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Women's Health Blog

The Buzz Behind Birth Control Pills

As a woman, you may be introduced to birth control in your early teens and may take it throughout your life—whether consistently or intermittently—until you reach menopause. Taking birth control at a wide variety of ages, along with continued absorption of “the pill” has led many to question its safety.

Whether you’re taking it for acne, to regulate your period, or to prevent pregnancy, here’s what you need to know about birth control methods and how they affect your body.

Birth control pills are a form of oral contraception that is taken daily to prevent pregnancy. Most forms of the pill feature estrogen, progestin or a combination of both hormones. Dermatologists and gynecologists often prescribe birth control for women with various other symptoms, such as severe period cramps or acne. The pill is one of the most common methods for preventing pregnancy. Each woman’s experience with birth control is different, some use it for a few years, others are on and off it periodically, and some use it religiously.

 

The most common side effects and risks include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Blood clots
  • Heart disease
  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Sore breasts
  • Weight gain
  • Irregular bleeding
  • Depression

Although some of these symptoms may dissipate after a few months, in some cases they may linger or worsen. If your body does not acclimate, you should talk to your OB/GYN right away. Women 35 and older with a history of high blood pressure, blood clots, or breast or endometrial cancer may be at an increased risk for side effects and should avoid taking birth control with estrogen in it. Other factors, such as being overweight, smoking, and long-term use may increase the likelihood of blood clots. Talk to your doctor to see if birth control is right for you.

 

Estrogen-Containing Birth Control and Breast Cancer

Recent studies have increased the discussion about estrogen-based birth control and whether it can increase your chances of breast cancer. The only conclusive evidence is tied to a 2010 study saying triphasic types of birth control (where the estrogen dose increases gradually throughout the month) can increase your likelihood of developing breast cancer. Although, later research of various birth control formulations negates that research.

However, birth control pills are connected to a decrease chance of ovarian or uterine cancer.

Before beginning a birth control regimen, determine why you want to go on “the pill”—whether for acne, painful periods, or contraception. It’s also important to conduct preliminary research to understand any potential risks associated with use given your medical history.

Birth control is a highly reliable form of contraception if taken correctly, so if you’re on it now or thinking about starting “the pill,” rest assured that your OB/GYN will indicate whether birth control is right for you.

Want to learn more about if birth control pills may be the right form of contraceptive for you? Contact Carrie Snyder, the Beebe Women's Health Nurse Navigator, at (844) 316-3330, or email womenshealth@beebehealthcare.org for more information.