8 Unexpected Health Benefits of Birth Control

The pill does more than prevent unplanned pregnancy.

1 / 9

A whopping 82 percent of women who are sexually active report having used birth control pills at one time or another. And while most women use birth control pills to prevent unplanned pregnancies or to space out their pregnancies, the pill can also do some other pretty amazing things. Taking birth control pills may reduce menstrual pain, acne breakouts and more.

It’s important to talk with your gynecologist about your body and your own menstrual cycles to better understand the right option for you. Here are eight things oral contraceptives can do besides reduce your chances of getting pregnant.

Medically reviewed in January 2020.

You may be able to plan out your periods

2 / 9 You may be able to plan out your periods

If you and your gynecologist determine it’s safe and necessary to extend your menstrual cycles because of social events, sports or other major life events, you’ll need birth control pills to do it.  

A majority of combination birth control pills have three weeks of pills that contain hormones and one week of placebo pills without hormones. Bleeding should occur during the placebo pill week, when you’re not taking hormonal pills. Some birth control pills, however, contain three months of continuous hormonal pills, meaning you’ll only have four periods a year. 

You can say bye-bye to pesky breakouts and unwanted hair

3 / 9 You can say bye-bye to pesky breakouts and unwanted hair

If you’re spending too much money on skincare products or feel like you’re a regular at your waxing salon, birth control may be a better answer.

All women produce male hormones called androgens in both the ovaries and adrenal glands. Some women produce androgens in excess, which can cause hair growth on the lips, chin, breasts, belly button and inner thighs. Male hormones may also cause breakouts, too.   

Taking birth control pills for as little as six months can help reduce the production of androgens, resulting in clearer skin and less hair.

You’ll have regular periods

4 / 9 You’ll have regular periods

If you’re not getting regular periods or your periods are very long, birth control pills can help you get back on track.

If your menstrual cycle lasts longer than 35 days, your body may not be producing hormones correctly. Polycystic ovary syndrome, a condition in which a hormonal imbalance causes problems with how the ovaries work, is the most common reason.

Common birth control pills provide these hormones on a regular cycle, so periods are equally spaced apart. 

You won’t have to buy as many tampons

5 / 9 You won’t have to buy as many tampons

If you have a heavy period, your body may not be producing progesterone, the hormone that prevents the uterine lining from growing too much. Most women who take the pill have regulated uterine growth and lighter bleeding during their period.

The progesterone-like hormone in all birth control pills controls the thickness of the uterine lining, causing lighter periods. Bonus? Some women may not experience bleeding at all. 

You won’t have to curl into the fetal position during your period

6 / 9 You won’t have to curl into the fetal position during your period

If abdominal cramps have you reaching for ibuprofen every month, taking birth control may help alleviate some of that discomfort.

During your period, the uterus produces prostaglandins, compounds that cause the uterus to contract and shed its lining. That contraction is what causes those uncomfortable menstrual cramps. 

If your body produces more prostaglandins, you’re more likely to have stronger cramps. Birth control pills help by reducing the production of prostaglandins, resulting in less severe cramping. 

Your endometriosis pain may not be as bad

7 / 9 Your endometriosis pain may not be as bad

Endometriosis, a female health condition that causes the tissue lining in the uterus to grow outside of the uterus, can cause severe abdominal pain, especially during your menstrual cycle. The progesterone-like hormone in birth control pills can slow the growth of this tissue and reduce bleeding, which will help reduce pain associated with endometriosis

You’ll reduce your risk of anemia

8 / 9 You’ll reduce your risk of anemia

If you tend to have heavy bleeding while on your period, you may be at a higher risk for anemia. Blood loss is one cause of anemia, a health condition during which your blood doesn’t carry enough oxygen to the rest of your body.

Taking active birth control pills (those with hormones in them) will prevent menstruation and, in turn, reduce blood loss. 

Your risk of certain cancers may plummet

9 / 9 Your risk of certain cancers may plummet

Studies show that oral contraceptives containing estrogen and progesterone reduce the risk of both ovarian and endometrial cancers in women. According to a study from the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, published in 2017, women who used the pill during their reproductive years were less likely to get colorectal, endometrial and ovarian cancers. The experts followed 46,000 women for up to 44 years, making it the world’s longest-running study on oral contraceptives.

In another study published in September 2018 in the BMJ, researchers from the University of Aberdeen and the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, tracked 1.9 million Danish women from 1995 to 2014 and found similar results. Ovarian cancer rates were lower in women who used combined birth control pills (including newer versions that contain lower levels of progesterone and estrogen than previous iterations), compared with those who had never taken birth control pills. Researchers estimated, too, that using combined hormonal birth control prevented 21 percent of ovarian cancers among these women. Researchers continue to study women who are at an increased risk of ovarian cancer and how birth control may lower their risks.

Other research has shown that the endometrial cancer protection benefits increase the longer you take the pill and continue up to a decade after you stop taking it. Keep in mind, however, that other studies have found that women who take birth control pills may have a slightly higher risk of breast cancer than those who’ve never taken them. But once women stop taking the pill, the risk goes back to normal over time. 

Continue Learning about Women's Health

Is Your Hair Falling Out? This Condition May Be to Blame
Is Your Hair Falling Out? This Condition May Be to Blame
There are roughly 150,000 hair follicles on your head, and it’s normal to lose around 50 to 150 strands of hair a day. More than that could indicate a...
Read More
What causes a dark brown vaginal discharge?
Dr. Heidi FantasiaDr. Heidi Fantasia
Vaginal discharge without odor or discomfort can be normal. Many women will notice an increased vagi...
More Answers
Are My Breasts Normal?
Are My Breasts Normal?Are My Breasts Normal?Are My Breasts Normal?Are My Breasts Normal?
One Woman’s Quest for a Tiny Waist
One Woman’s Quest for a Tiny Waist