Oral contraceptives, or hormonal birth control, use estrogen and progestin to stop the ovulation process so sperm can’t join with an egg, which results in pregnancy.
Whether you don’t want kids at all or just aren’t ready yet, you trust your birth control to live your life the way you prefer. “The pill” works beautifully for its main intended purpose with a 99% rate of effectiveness or higher as long as you use it according to its instructions.
You may be surprised to hear your doctor recommend oral contraceptives for purposes not related to family planning, but the truth is hormonal birth control can do a lot more than prevent pregnancy. In fact, Clifton Etienne, MD, Michael Cavanagh, MD, and Flora Brewington, MD, often prescribe birth control to treat various medical conditions.
At Westmed Family Healthcare in Westminster, Colorado, our board-certified family physicians share more about how birth control can help manage your symptoms and improve your quality of life beyond preventing pregnancy. Here are four conditions we routinely use birth control to treat:
1. Polycystic ovary syndrome
Polycystic ovary syndrome, or PCOS, is a common hormone imbalance that many women experience. It causes you to produce a high number of androgens, male sex hormones that women typically produce in very low numbers. PCOS causes diverse symptoms like:
- Facial hair growth
- Pelvic pain
- Heavy periods
- Weight gain
Although there’s no cure for PCOS, hormonal birth control can reduce your symptoms by increasing your estrogen supply to keep your hormones in a better balance. Some women report their symptoms disappearing entirely thanks to hormonal birth control.
Endometriosis is a condition that causes the tissue that normally only grows within your uterus to grow outside the organ. Like the uterine lining, the endometrial tissue growing on other organs and structures swells up and sheds once a month.
Balancing your hormones with birth control slows down this excess tissue growth to reduce common endometriosis symptoms like pain, which can flare up during your periods.
Acne is often hormonal — that’s why it appears during puberty for many growing adolescents. Your hormones are raging during this time and so is your skin. But sometimes an acne-targeting facewash just doesn’t make the cut for clearing your pimples.
If you feel like you’ve tried everything to get rid of your acne with no success, hormonal birth control may be the next logical option.
4. Menstrual cramps (dysmenorrhea)
Do your period cramps cause you to double over in pain? If your cramps are severe enough to keep you home from work or school, consider hormonal birth control for your symptoms. It works by reducing the number of prostaglandins your body produces.
Prostaglandins are chemicals that cause your uterus to contract right before you start your period. That’s why you feel that clenching sensation in your lower gut. Birth control can treat additional premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms like mood swings, depression, and insomnia.
Of course, birth control pills are only the right choice for treatment if you don’t want to get pregnant. If you’re trying to conceive, other treatments for these conditions are a better fit for you at this time.
To learn more about the many unexpected abilities of birth control, schedule an appointment by phone or online at Westmed Family Healthcare today.