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What are the benefits of taking contraception?

Methods of contraception are mostly used for preventing unwanted pregnancies and to help with family planning. They are used commonly by women between the ages of 15 and 49.

In 2019 it was recorded that 842 million Trusted source United Nations Government Source Go to source women were using some form of modern birth control, whether it was the pill, the coil, or a barrier method such as condoms.

However, there are some benefits of taking contraception besides avoiding parenthood.

Keep reading to find out the advantages of hormonal and non-hormonal contraception, and why your doctor might put you on the pill even if you’re not sexually active.

Medically reviewed by Dr. Anand Abbot MRCGP Written by our editorial team Last reviewed 05-01-2024

Hormonal contraception

Hormonal contraception works by changing your hormone levels. Most forms stop your ovaries from releasing an egg into your uterus, meaning you can’t get pregnant.

However, the mini-pill works by changing your uterus lining so that a fertilised egg cannot develop.

Female hands holding a birth control blister pack

Different forms include:

Birth control pills do more than just stop you from getting pregnant. 14% of people taking the pill are using it for other reasons too.

The term ‘pill’ can refer to either the combined contraceptive pill or the mini-pill. It is important to note their differences because, by working differently to prevent pregnancy, they have different benefits.

The combined oral contraceptive pill (COCP) The progesterone-only pill (POP), or mini-pill
  • Contains both oestrogen and progesterone hormones
  • Stops normal ovulation so that the ovaries no longer release an egg every month
  • Is taken for 21 days, then followed by a 7-day break
  • Doesn’t need to be taken at the same time every day
  • Your period is replaced with a ‘withdrawal bleed’
  • Only contains the hormone progesterone
  • Changes the uterine lining to prevent sperm from entering the womb and stops a fertilised egg from developing
  • Is taken daily without a break
  • Must be taken at the same time every day
  • (Generally) doesn’t stop your natural menstrual cycle or period

Some different benefits of hormonal birth control include:

Regulating your cycle

If you are someone who struggles with irregular periods, going on the combined pill can regulate your cycle. This helps you know when your period is going to come.

You must take one pill every day for 3 weeks. After this, you take a ‘pill break’ for 7 days (or you take 7 days of placebo pills) until starting next month’s pill pack.

It is during this 7-day window that you will have a lighter period (known as a withdrawal bleed).

This way, you will know exactly when your period is coming and can be in control of when you bleed.

Taking daily pills has benefits over other forms of hormonal contraception (such as the IUS or implant) because you can stop taking them whenever you like.

Solving heavy, painful periods

Many women use hormonal contraceptives (excluding the mini-pill) as a way of treating heavy, painful periods and menstrual cramps.

Going on hormonal birth control can stop difficult period symptoms such as:

  • a heavy flow
  • painful cramps
  • hormonal headaches
  • premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
  • long periods (7+ days)

This is because it stops your natural menstrual cycle, replacing your period with a withdrawal bleed.

You can also choose to stop your period altogether. For example, if you take combined contraception pills back to back, you will not have a withdrawal bleed.

Hormonal contraception also stops any cramping you might get during ovulation and could improve hormonal headaches.

Please note: If you suffer from migraines, the combined contraceptive pill can put you at risk. Speak to a healthcare professional about alternative treatments and other forms of birth control.

Helping to manage endometriosis and PCOS

Your doctor might suggest going on the combined pill to help with conditions such as endometriosis and PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome).

Endometriosis is a painful condition where tissue similar to the lining of the womb grows in places it shouldn't, such as the ovaries and fallopian tubes.

PCOS is a condition that affects the ovaries. It causes irregular periods and excess androgens (male hormones), which might result in facial hair or more body hair than usual.

Endometriosis symptoms PCOS symptoms
  • period pain that stops you from doing normal activities
  • back pain
  • pain during sex
  • heavy periods
  • painful bowel movements during your period
  • missed or irregular periods
  • excess body hair (called hirsutism)
  • thinning hair
  • weight gain
  • difficulty getting pregnant
  • darkening of skin

The combined pill is often prescribed to treat hirsutism. When there are excess androgens (male hormones) in the body, women can develop more facial and body hair.

