How Do Birth Control Pills Affect The Body, Long-Term?
Edited and Published by Wellness Monster Dina
Birth Control Pills: Not just for Contraception
Women begin using birth control pills for a number of reasons. There’s the most obvious reason: to prevent conception. And then there are menstrual reasons as well. Some women have irregular menstrual cycles and desire a more predictive one. Some women have intense pain from their cycles and need some type of respite. But aside from what they are seeking, what side effects could result from taking a birth control pill for an extended period of time? Is a woman setting herself up for future medical conditions, ailments or concerns?
The Effect on the Body
Most women will not suffer long term side effects of contraceptives. If a woman is using hormonal birth control pills, they should be in regular contact with their doctor so that they may be monitored. Birth control pills contain progesterone and estrogen. Some contain just progesterone. The hormones in these pills are what may be the contributing factor of some of the long term effects.
Before understanding possible effects from long term use, it is important to understand what some of the short term side-effects may be. When some women first begin taking a birth control pill, they may experience bleeding or spotting between periods. They may also experience headaches and nausea. Some women have reported breast tenderness, weight gain and mood swings. If any of these symptoms last for an extended period of time, it is very important to share that with the doctor.
Women that take birth control pills that contain both estrogen and progesterone run a possible risk of cancer. Though studies are not conclusive, evidence has been found that the hormones may increase the risk of breast and cervical cancer and reduce the risk of endometrial, ovarian and colorectal cancers (MedicalNewsToday.com). However, it appears that the length of time taking the pills may play a part in the probability of developing said cancers. Women that took the pill for more than ten years had a lower risk of developing breast cancer, and women that took birth control pills for more than five years had a probable increase of cervical cancer. Though the longer they were off the pills, the lower their risk became.
Another possible side effect from taking birth control pills long term is high blood pressure, or hypertension. The hormones in the pills have been known to place a woman at a possible risk of blood clots. Blood clots could cause strokes and/or a heart attack. If the woman smokes, this increases her odds. Other factors that may increase her odds are diabetes and being overweight.
Women that have a history of gallstones should take caution when considering contraceptives. Taking a hormonal birth control pill could lead to more rapid stone development (Healthline.com). The liver is also at an increased risk of being effected by the pills. Possible benign liver tumors or liver cancer is a risk.
The American Cancer Society has completed much research on the risk of cancer from taking birth control pills. They encourage women to consider taking the pill for shorter periods of time, or to even consider choosing a different contraceptive (Cancer.org). A non-hormonal intrauterine device (IUD) is an option. It is reversible, and is not linked to breast cancer. It could also lower the risk of other cancers, such as cervical and endometrial. The reason here is that there are no additional hormones being artificially introduced to the body.
Some women have experienced mood swings from taking birth control pills, as previously mentioned. Generally speaking, the mood swings should not last for an extended period of time. However if the mood swings do persist, seek medical attention as soon as possible. There are multiple options out there for contraceptive, so remember that birth control pills are not the only choice. There is the IUD, contraceptive shots and implants, the vaginal ring, contraceptive patch, or even a less often sought-after option, surgical sterilization. If the pill is being taken to help regulate the menstrual cycle or to relieve pain, there are many different types of pills to choose from. So remember, a combination pill may not always be the right choice.
In Conclusion: Consider the Options
When choosing a contraceptive, women should always weigh the pros and the cons. There is no conclusive evidence that the birth control pill will cause cancer, however, there are many studies and people who speculate it may. Cancer is not the only risk from taking the pill. Blood clots and high blood pressure are also risks. These types of risks could even result in stroke or heart attacks. Since other contraception options are available, women are encouraged to at least discuss them with a physician who can help select the most suitable option for each patient.
Woman On Birth Control Long Term [Photo 52594916 © Jean Paul Chassenet – Dreamstime.com]
Cervix and Female Anatomy [Illustration from Anatomy & Physiology, Connexions (CNX)]