Before we get into how safe birth control pills are for you, let us understand more about what birth control pills are and how they function.
Birth control pills are a highly effective form of prescription contraception, if used correctly. It boasts an impressive 99% success rate. However, this rate decreases significantly for women who may forget to take the pill on time.
Birth control pills stop the ovaries from releasing the egg while also thickening the cervical mucus. This makes it harder for sperm to fertilise the egg. They come in two forms namely:
- Combination pills (containing both oestrogen and progestin)
- Mini-pills (containing only progestin)
Combination pills are known to be more effective when compared to mini-pills. Both require a doctor’s prescription. Combination pills come in 28-day packs (28 pills) of which 21 are active pills and 7 inactive. Inactive pills are used to help take the pills on time. Missing a dose of an active pill can result in pregnancy.
Birth control pills have a number of advantages apart from just preventing an unwanted pregnancy. These include:
- Lighter, less frequent or no periods depending on the type of birth control being used.
- If used correctly, it has the highest effectiveness to prevent pregnancy.
- It can control heavy bleeding, pain associated with endometriosis and fibroid tumors.
- Birth control pills can also reduce acne and manage premenstrual dysphoric disorder (severe depression symptoms, irritability and tension before periods)
- It can reduce the risk of pelvic inflammatory disease, uterine cancer and ovarian cancer.
- Mini-pills can be used by women who are nursing or unable to take oestrogen for any other reason.
However, like all medications, birth control pills also have side effects that you should be aware of. Some of these side effects are common and harmless, while others are a cause of concern. Some of the side effects of birth control pills are:
- Spotting between periods
- Weight gain
- Breast swelling or tenderness
- Nausea, vomiting or upset stomach
- Mood swings
For most women, long term use of birth control pills does not cause any significant issue. In fact, birth control pills are used to treat conditions such as heavy or painful periods, endometriosis as well as menopause symptoms. However, women considering birth control pills for a prolonged duration must keep in mind these two most significant and serious risks:
Studies show mixed evidence of hormonal contraceptive pills increasing the risk of breast and cervical cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, the risk of developing cervical cancer increased for women taking the birth control pill for over five years, this risk should reduce as she stops taking the pill. They also state that the risk of breast cancer which increased because of the birth control pill goes away after about 10 years of not taking the pill.
On the other hand, it is also debated that these pills can reduce the risk of endometrial, ovarian and colorectal cancers. As a result, birth control pills are not recommended for women with a family history of the aforementioned cancers.
- Blood clots
Research conducted has shown that oral contraceptives especially combination pills increase the chance of developing blood clots. These in turn can travel through the bloodstream possibly causing strokes and heart attacks.
Hence you should always take birth control pills under the advice of your gynaecologist. You can get expert gynaecological advice from the CK Birla Hospital-Gurgaon, Artemis, Max etc which are considered to be amongst the best women hospitals in Gurgaon.