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 thatwomen 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.
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.
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|
Some different benefits of hormonal birth control include:
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.
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:
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.
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|
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.
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.
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.
Taking the contraceptive pill has been linked to lowering your risk of certain cancers developing.
In onetaken on women aged between 15-49, the pill was shown to have prevented 21% of ovarian cancer cases.
A differentabout 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.
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.
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 contraceptives prevent pregnancy without using hormones. Instead, they stop sperm from reaching a woman’s egg.
There are a variety of different options available, including:
Whilst these forms of birth control don’t have the same benefits as hormonal contraception, they have their advantages:
This is beneficial if you have multiple partners as you don’t risk spreading or catching STIs.
Hormonal birth control might negatively impact you by causing side effects. Some of these include:
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.
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:
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.