How Safe Are Oral Contraceptives?

Oral contraceptives are medications taken to prevent pregnancy. The other names used for such pills are Pills, OCs, BCs, BC tablets, or birth control pills. These pills contain two types of hormones – estrogen and progestin. These pills prevent pregnancy by stopping ovulation. It thickens the cervical mucus which stops the sperms from entering the uterus. It also thins out the lining of the uterus.

Oral contraceptives have many short-term and long-term benefits, and sometimes women take it for other reasons that not related to birth control. The various other short-term and long-term benefits of oral contraceptives are:

  • Many women take pills to control menstrual bleeding problems and painful menstruation as OCs decrease the amount of menstrual bleeding; and can reduce menstrual cramps.
  • OCs can be used to control acne caused by higher levels of testosterone.
  • Oral contraceptives offer protection against pelvic inflammatory disease, reduce risks of ovarian, endometrial, and colorectal cancers, and increase bone strength.

Health Concerns

Women prefer OCs for numerous reasons but that doesn’t mean they are 100% safe for women. Long-term usage of oral contraceptives can lead to various health issues.

Breast Cancer

The risk of OCs causing breast cancer increases after hormone replacement therapy (HRT). This means that the postmenopausal women have more risk of breast cancer. However, oral contraceptives are not associated with a risk of breast cancer, especially when used before the age of 45. However, long-term users and women with a family history of breast cancer are prone to this disease.

Oral contraceptives are used by younger women who generally have a lower risk of breast cancer. Since most risk factors for breast cancer can’t be changed, so it’s really important to find cancer at an early stage. Make sure to do monthly breast self-exams, yearly visits to your healthcare professional and regular mammography for women 40 and over.

Cardiovascular

Oral contraceptives increase the chances of blood clotting, heart attack, and stroke. These problems were more common with pills that contained higher amounts of estrogen than the pills used by women today.

  • The risk of heart attack, stroke, and blood clotting is less for healthy and non-smoking women who take low-dose of OCs containing less than 50 mcg estrogen.
  • Women with health issues including obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and cholesterol are at more risk for serious problems from OCs use. If you have any of these health issues, OCs might be safe for you under certain conditions. Your healthcare provider can determine if oral contraceptives are appropriate for you or not.

Should You Use Oral Contraceptives?

OC pills are not recommended for women with breast or uterus cancer, vaginal bleeding, severe high blood pressure, a history of clots in the legs or lungs, or liver problems. Oral contraceptives can commonly cause mood swings, nausea, headache, and breast tenderness. If in case these side effects become bothersome, consult your healthcare professional. Let your healthcare professional know immediately if you experience stomach or chest pain, dizziness, shortness of breath, vision problems, severe headache or severe leg pain.

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