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8 Unexpected Health Benefits of Birth Control

The pill does more than prevent unplanned pregnancy.

Medically reviewed in November 2022

Updated on November 4, 2022

Colorful birth control pill packs
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About 7 in 8 sexually active females between ages 15 and 49 use contraception to avoid pregnancy, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a leading organization in reproductive policy and research. About 1 in 5 of those people take birth control pills. 

While most people 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 an OBGYN about your body and your menstrual cycles to better understand the right option for you. Meanwhile, here are eight things oral contraceptives can do besides reduce your chances of getting pregnant.

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You may be able to plan out your periods

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

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. 

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You can help control breakouts and body hair growth

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

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.

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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’s hormone production may be off. Polycystic ovary syndrome, a condition in which a hormonal imbalance causes issues 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.

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You won’t have to buy as many tampons

If you have a heavy period, your body may not be producing enough progesterone, the hormone that prevents the uterine lining from growing too much. Most people 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 people may not experience bleeding at all. 

woman in pain in bed.
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Your cramps might feel better

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. 

Woman has stomach pain
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Your endometriosis pain may not be as bad

Endometriosis is a health condition that causes the tissue lining in the uterus to grow outside of the uterus. It 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 may help reduce pain associated with endometriosis

Woman in bed, frustrated.
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You’ll reduce your risk of anemia

If you tend to bleed heavily 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 carries a reduced amount of oxygen to the rest of your body.

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

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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 published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology 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 to get their results. 

In another study published in September 2018 in The BMJ, researchers tracked 1.9 million Danish women from 1995 to 2014 to derive 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. 

Slideshow sources open slideshow sources

Guttmacher Institute. Contraceptive Use in the United States by Demographics. May 2021.
Guttmacher Institute. Contraceptive Use in the United States by Method. May 2021.
American Society for Reproductive Medicine. Noncontraceptive Benefits of Birth Control Pills. Accessed November 4, 2022.
Mayo Clinic. Delaying your period with hormonal birth control. January 28, 2022.
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Can birth control pills cure PCOS? Last reviewed October 2020.
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Combined Hormonal Birth Control: Pill, Patch, and Ring. Last reviewed March 2018.
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Progestin-Only Hormonal Birth Control: Pill and Injection. Last reviewed October 2020.
MedlinePlus. Anemia. Last updated July 29, 2016.
Cleveland Clinic. 7 Benefits of Skipping Periods With Birth Control. October 5, 2020.
National Cancer Institute. Oral Contraceptives and Cancer Risk. Reviewed February 22, 2018.
American Cancer Society. Birth Control & Cancer: Which Methods Raise, Lower Risk. January 21, 2016.
Iversen L, Fielding S, et al. Association between contemporary hormonal contraception and ovarian cancer in women of reproductive age in Denmark: prospective, nationwide cohort study. The BMJ. 2018; 362.
Iversen L, Sivasubramaniam S, et al. Lifetime cancer risk and combined oral contraceptives: the Royal College of General Practitioners' Oral Contraception Study. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2017 Jun;216(6):580.
Morch LS, Skovlund CW, et al. Contemporary Hormonal Contraception and the Risk of Breast Cancer. New England Journal of Medicine. 2017; 377:2228-2239.

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