The hormones in the combined pill can lower the level of androgens, as well as help to manage other difficult symptoms of PCOS and endometriosis.

Acne treatment

Some types of combined pills are prescribed to treat acne in women, such as Dianette.

Changes in hormones, particularly during puberty, are the main cause of acne. Hormones found in the pill reduce how much oil (or sebum) your skin produces, which stops spots from forming.

a woman’s chin with acne

Only the combined pill is an effective acne treatment, as both oestrogen and progesterone are needed. The progesterone-only pill (mini pill) will not help to improve your skin.

It normally takes a couple of months to see improvements in your acne once you start taking hormonal contraception.

Please note: Dianette is not prescribed as a contraceptive pill to prevent pregnancies. It should be used in combination with a barrier contraceptive such as a condom.

Lowering your risk of some cancers

Taking the contraceptive pill has been linked to lowering your risk of certain cancers developing.

In one study Trusted source The BMJ Peer-reviewed Journals Medical Research Go to source taken on women aged between 15-49, the pill was shown to have prevented 21% of ovarian cancer cases.

A different study Trusted source National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) Government Source Biomedical Research and Literature Go to source about the pill and endometrial cancer showed similar results. With long-term use of birth control, there was a significantly lowered cancer risk in women of reproductive age.

However, the combined pill has also been linked with increasing your chances of breast cancer and cervical cancer - speak to a healthcare professional if you have any concerns.

Reducing your chances of cysts

Ovarian cysts can cause pelvic pain, frequent urination, pain during sex, and other complications.

By stopping your body from ovulating, hormonal contraception lowers your risk of these cysts forming.

Helping with anaemia

Some women who have heavy periods end up with iron-deficiency anaemia. Due to the increased blood loss, your iron levels can drop below healthy levels.

Hormonal contraception allows you to stop this heavy bleeding from happening every month, which keeps your iron levels up.

Non-hormonal contraception

Non-hormonal contraceptives prevent pregnancy without using hormones. Instead, they stop sperm from reaching a woman’s egg.

 A woman holding a condom in silver packaging

There are a variety of different options available, including:

  • condoms (external or internal)
  • cervical cap
  • diaphragm
  • birth control sponge
  • the non-hormonal coil (IUD)
  • vasectomy
  • female sterilisation
  • natural birth control

Whilst these forms of birth control don’t have the same benefits as hormonal contraception, they have their advantages:

Protection against STIs

Male and female condoms are the only form of contraception that protect you from sexually transmitted infections.

This is beneficial if you have multiple partners as you don’t risk spreading or catching STIs.

Your hormones aren’t affected

Hormonal birth control might negatively impact you by causing side effects. Some of these include:

  • weight gain
  • mood swings
  • spotting
  • breast tenderness
  • mood changes
  • headaches

Using non-hormonal contraception means no hormone-related complications.

As well as this, non-hormonal contraception doesn’t affect your menstrual cycle. You won’t have to wait for your regular cycle to return if you want to become pregnant.

Makes you more in tune with your body

Natural birth control involves becoming aware of your fertility and only choosing to have sex (without contraception) on days on which you are not fertile.

This works by:

  • tracking your menstrual cycle
  • measuring your temperature
  • monitoring your cervical mucus levels

By knowing at which point you are in your menstrual cycle, you become more in tune with your body and cycle.


Overall, contraception has many different benefits besides preventing pregnancy.

Hormonal contraceptives (including the combined pill) can help with painful or heavy periods. They can also help with acne, make your monthly cycle more regular, and lower your chance of getting ovarian or cervical cancer.

In addition, condoms can stop the spread of STIs and natural methods of birth control make you more in tune with your menstrual cycle.

In general, non-hormonal birth control can be beneficial if you don’t want your hormones to be affected.

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