Birth control has come a long way since it was first introduced. The levels of hormones have been reduced to where side effects are not only greatly minimized, but are even considered beneficial! In addition to the pill, there are currently many other methods of hormonal birth control available. Methods like the contraceptive implant, IUD, patch, ring and the shot have become extremely popular due to their longer-lasting effects for pregnancy prevention, as well as some of the other, lesser-known benefits of hormonal birth control.
How does hormonal birth control work?
When a woman reaches reproductive age, her ovaries release an egg each cycle (approximately one month) that sits in the fallopian tubes and awaits fertilization. If the egg is not fertilized by male sperm, it dissolves and the lining of the uterus (which has built up a lining of blood cells) then sheds the cells through the vagina – this is what is considered a monthly period.
If a female is prescribed hormonal birth control, the medication “tricks” the ovaries into thinking that the woman is already pregnant, thus holding back the egg from being popped into the fallopian tubes.There is then no egg for a sperm cell to fertilize. What many don’t understand, however, is that this reaction can trigger or prevent other functions in the body, which could be perceived as beneficial by the woman taking the medication.
What are some of the benefits of hormonal birth control?
The benefits of the birth control pill are well known, because it’s the most prescribed medication in the world! While the pill has been around the longest, there are many other methods available that last longer and that have other benefits. Keep in mind that each body is different so some woman may experience different effects.
Most hormonal birth control methods reduce the length of the monthly period. Usually, after a few months, the body’s hormones have been regulated, causing a more predictable or lighter cycle. Many women report fewer cramps as well!
Hormonal birth control can lead to reduced monthly bleeding. The reduced monthly blood loss leads to an increase in hemoglobin levels and may alleviate or prevent anemia. Anemia has significant health consequences. Anemic mothers are more likely to deliver premature and underweight babies. Anemia also leads to fatigue and low productivity. Many young women with anemia do poorly in school.
Methods such as the IUD and contraceptive implant can even STOP a period completely. The body begins to not expect an egg each month, so the uterus does not need such a thick lining to shed.Remember this can vary for each woman.
Hormonal birth control methods can reduce the incidence of certain cancers in women. Most of the studies have been with the pill, but evidence exists that the hormones supplied in many birth control methods have similar effects in preventing ovarian, endometrial and colorectal cancers.
Oral contraceptives (such as the pill) have been proven to reduce ovarian cysts.
Some birth control methods can help acne and other hormone-triggered problems.
An added benefit of reduced menstrual bleeding may also make it easier to manage monthly bleeding and reduce school absences.
Sarah Saxbe, MS, MSW, LISW-S, coordinates community outreach and marketing for Nationwide Children's Hospital Teen and Pregnant Program, BC4Teens birth control clinic, and the Ohio Better Birth Outcomes collaborative.
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