Bailey Ives, Co-Opinion Editor
29th January, 2021
Women’s reproductive rights have always been controversial, but birth control especially has been a sensitive topic since its invention.
Most people think that birth control is just for those who are sexually active. If you look up what birth control is, it will say that birth control is a form of contraception to prevent pregnancy.
However, birth control has so many other uses than just as a contraceptive. Planned Parenthood mentions that, “The combination pill can also help prevent or lessen: acne, bone thinning, cysts in your breasts and ovaries, endometrial and ovarian cancers, serious infections in your ovaries, fallopian tubes, and uterus, iron deficiency (anemia), and PMS (premenstrual syndrome).”
One important use for birth control is to help balance hormones, which in turn makes a period that would otherwise be intense and painful lighter and more manageable.
First, let me go over how menstruation works. Once every 28 days or so the endometrial lining of the uterus is shed. This is caused by the hormones estrogen and progesterone. Some people with uteruses do not menstruate every 28 days. They might get a period every two months and might have a very heavy period with agonizing cramps. Periods typically last five-seven days and come with a litany of different symptoms, such as painful cramps, bloating, heavy flows, and acne. Sometimes hormonal help, such as birth control, is the solution. Oral birth control releases estrogen and progesterone which can help regulate the period, reduce the flow, and make cramps bearable. It has to be taken everyday at the same time, and there are days where there are placebo pills, which are menstruation days.
Mayo clinic states that “[Birth control] prevents hormone changes responsible for bleeding, cramping, headaches and other period-related discomforts.”
Endometriosis can be one of those discomforts. Endometriosis is when the endometrial lining that is shed during the period grows outside of the uterus. The tissue can attach to the fallopian tubes, intestines, or ovaries. When it attaches to the ovaries it forms cysts. Endometriosis is very painful and causes irregular periods. Some long term risks of leaving it untreated are scar tissue growth, chronic pain, and infertility. Sometimes it can be helped by birth control pills with a high progesterone content.
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal disorder where the ovaries become enlarged and have cysts surrounding the outer edges. Some symptoms of PCOS are missed or light, irregular periods and extra body hair on the chest, stomach and back. The cysts can also be painful. They can be a dull ache or sharp pain. The cysts can also rupture which can be really painful. Hormonal birth control that have both estrogen and progesterone can help in decreasing ovulation and other hormonal side effects from PCOS. People with uteruses who have PCOS are more at risk for diabetes, obesity, heat disease, anxiety disorders, and strokes, and taking birth control can help reduce those risks.
A disease called Von Willebrand, which can affect all genders, can also be helped by birth control. Von Willebrand disease happens when there is a missing protein called the Von Willebrand factor, which helps with clotting. “Von Willebrand disease, [is] the most common inherited bleeding disorder among American women,” Committee on Gynecologic Practice said. The disease is likely to affect people with uteruses more because of their monthly menstrual cycle. It causes very heavy flows and extended period length. If left untreated, people with uteruses can experience very long periods, fatigue, and even anemia. Anemia occurs when there are not enough healthy red blood cells to carry oxygen to the body and brain. Because the Von Willebrand factor helps with clotting, bleeding excessively from a period can become dangerous or even fatal. Oral birth controls are recommended to those that have Von Willebrand to increase the Von Willebrand factor in the blood and reduce period length, or get rid of them all together.
Another plus of the birth control pill is that it can reduce cystic acne. The hormones in the pill reduce the circulation of androgens, which reduces the production of sebum (the oil on your skin and hair.)
Oral birth control has been around since the 1960’s. At first it was just intended to be used to prevent pregnancy, but it actually has a multitude of uses that help people every single day. There is still a stigma surrounding birth control and the idea that it is just for people with uteruses who are having sex is getting old. It is definitely not. It is for anyone who’s condition is better when they take it, and worse when they don’t, sexual or not.