Beyond Birth Control: Other Benefits of Oral Contraceptives
When you think about birth control pills, your mind most likely makes the obvious connotation: that birth control pills are pills you take to avoid becoming pregnant. Did you know, though, that oral contraceptives have additional women's health applications?
Birth control pills work by adjusting women's hormone levels. As you are probably already aware, women have unique hormones, and when those hormones become imbalanced, they can cause unique illnesses. Since many of these illnesses and issues can be treated or controlled with oral contraceptives, it may be that the term birth control is now a bit of a misnomer.
Conditions Commonly Treated With Oral Contraceptives
From the time a young woman begins menstruating, she may be subject to a number of conditions that can be treated with birth control pills. This starts even before she becomes sexually active.
PMS — Premenstrual syndrome may be mild in some, but in others it can be extreme. Cramping, bloating and tiredness are only the tip of the hormonal iceberg for those with serious PMS issues, who may experience wild mood swings, abdominal bloating, severe acne, soreness of the breasts and a range of other symptoms. When hormones are balanced with birth control pills, these symptoms may lessen or even correct themselves completely.
Endometriosis — Women with endometriosis experience intense and sometimes debilitating pain during their periods. With the right dose and type of hormonal birth control, however, a woman may find that her periods lessen or even stop, allowing her to live her life without the interference that endometriosis pain can cause.
Heavy Periods — Menorrhagia refers to heavy periods that involve excessive bleeding and cramping. Birth control pills have proven very effective in treating women with this disorder and reducing their menstrual bleeding and cramping to normal levels.
Endometrial Hyperplasia — Women with this condition experience abnormal thickening in the lining of the uterus. What's interesting about this condition is that birth control pills can actually prevent a woman with endometrial hyperplasia from developing cancer — an occurrence that can result in a hysterectomy or even death.
This is one case where birth control pills can be used to actually protect fertility. Oral contraceptives are the primary method for controlling endometrial hyperplasia and preserving a woman's chances of conception, as well as her life.
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome — Polycystic ovaries are caused by a hormone imbalance. Symptoms include ovarian cysts and period irregularity, as well as the development of male characteristics. Women with polycystic ovary syndrome may develop body hair, deeper voices, thinning hair on the head, smaller breasts and a number of other symptoms.
If left untreated, the hormone imbalance responsible for polycystic ovary syndrome can lead to breast and endometrial cancer, as well as infertility. Birth control pills, however, can help balance a woman's hormones and bring her polycystic ovary syndrome under control.
Quality of Life Issues — In addition to the health concerns above that can endanger a woman's fertility or even her life, birth control pills also treat a number of quality of life issues. When hormones get out of balance they can cause weight loss or gain, acne and other problems which — while not life-threatening — can interfere with a woman's ability to live her life with mental well-being and confidence.
Are You a Candidate for Birth Control?
Even though they treat a variety of symptoms and ailments in addition to preventing pregnancy, oral contraceptives aren't right for every woman. For some, a busy lifestyle makes is difficult to remember to take a pill. In other cases, an existing health condition may make birth control contraindicated. These conditions include certain heart problems and types of migraine headache, high blood pressure and a history of stroke. Luckily for women with these issues who are looking to prevent pregnancy, a large number of alternatives now exist for both temporary and permanent birth control.
For women who can safely take birth control, however, the pill is more than just a way to prevent pregnancy. It is also the medical treatment of choice for a number of serious women's health issues. If you are looking to prevent pregnancy, or if you are experiencing symptoms of any of the above conditions, contact the Gainesville OB/GYNs at All About Women today.‹ All About Women OB/GYN Knowledge Center