Besides the obvious one…
You already know that birth control offers ridiculously reliable protection against unplanned pregnancies—assuming you’re using it correctly, that is. But BC actually has a lot of other amazing social and lifestyle benefits, too. Researchers at the family planning organization the Guttmacher Institute recently crunched the numbers, finding that women who regularly use contraception tend to have more years of education under their belt and greater economic stability—and they also form romantic partnerships that are more solid when compared to women who aren’t contraception-covered. The best part is, these aren’t the only perks. Check out some of little-known health benefits of birth control, particularly the hormonal kind.
It can treat endometriosis
Having endometriosis means that uterine tissue migrates out of your uterus and attaches itself it your ovaries, fallopian tubes, and/or other parts of the pelvic cavity. Depending on the severity and location of these tissue buildups, they can impede ovulation or fertilization, says Proudfit. It can also hurt like crazy, to the point of vomiting and debilitation. Going on the pill, however, reduces monthly uterine buildup and shedding, slowing or stopping the migration and growth of uterine tissue to other parts of your reproductive tract. This means that women who suffer from endometriosis can wait longer before trying to get pregnant, because the damage to their reproductive system is minimized. Plus—no more devastating pain.
It can help with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
Women with PCOS have a hormone imbalance that leads to erratic or skipped periods, excess facial hair, obesity, ovarian cysts, infertility troubles, and other side effects. The hormone combo in the Pill rights this imbalance, so your flow comes regularly and side effects subside.
It can ease killer cramps
That monthly pain that keeps you tied to the couch with a heating pad pressed to your abs is caused by chemicals called prostaglandins, which trigger muscle contractions. When you get your flow, your body cranks up prostaglandin production to help shed the uterine lining. Going on oral contraceptives, however, reduces the amount of prostaglandins your body pumps out, so you experience less discomfort. Ob-gyns have prescribed the Pill off-label for years to treat women with debilitating cramps, and a 30-year study published in 2012 study in the journal Human Reproduction bears this out.
It smooths out your skin
Combination contraception lowers your body’s levels of testosterone, which all women make in small amounts. That spells good news for your skin since the hormone is the culprit behind certain acne breakouts and excess body hair growth, says Proudfit.
It shields you from anemia
Women who suffer from heavy periods lose excess blood every month, and that can lead to anemia—a condition characterized by fatigue and weakness. Going on hormonal birth control makes periods shorter and lighter, so you lose less blood and aren’t robbed of your stamina, says Proudfit.
It offers some protection against Pelvic Inflammatory Disease
Pelvic Inflammatory Disease is a serious infection of the upper reproductive tract that, if left untreated, can compromise your fertility. The progestin in hormonal birth control makes cervical mucus thicker, says Proudfit, and research suggests that this forms a roadblock that makes it harder for PID-causing microbes (from bacterial STDs such as chlamydia and gonorrhea, for example) to enter your cervix. Keep in mind, though, that the only form of birth control that can protect against STDs is condoms. So unless you’re monogamous and are totally sure your partner is STD-free, condoms are a must, even if you’re taking hormonal birth control.
It can cut your odds of some cancers
Women who go on the pill, ring, or other combined estrogen-progestin methods for 15 years slash their lifetime risk of developing ovarian and endometrial cancers by approximately 50 percent, according to a 2010 study. The thinking here is that hormonal BC blocks ovulation and evens out natural hormone imbalances, leading to less exposure to potentially damaging hormones, says Christine Proudfit, MD, an assistant professor in the department of obstetrics and gynecology at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City. One caveat: Some research suggests that taking oral contraceptives may slightly increase your risk of breast and cervical cancer, so you’ll want to talk to your doctor about whether hormonal birth control is right for you if you have a family history of either disease.