Birth Control vs. The World

There’s a common misconception on contraception. Many people believe that women who take birth-control use the pill solely for avoiding pregnancy; however, there are many more reasons why women turn to birth control for help.

Acne

Acne can be a real threat to a person’s self-esteem. Once you’re at the age of puberty, not only are your hormones wreaking havoc, but you’re always wondering if people are judging you for your flaws. In some cases, birth control can have a beneficial relationship with acne.

The reason behind the pesky pimples is an increasing level of androgens. Androgens are male hormones that are present in both males and females. An excess of testosterone and androstenedione levels cause a hormonal imbalance, leading to hormonal breakouts. These breakouts can be sporadic and minor or, in some cases, can be painful and detrimental to one’s confidence.

There are several ways to treat acne, but using birth control is very common. Many, if not all, birth controls contain progesterone. Progesterone is a hormone directly correlated with decreasing testosterone in your body. Each birth control pill has a different level of progesterone, so don’t become discouraged if a specific pill doesn’t work for you. In a Byrdie article discussing dermatologists’ perspectives on birth control for acne, Melissa Kanchanapoomi Levin, MD, recommends Ortho Tri-Cyclen to treat acneic skin. Another FDA approved drug for broken out skin is Estrostep FE, which focuses on stabilizing hormones and decreasing the amount of testosterone in the body. One of the most common prescriptions for treating hormonal acne is Yaz, which contains progestin drospirenone All of these birth control pills can be found and prescribed through Nurx, which provides prescriptions and online medical professionals.

Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD)

For those of you who don’t know what Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder is, it’s a rare form of PMS which affects a large number of women. We all know that the week or so before your menstrual cycle begins includes an array of emotional distress, bloating, mood swings and migraines (symptoms are different for everyone — in my experience, eating two boxes of pizza while crying over “A Dog’s Purpose” is a common symptom). Most commonly, anger and irritability plague the lives of these women. According to a Verywell Health article focusing on hormonal birth control for PMDD, many women not only suffer the biological symptoms but also the psychological ramifications PMDD has on their social relationships. Those with PMDD can attest that these symptoms inhibit them from carrying on with normal everyday activities.

To be more scientific (look, Mom, I’m almost a doctor), individuals diagnosed with PMDD are susceptible to hormonal inconsistency with the hormones estrogen and progesterone. These hormones are known for having an effect on the brain, which can eventually lead to mood swings.

Similar to birth control treatments for acne, many doctors recommend Yaz (the only FDA approved drug to treat PMDD). In regard to what type of birth control pill your physician suggests you use, it’s known that combination birth control pills containing drospirenone and ethinyl estradiol is the most beneficial in treating symptoms of PMDD. Yaz has the highest evidence of alleviating the symptoms of PMS and PMDD, so if it works for you say ‘yass’ (pun intended).

Don’t fret if your doctor doesn’t suggest Yaz, though. You have many other options to treat PMDD. There are extended cycle pills that dwindle your periods to 4 times a year; as a result of having fewer periods, your symptoms could significantly lessen. If the pill isn’t an option for you, then contraceptive rings and extended cycle pills have shown to diminish pain associated with PMDD as they slowly eradicate regular periods.

Forewarning for those who are about to begin the process of using birth control as a treatment method for their PMDD: be careful with sugar pills. Sugar pills may sound harmless, but at times the abrupt shift of hormones could result in a worsening of PMDD symptoms. Not to worry, sugar pills are temporary, and as your body grows accustomed to the hormone regulation, the pain will begin to dissipate.

This chart from an article published by Clue, explains different types of birth control pills and their effects on mood with PMDD patients.

In terms of 21/7 pills, which is a birth-control treatment method of using the birth control pill for 21 days followed by a week of being off the pill, several women who have used Yasmin have cited its ability to lessen their irritability significantly. Extended-cycle pills, such as Amethyst or Lybrel, are shown to reduce symptoms from PMS and PMDD over time as the pills reduce the number of periods. For those who are interested in using birth control patches, there are no significant studies that demonstrate a direct alleviation of PMS and PMDD mood swings.

