Oral contraceptive pills or birth control pills are as the term suggests pills or medications used for the prevention of pregnancy. These are taken by mouth and are an effective method of contraception with a success rate of 99% (if used correctly) to prevent pregnancy. Oral contraceptives have always been among the most popular contraception methods for almost five decades.
The oral contraceptive pills also induce the thickening of mucus on the walls of the cervix, thereby preventing the sperm from passing through. Oral contraceptive pills; not only do they prevent pregnancy, but they also have an active role to play in curing acne, helping periods to get lighter, making them less painful. Also, it helps to regulate the timing of menstrual cycles, making it more regular for those females suffering from irregular cycles.
Types of Oral Contraceptive Pills
Oral contraceptive pills are usually of two types, one with a combination of Progesterone and Estrogen (female sex hormones) and the other one with just Progesterone. Both contraceptive options are excellent for women who are looking for a convenient method to avoid unwanted pregnancies, provided they are consistent with it as it requires to be taken in order and daily without fail. The way that these pills work is by simply preventing ovulation, the natural process by which the ovaries release an egg each month, so if there are no eggs to be fertilized, the sperm dies after staying inside the uterus after 5-7 days.
Benefits of Taking Oral Contraceptive Pills
As for the benefits, research work is replete with studies done on its effectiveness, which have been backed by various scientific studies. One such study conducted by the World Health Organization during the 70s shows that the use of Oral contraceptive pills helps in the prevention of iron deficiency or anemia in women. Here’s more information on the benefits of taking birth control pills that also shares the types of birth control pills available and suitable for women.
Besides that other significant benefit that it has is that it helps in easing the symptoms of PMS (Premenstrual Syndrome), preventing endometrial and ovarian cancers along with the prevention of Ectopic pregnancies (it occurs when a fertilized egg gets implanted and further grow outside the central cavity of the uterus).
The oral contraceptive pill also prevents pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), an infection of the uterus including the fallopian tubes that causes infertility in women, and oral contraceptive pills help in the thickening of the cervical mucus, thereby preventing pathogens from reaching the upper GI tract, thereby reducing the risk of developing Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).
Besides that, it also helps those that suffer from heavy and irregular periods; not only do they become regular and lighter but also less painful. Oral contraceptive pills offer a range of other benefits that go beyond just preventing pregnancy. Let’s take a close look at them.
1. Helps in regulating periods
In most cases of women that suffer from heavy and irregular periods, birth control pills are prescribed because they help in curbing hormonal fluctuations to a great extent, thereby reducing such instances in the longer run, thus regulating and making periods lighter and less painful.
2. Easing painful periods
A majority of women suffer greatly from Dysmenorrhea or what is called in common parlance painful periods. It is one of the most commonly reported menstrual disorders in women. The major cause for it is ovulation, which spikes the level of chemicals called Prostaglandin, and these cause the uterus lining to contract and spasm, which in turn causes painful sensations in the lower pelvic region in women. Since Oral contraceptives help skip the ovulation process altogether, there is no more contractions and, as a result, no painful periods.
3. Helps in improving acne
Acne is mostly caused when there are hormonal fluctuations in the body, oral contraceptive pills help in stabilizing those fluctuations, and as a result, clear skin is achieved. It also helps with cystic acne.
4. Easing symptoms of Endometriosis
Endometriosis is a disorder when the endometrial lining or the lining of the uterus abnormally grows outside the uterus, for example on the ovaries and fallopian tubes, since these are endometrial linings they thicken and bleed as it happens in a normal period and causes painful cramping and contractions. Oral contraceptive pills help in reducing the symptoms by preventing ovulation. As a result, these linings do not thicken and shed, and so it helps a great deal in easing the symptoms of Endometriosis.
5. Prevention of Ovarian Cysts
Another remarkable benefit of birth control pills are that they help those dealing with ovarian cysts, which are a major cause for infertility in women, the birth control pills do not banish existing cysts; however, they do help in the prevention of new ones from forming.
6. Lowers risk of Uterine and Endometrial Cancers
Oral contraceptive pills help in drastically reducing the chances of developing uterine and endometrial cancers in women, and this is directly related to how many years a woman has been on the pill, it is cited that the longer the women use these pills the lower their chances of developing these types of cancers.
