Health Benefits of Oral Contraceptives (OCs)

The pill is one of the most effective methods for preventing pregnancy. Unfortunately, many women are reluctant to use oral contraceptives (OCs) because they think that the pill is dangerous or causes cancer. You may have heard or read that the pill is bad for you. The truth is, for most women, the pill is very safe. Pill use also offers a number of health benefits. In fact, some women may take the pill for reasons other than contraception. Some of these reasons include regulating menstrual periods, treating painful menstruation, and treating hormonal imbalances.

What effects will the pill have on my period?

Women and teenagers who take the pill usually have less pain and fewer cramps with their periods. Some women experience a decrease in premenstrual tension (PMS) with pill use. Most women also have lighter periods that last fewer days. Fewer bleeding days help to prevent iron deficiency anemia. Taking the pill helps regulate periods in women who experience irregular periods.

Benefits of the Pill

Menstrual Benefits

  • Less pain and fewer cramps with your periods
  • Lighter periods that last fewer days
  • Regular periods

Lowers the Risk of

  • Iron deficiency anemia
  • Infections of the upper reproductive tract
  • Noncancerous breast cysts
  • Ectopic pregnancy
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Endometrial cancer

May Help Protect Against

  • Osteoporosis (brittle bones)
  • Colon cancer

Can OCs help lessen the risk of certain diseases?

Yes, pill use helps lessen the risk of two types of life- threatening cancer — cancer of the ovary and cancer of the lining of the womb, or endometrium. This protective effect lasts for many years after a woman stops taking the pill. In fact, women who take the pill are about 40% less likely to develop ovarian cancer than women who have never taken the pill. With many years of OC use, the protection may increase up to 80%. Researchers believe that this protective effect is related to the avoidance of monthly ovulation.

Women who take the pill also have about a 50% lower risk of getting endometrial cancer. This protection may be due to the type of hormone called a progestin, which is found in oral contraceptives. Pill use also reduces your chances of being hospitalized for pelvic inflammatory disease (inflammation of the upper genital tract). This protection is limited, however, so condoms also should be used by women taking the pill to help protect against sexually transmitted Infections (STIS).

Women using OCs are also less likely to have an ectopic pregnancy (pregnancy outside the uterus) and to develop noncancerous cysts or lumps in the breast. Some research suggests that long-term use of OCs helps prevent loss of bone density, which may develop into osteoporosis (brittle bones) later in life. The pill may also lessen the chance of developing colorectal cancer.

 Last Modified 11/8/16