“After getting my first period two months after turning 13, my cycles were okay for a couple months. Then I started to have symptoms which were loss of appetite, insomnia, mood swings, inability to concentrate, headache one to two weeks before my period,” a writer for Her Campus UFL said. After experiencing severe symptoms, she sought help and spoke with a gynecologist who diagnosed her with PMDD and prescribed her birth control. After being on the pill for two months, she began to function normally and eventually had only minor PMS symptoms. She advises anyone with similar symptoms to reach out to a gynecologist to “ensure you’re prescribed a pill that will work for you as there are various doses and ingredients available.”

Menstrual cramps

Period cramps are a woman’s greatest foe. Many women have the ability to manage the pain, but there are still plenty of women who experience severe period cramps due to endometriosis or simply because of their body composition.

Individuals with endometriosis are often recommended to take continuous pills that reduce the fluctuations of hormones through a continuum, thus irrigating the lining of the uterus that eventually leads to having a period.

The reason cramps exist is not because of some evil elaborate plan but because of prostaglandins. It's not that simple to just eradicate prostaglandins, but by taking birth control pills that weaken the uterus lining, the release of prostaglandins will reduce significantly. Ultimately, the less prostaglandins, the less pain you will feel from cramps.

My older cousin, who has suffered with severe menstrual cramps, finally caved in by taking birth control pills. At first, she suffered some side effects like nausea and spotting, but her cramps lessened afterward. Now she can do everyday activities! Her advice mirrored that of our writer to seek help if your symptoms are preventing you from living your own boss life.

To prevent menstrual cramps, there are many options of birth control pills you can take, so research and speak with your doctor to find which kind will work for you.

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome

Though the list goes on forever, the last purpose of birth control I’ll bring up is alleviating Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. PCOS is a disorder that occurs due to a hormonal imbalance resulting in a high quantity of male sex hormones, and one in 10 women has it. It can cause symptoms like infertility, unwanted hair growth, irregular periods and acne, but all of these symptoms can be eased through the use of birth control.

As aforementioned, birth control pills contain progesterone and estrogen, and they work to combat the excess testosterone in female bodies. Women with PCOS are recommended to take birth control in order to regulate their hormones.

Things to note about PCOS:

  • Doctors have not discovered a cure for the syndrome
  • A common remedy is combination birth control
  • There is not a clear-cut description of symptoms
  • By using birth control, PCOS patients will be able to regulate their periods

To the readers of this article who suffer from PCOS, I applaud your strength. To those who may think they have an undiagnosed form of PCOS, seek help from your gynecologist if you’re suffering from any potential symptoms such as painful periods, thinning hair, headaches, insulin resistance, etc.

Birth control can help alleviate PCOS symptoms short-term and eradicate them long-term. The combination pills (most commonly prescribed) are composed of progestin (a synthetic form of progesterone) and estrogen. The big rule of thumb is to check in with a gynecologist who could see if a combination pill works for you. Individuals who are at risk for diabetes, cardiovascular diseases or obesity should be cautious when taking birth control. These women can ask about mini pills, which are birth control pills containing only one hormone of the two.

The best birth control pills that are usually prescribed by doctors include Aviane, Yasmin, Levora, Alesse and April. Ask your doctor what level of estrogen is right for you.

Nurx

For this year’s World Contraception Day, Her Campus UFL has partnered with Nurx, a company that offers affordable reproductive healthcare options such as birth-control and testing kits. If you’re anything like me, then you’re probably at Library West or Marston worrying about class and drinking your third iced coffee of the day, while forgetting about your health. Here’s a solution that’s quick and easy, but most importantly, it’s affordable. Don’t miss out on taking the pill and sign up for Nurx today!

Thanks, birth control!

As I said before, birth control is probably the best multitasker around. If you have any symptoms relating to the issues mentioned above, go on and contact your gynecologist (or dermatologist if you have acne). and ask them how birth control can help you.