family planning fellow at the Emory University Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics.
“Often you might find that those people who argue that contraception does more harm than good are also encouraging people to spend money on health treatments or products that have unclear benefits,” she says, “so make sure that you are choosing good sources to educate yourself.” In other words, don’t believe everything you read on the ‘gram!
The Perks of the Pill
First of all, the Pill is, for all intents and purposes, safe and effective. It does an excellent job of living up to its main promise of preventing pregnancy. It’s 99 percent effective in theory, according to Planned Parenthood, although that number drops to 91 percent after accounting for user error.
Plus, the Pill does offer health benefits. “Hormonal contraception can help women with issues such as heavy periods and/or painful periods, preventing menstrual migraines, and treating acne or hirsutism (excessive hair growth),” says Dr. Lawley. It’s also been shown to reduce the risk of ovarian and endometrial cancers and helps women with conditions such as polycystic ovarian syndrome, endometriosis, and adenomyosis.
As for the claims that it leads to scary side effects, from weight gain to mood swings to infertility? Most don’t hold water. “For healthy non-smoking women, the Pill has no long-term side effects,” says Sherry A. Ross, M.D., women’s health expert and author of She-ology: The Definitive Guide to Women’s Intimate Health. Period.
Here’s the deal: Side effects such as weight gain or mood swings can occur, but they can be mitigated by experimentation with different versions of the Pill. (Here’s how to find the best birth control for you.) And, again, every person’s body is going to respond differently. “These side effects are usually temporary,” explains Dr. Ross. “If they don’t go away in two to three months, talk to your doctor about changing to another type of Pill, because there are many different types and combinations of estrogen and progesterone depending on your side effects and body type.” And keep in mind: “Not all ‘natural’ supplements are safe, either,” Dr. Mysore points out. “They have their share of side effects as well.”
As for the rumor that having been on the Pill can make you infertile? “There is absolutely no truth to that,” says Dr. Mysore. If someone has healthy fertility, having been on the Pill will not impede you from getting pregnant. And unsurprisingly, there’s zero scientific research that shows skipping the Pill will boost your confidence or social skills. (Peep these other common birth control myths.)
The (Legit) Drawbacks
All that said, there are certain reasons for passing on the Pill. For starters, not everyone is a good candidate for hormonal contraception: “If you have high blood pressure, a history of blood clots, strokes, you’re a smoker over the age of 35, or you have migraine headaches with an aura, you should not take oral contraception,” says Dr. Ross. Plus, the birth control pill over time may have an increased risk of breast cancer, although it’s “a very, very small risk,” she notes.
Another good reason to go off the Pill is if you decide the IUD is a better choice for you. The IUD gets high marks among ob-gyns as a highly effective and safe birth control method and has been recommended as a “first-line” option for contraception for all women of reproductive age by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. “For those who are sensitive to hormones when taken orally, the IUD offers a viable alternative,” says Dr. Ross. “The copper IUD contains no hormones and the progesterone-releasing IUDs have minimal amounts of progesterone when compared to oral contraception.”
Ending the Relationship
Of course, if you go off the contraception cold turkey, you risk an unplanned pregnancy. Many of these wellness influencers who are going off the Pill say they will use fertility tracking apps or the rhythm method to prevent pregnancies. You may have even seen sponsored posts for the Natural Cycles app, which has a robust influencer marketing campaign.
The problem? They’re not exactly reliable, says Dr. Mysore. Since you have to manually record your temperature every morning at the exact same time, it can make a big difference in the reading if you’re even a few minutes off. This user variability alone makes it a poor choice for contraception. In a study conducted by Natural Cycles that followed 22,785 women through two years of menstrual cycles, the app was found to have a typical use effectiveness rate of 93 percent (meaning it accounted for user error and other factors vs. if you followed the method perfectly), which is on par with hormonal birth control pills. However, in Europe, 37 women have come forward saying they got pregnant while using the Natural Cycles app. Plus, it hasn’t yet been approved for use as a contraceptive in the U.S. That being said, if you’re going off the pill and intend to go the natural route, using an app like Natural Cycles is far more effective than traditional fertility tracking methods, which are only about 76 to 88 percent effective in the first year of typical use, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
If you’re simply curious to see how your body reacts to going off the Pill, Dr. Mysore supports the idea of taking a “birth control holiday” every three to five years to make sure your cycles are regular. “Get off it for a couple months to see what your period looks like: If it’s regular, you can get back on it to continue to prevent pregnancy,” she says. Just make sure you’re using a backup method, like condoms, during the break. (Heads up: Here are some of the side effects you can expect from going off birth control pills.)
Above all, remember that staying on or going off the Pill is an individual choice. “There are many reasons to be on contraception, just as there are reasons that women choose not to be on contraception,” Dr. Lawley says, and any decision should start with a conversation with your medical provider about your health priorities.
- By Locke Hughes @LockeVictoria