This article is medically verified by a Senior Gynaecologist at Hidden Pockets. He is an MBBS with MS – Obstetrics & Gynaecology.
Birth control pills, also known as Combined Oral Contraceptives (COCs), are hormonal pills that are generally taken to prevent pregnancy. The basic action of hormonal suppression of COCs has proven to be beneficial not only in preventing pregnancy but also in various other medical conditions.
How do COCs work?
COCs comprise combinations of progesterone & estrogen (the female reproductive hormones) that prevent ovulation (i.e release of the eggs from the ovary) by suppression of hormones FSH (Follicle Stimulating Hormone) & LH (Luteinizing Hormone).
The suppression of these hormones causes changes in the lining of the uterus (endometrium) & cervical mucus, keeping the sperm from joining the egg.
Non-contraceptive uses of COCs
Along with contraception, it was found that COCs have been useful in the following conditions:
- PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome), Ovarian Cysts
PCOS is a hormonal disorder where there is an excess of the male hormone (androgen) & multiple cysts on ovaries. Almost every 1 in 5 women in India suffers from PCOS.
COCs help in regularising periods & decrease the formation of new cysts plus helps in reducing the acne & hirsutism (abnormal male pattern hair growth on a woman) associated with PCOS.
Read more at: 10 Myths and Facts about PCOS and lifestyle
[PCOS is very common among young women in India. A lot of wrong information floats around about the management of PCOS. If you have PCOS and you would like to get the correct information, click on the Whatsapp chat button now:
- Menstrual Bleeding Disorders (Heavy Periods)
COCs are found to be helpful in the treatment of menorrhagia (heavy bleeding during periods) by reducing the volume of blood loss & regularising menstrual cycles.
- Dysmenorrhea (Painful Periods)
Commonly known as menstrual cramps, dysmenorrhea is uterine pain that occurs during menstruation.
COCs are known to significantly lessen the menstrual cramps.
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- Endometrial Cancer
Endometrial cancer is where cancer affects the inner lining of the uterus (endometrium). It develops in 2-3% of the women in their lifetime.
A study showed that usage of COCs for at least one year reduces the risk of endometrial cancer by 50%! This protective effect is known to increase with the duration of use & persists for as long as 20 years.
- Ovarian Cancer
Similarly, COCs are advantageous in the risk reduction of ovarian cancer as well.
- PMS (Premenstrual Syndrome) & PMDD (Premenstrual Dysphoric disorder)
PMS is a combination of a wide range of symptoms that women experience before their periods like headache, moodiness, breast tenderness, bloating, etc being the common symptoms.
PMDD is a severe form of PMS. The use of COCs is extremely useful for its management.
[Very often people dismiss PMDD telling it is nothing to be treated! However, medical interventions have always proved to be very helpful to numerous women. The important thing is to have a doctor who understands your condition and gives the needed help. If you want to get help from such a doctor from your city, talk to us now. Click on the Whatsapp chat button to know more:
- Uterine fibroids
Uterine fibroids are non-cancerous growths in the uterus that often develop during a woman’s childbearing years.
COCs reduce the symptoms such as excessive bleeding, pain etc.
Endometriosis is a painful disorder where the endometrium tissue (inner lining of the uterus) grows outside the uterus.
COCs not only alleviate the symptoms like pain but also reduce the size of endometrium tissue; treatment with COCs is considered safe, economical & usually as an alternative to surgery.
[Many young women live through the pain of Endometriosis. They often dismiss the signs and symptoms as usual period issues. Do you want to know more about Endometriosis such that you can be sure that you have/ don’t have Endometriosis? Talk to us by clicking on the Whatsapp chat button now and we can help you:
- Ectopic pregnancy
Ectopic pregnancy is a condition where the fertilized egg attaches somewhere outside the uterus.
COCs have been of help in decreasing the rate of ectopic pregnancy.
- Rheumatoid Arthritis
In mild forms of Rheumatoid Arthritis, COCs have proven to be useful in the risk reduction
Before using COCs, always make sure to get consulted by your doctor regarding the usage & dosage of it.
According to WHO, COCs should not be used for the following:
- If a woman is pregnant
- Is breastfeeding (<6 weeks post delivery)
- Has a history of heart disease
- Has blood clotting disorders
- Is a smoker with age >35 years
- Has diabetes for more than 20 years
- Has headaches/ migraines
- Has high blood pressure
- Has breast cancer
- Has liver tumours
- Has to undergo major surgery
The side effects are minimal, comprising of:
- Decreased appetite (less common)
- Slight bleeding from the vagina (less common)
The benefits of using COCs the correct way are very promising. In fact, the English magazine, The Economist, described the pill as “one of the seven wonders of the modern world” & the one invention that historians a thousand years in the future will look back on & say “That defined the 20th century”. [Economist 1999]
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About the Author:
Teertha Barnwal, a doctor, a medical intern at MGM Medical College, Navi Mumbai. Enjoys writing, singing & adventuring. Meditates & believes that life is the biggest adventure.
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