The Effects of Hormonal Birth Control

Many women are concerned about the effects that hormonal birth control might have on their health. If you are thinking of starting the pill, or if you have been on the pill for a while, it makes sense that you may have concerns about how long-lasting any side effects might be. It may seem as if adding hormones to your body may not be compatible for your long-term health. 

The good news is the pill and other forms of birth control are safe. Different forms of hormonal birth control work by introducing hormones that are already similar to the ones already in your body. Introducing these similar and natural hormones are used to prevent pregnancy by stopping ovulation or thickening cervical mucus. The pill can also help balance the hormones already present in the body to improve complexion, reduce premenstrual syndrome (PMS), and even reduce the risk of certain cancers.

Breaking Common Myths 

Fertility 

One common myth about hormonal birth control is that it can reduce your ability to conceive once you are off the pill. However, the pill works by introducing low levels of the hormones necessary to prevent pregnancy. These low levels are the reason why the pill must be taken daily. Once you stop taking the pill, your fertility goes back to normal, and chances of conception are improved within three months. One type of hormonal birth control that can impact fertility in the near term is the birth control shot. It can take between three and 18 months after your last shot for your ability to get pregnant to return. 

One thing to keep in mind is that although birth control does not affect fertility, age does. If someone has been on birth control for ten years and then struggles to conceive, it could be because they are 10 years older than they were.  

Cancer Risk 

Another common myth about birth control is it increases your chances of cancer. However, hormonal birth control actually lowers your risk for certain cancers, including ovarian cancer. In fact, certain types of birth control can actually decrease your risk of ovarian cancer by up to 50%, even for decades after stopping your prescription. Some research indicates a slight increased risk of breast cancer, however, this risk decreases once a prescription is ended. Breast cancer is also highly unlikely in pre-menopausal womxn, so the risk is still low.  
 
While not cancer, fluid-filled cysts on the ovaries can cause concern or pain for those who have them. Hormonal birth control methods actually stop your body from ovulating, and therefore lower the risk of creating cysts on your ovaries. Some birth control can even reduce the risk of forming breast cysts as well.  

Benefits of the Pill 

While birth control can have short-term health side effects, these risks disappear once you stop taking your prescription. Combination birth control (estrogen + progestin) is associated with an increased risk of stroke, blood clots and heart attack, so those at risk for these things should avoid this type of birth control. Those at risk include smokers, those who suffer from migraines with auras, and those who have a personal or family history of blood clots. Those who should avoid combination birth control can instead take the mini pill (progestin only). 

The pill does offer immediate health benefits for those who take it as prescribed. Taking birth control can improve your skin by balancing your hormones. The pill, rings, and patches, all lessen PMS symptoms like backaches, cramps, mood swings, breast tenderness, bloating, depression, and more. Periods can also be lighter and even less painful when on the pill. Some forms of birth control also allow you to skip periods so you can be in control of your own period timing. 

The Bottom Line 

Hormonal birth control can be a great option for those with certain health needs, or those wanting to avoid pregnancy. Any risk that comes with a birth control prescription is short-term and decreases or disappears once you stop taking hormonal birth control. Your ability to conceive returns once your prescription has ended, or if you do not take the daily pill as prescribed, and your long-term fertility is not affected by your birth control.  

While certain types of birth control are not for everyone, there is a type of birth control for everyone. There are plenty of options available to womxn, whether they are looking to avoid pregnancy, improve their skin, lessen PMS, or just skip periods in general.  

If you are considering starting birth control, then it is important to be informed about your options. Talk to your healthcare provider or set up a telehealth consultation in order to help you find the right form of birth control for you.  

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