While birth control pills are primarily used for the obvious — preventing unwanted pregnancy — there is a myriad of other reasons why women may regularly take these teeny tiny pills. In fact, it is estimated that as many as 1.5 million American women take “the pill” for reasons other than contraception.

For starters, oral contraceptives are considered to be generally safe with minimal side effects. In fact, they have been around for decades… since the 1960s! But if you have a history of high blood pressure or blood clots, get consistent migraines, or are a smoker, definitely discuss with your provider before taking them. There are also a few different types to consider: The most commonly used pill contains a mix of both estrogen and progesterone, but there are others that only contain progesterone. Click here to learn more about the varying types and which one may be right for you.

As for the benefits beyond pregnancy prevention? Here are a few situations where you may want to consider a prescription:

It can regulate your menstrual cycle.

Some women struggle with abnormal menstrual cycles, and this unpredictability as to when to expect your period (and the PMS symptoms that come with it) can be challenging. Most types of birth control pills can help to regulate your cycle, including the length of your period.

It can help to reduce PMS or PMDD symptoms.

More than 90 percent of women experience PMS symptoms about a week or two before the period, and about 8 percent of women have a more severe version known as PMDD. During this time, many women experience a host of physical and emotional symptoms, such as cramps, bloating, fatigue, and mood swings, which are typically caused by a fluctuation in hormones. Because birth control pills deliver a steady dose of these hormones throughout the month, they can help ease many of the physical discomforts from PMS, along with lessening mood swings such as depression and irritability.

It can minimize the risk of anemia.

Heavy periods, resulting in a significant loss of blood every month, can increase the risk of anemia — a condition that can cause intense fatigue and a lack of energy. Taking contraceptives can result in lighter and shorter periods.

It can reduce acne and unwanted hair growth.

Another positive side effect of birth control is clearer skin, as hormone changes can trigger breakouts and occasional stray facial hairs. By minimizing these fluctuations, contraceptive pills can be one of the most effective acne fighters.

It helps to manage endometriosis and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).

Endometriosis occurs when the tissue cells that line your uterus grow in other areas of the pelvic region, such as the ovaries, bowel, and bladder. This condition can cause pain and inflammation, which typically worsens during a woman’s period, when the excess tissue sheds and bleeds. Birth control pills can limit how much this tissue builds up (and in turn, how much it sheds), resulting in less pain and inflammation.

Symptoms of PCOS can include irregular periods, acne, and excess body hair — which can also be better regulated with birth control.

It reduces the risk of certain cancers.

Birth control pills have been shown to decrease the risk for certain cancers — and increase the risk for others. Women who take combination birth control pills (both estrogen and progesterone) are 50 percent less likely to get uterine (endometrial) cancer due to less tissue buildup. It can also significantly cut your risk of contracting ovarian cancer.

For more information, contact Beaches OBGYN at (904) 241-9775 to schedule an appointment with your provider.