7. Helps in the prevention of anemia
Anemia is a condition when there are not enough red blood cells in the body, which are imperative as they help carry oxygen to the various cells in the body, without which the body lacks energy and experiences fatigue and weakness. Oral contraceptive pills help women with heavy periods by making them lighter or skipping them altogether, thereby reducing the risk of developing anemia.
If So Many Benefits, What’s Bad?
Most women prefer oral Contraceptive pills as it is the easiest and most convenient way to prevent pregnancy, if used correctly it can help prevent a pregnancy by as high as 99%, provided they are taken consistently without fail and at the same time daily. Its benefits are not only linked to just preventing pregnancy, but it also offers a wide range of other benefits to women, including regulating their periods, making periods lighter, prevention of uterine, and endometrial cancers, helping with ovarian cysts, anemia and such.
Since each coin has two sides, oral contraceptive pills also come with its own fair share of disadvantages.
1. Risk of developing Breast cancer
Oral contraceptives, as seen in some studies, greatly help in reducing cancers of the uterus and the Endometrial lining when used for a long time. However, since birth control pills contain hormones such as Estrogen and Progesterone, birth control pills can increase the risk of developing breast cancer as when the body is exposed to high levels of hormones over time. This risk occurs in women that started using birth control pills early on in their teen years or those that have been using it for a very long time. But it is seen that when its use is stopped for around ten years, the risk is of developing cancer risk is reduced and is the same as someone who has never been on the pill.
2. Weight Gain
One of the common side effects that are reported by women is weight gain after starting the pill, and it can be due to the presence of Estrogen in these pills that cause fluid retention and bloating in some women. However, not all women experience this, and it can be solved by changing the type of pill.
3. Blood clots
Oral contraceptive pills as they contain hormones and being exposed to hormones such as Estrogen can increase the risk of developing blood clots, and this risk is increased in someone who is above 35 years of age and is a smoker, in such cases the woman should consult with a specialist beforehand.
Some types of oral contraceptive pills, such as the combination, can cause cardiovascular abnormalities like stroke, heart attack. These are generally related to someone having high blood pressure or someone who is a smoker and above 35 years of age. To avoid the risk of stroke, it is advised to take medical advice prior to using these pills.
Smoking on its own is a significant contributor to someone developing cardiovascular diseases, but when smoking is combined with the use of birth control pills, it elevates the risk even more. The alternative to this is opting for birth control pills that do not contain hormones.
6. Reduced libido
Many women also report reduced libido or sex drive after starting with the pill, as the pill helps in the prevention of pregnancy by skipping the process of ovulation, which in turn alters the level of hormones in a women’s body in a way that it reduces sex drive. However, not all women experience this, and if someone does, then they can discuss this with their health care provider and look for other non-hormonal contraceptive methods.
Oral contraceptive pills, in terms of its benefits, also come with its own fair share of disadvantages. While on the one hand, it not only helps women prevent pregnancy, but it also helps those with cases of heavy and painful periods as well as reducing the risk of uterine and endometrial cancer, but on the other hand, it increases the risk of developing breast cancer in women who are smokers and are above 35 years of age, it also has a risk of developing cardiovascular diseases like stroke, heart attack and blood clots which are some very serious downsides of using birth control pills.
Birth control pills are also liked to control mood swings, depression, and migraines. They also do not provide any protection against STDs (Sexually Transmitted Diseases), and HIV for that other non – hormonal methods like Condoms, Diaphragm are of great help.
While most of the above downsides can be prevented beforehand just by making sure someone is not a smoker, above 35 years of age, has high blood pressure, and a history of breast cancer running in the family. Apart from those preventive measures, it can also help someone if they discuss all the risk factors with their health care provider and zero in on a type of contraceptive that can cater best to their particular needs.
All in all, oral contraceptive pills have definitely helped scores of women worldwide. Still, as it turns out, it is not for everyone out there, there are definitely some risks involved, some of which like the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases is quite fatal to be ignored. But women can avoid these by opting for a birth control pill that best suits their needs.