If you’re taking hormonal birth control, chances are your No. 1 priority is preventing pregnancy. Dodging a positive pregnancy test equals success. You may be surprised to know, though, that this type of contraception also offers a lot of other benefits.
When it comes to hormonal birth control, you have several options. Pills, shots, patches, and the ring all work by controlling your estrogen and progesterone levels. If taken correctly, they have several additional perks that can boost your health and your appearance. Check out these eight added ways hormonal birth control can help you:
1. Controls Acne
Hormones are powerful. They control your ovaries, and they can lead to serious acne, too. If face washes, creams, or prescriptions aren’t preventing your pimples, hormonal birth control might help. Your doctor can work with you to decide if a prescription is the correct next step.
Birth control containing estrogen and progesterone takes your hormones off the roller coaster ride. Fewer fluctuations mean fewer pimples. Most people will see clearer skin as long as they use their birth control method.
2. Regulates Periods
A period that shows up a day or two early can catch you off guard and mess up your plans. Hormonal birth control takes away those “uh-oh!” moments. When taken correctly, it puts your cycle on a reliable schedule you can build your calendar around.
Most birth control pill packs have three weeks of hormonal medication. Your period only shows up during the one week of inactive pills. Have a big party or trip coming up? No worries. Switch a week of inactive pills for active ones, and you can skip your period.
Newer types of pills give you even more freedom. With three straight months of active pills, you’ll only get four periods a year! The shot and IUD can also give you lighter periods over time. In fact, for some women, their period disappears within a year.
3. Reduces the Risk of Some Cancers
Cancer is scary, and you may have heard taking hormonal birth control increases your risk. The truth is, when it comes to cancer, hormonal contraceptives are a mixed bag. This is particularly true for pills and IUDs.
On the one hand, you will ovulate less, exposing your body to fewer hormonal changes. Over time, that can cut your ovarian cancer risk in half. The same is true for uterine cancer if you use hormonal birth control for at least four years. This benefit can be long-term: These reductions can linger for decades.
It’s a different case for breast and cervical cancer, though. Hormonal contraception slightly bumps up your risk. There’s good news here too, though, because that uptick is temporary. Five years after you stop the pill, your risk drops back to normal.
4. Curbs Migraines
If you’re one of the millions of Americans who get migraines, hormonal birth control could offer some relief. That’s because the headache symptoms are due to the same pesky hormonal swings that cause other problems.
The estrogen and progesterone dips that happen right before your period can set the stage for a throbbing, pulsating pain. Hormonal birth control keeps those levels from dropping too low, helping you avoid the debilitating discomfort.
If you get migraines, talk with your doctor about whether it’s OK for you to use hormonal birth control. If taking it puts you at greater risk for stroke, you’ll need to find another option.
5. Moderates Mood Swings
Do you have a few crabby, bloated, emotional days every month when you just don’t feel like yourself? You’re not alone. Millions of women experience premenstrual syndrome (PMS) or its more severe cousin, premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). These problems are common, but you don’t have to resign yourself to feeling bad. Hormonal birth control gives you an advantage here as well.
Although the verdict is still out, many doctors think hormonal ups and downs cause PMS and PMDD. Finding the right hormonal birth control method to tackle your symptoms could take some trial and error. Talk with your doctor about what you experience to pinpoint the best choice for your needs.
6. Staves Off Anemia
You’re going to lose blood every time you have your period. How much you lose, however, can be a problem. If your flow is particularly heavy, you’re at a greater risk for anemia. That means your body might not have enough red blood cells, and you could feel weak and tired.
In these cases, hormonal birth control can have a simple, straightforward impact. With every skipped period, you’ll lose less blood. The lighter your bleeding, the less likely you are to have period-related anemia.
7. Limits Endometriosis and Ovarian Cysts
If you have endometriosis or polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), you know how painful those conditions can be. With endometriosis, the tissue that usually bleeds during your period can get trapped inside your body. That can cause severe pain and inflammation. In addition, PCOS causes a large number of ovarian cysts. They aren’t dangerous, but they can hurt.
Hormonal birth control helps here just as it does with anemia. The contraception prevents ovulation and lets you bypass your period. By controlling your bleeding, it can limit endometrial pain. Regulating your hormone levels can also stop old cysts from regrowing or new ones from forming.
8. Reduces Unwanted Hair Growth
Pregnancy prevention is the main use for hormonal birth control. Preventing unwanted hair at the same time can be a happy side effect. Your body naturally produces some androgen, the male sex hormone. If you have a lot of it, you could have more facial and body hair than you’d like.
Birth control pills that contain both estrogen and progestin can lower your levels of androgen. Many women have had better results in reducing male-pattern hair growth by using pills with higher estrogen concentrations. In many cases, unwanted hair is less noticeable within six months.
Even though avoiding pregnancy is usually the main topic when discussing hormonal birth control, it does much more. These other beneficial side effects can have significant impacts on your health. A conversation with your doctor can determine if — and how — these medications can help make your months more carefree.