Pill power

There may be health benefits to contraceptive pills, says recent research

pillsThere's no doubt that by now oral contraceptives [OCs] are a favourite among women. In addition to the obvious benefits like helping women control their entry into motherhood, being easily available everywhere and at negligible cost, contraceptive pills also have some not-so-obvious health benefits.

A recent study conducted by British researchers found that in the long run, women who used oral contraception had a significantly lower death rate as compared to those who had never taken it. More health benefits of the OC pill have come to the fore in studies across the world. They are:

Enables family planning

This is the most basic and obvious benefit of contraceptives. When diligently used as per the gynaecologist's instructions, studies show that OCs prevent an unwanted pregnancy 99 per cent of the times.

According to Mumbai-based Malcolm Fonseca, obstetrician and gynaecologist, OCs give total control to a woman as to whether she wants to have a baby at any given point of time. This control encourages her to take up as many new responsibilities [personal and professional] and lead life with confidence.

Clears skin

Acne is caused when the androgen levels in our body are high. The presence of progestogen hormone in OCs suppresses the secretion of androgen, which in turn reduces the formation of acne. This means your skins becomes clear of all problems and glows with health. Tempted to use an OC?

Caution: Entertain that possibility only on recommendation by an expert dermatologist and your gynaecologist.

Protects against osteoporosis

As per a research published in the Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, the oestrogen present in OCs is shown to increase the bone mineral density by promoting a higher peak bone mass. Even women who were on low-dose formulations reported this benefit—simultaneously the effect was greater with high-dose formulations and long-time use. These women showed a remarkable 25 per cent reduced risk of bone fractures.

Reduces risk of ovarian cancer

A study conducted at the Oxford University's Cancer Research UK Epidemiology Unit revealed that women who were on OCs significantly decreased their risk of developing ovarian cancer—the more the duration of use, the less the risk.

The research stated that OCs prominently function by preventing ovulation [release of an egg from an ovary], which is the secret behind the reduced risk in ovarian cysts, and cancers of the ovary and endometrium [the lining inside the uterus].

Regulates menstrual periods

An irregular period occurs when the hormone oestrogen is not sufficiently produced in our body. The oestrogen present in OCs compensates this loss and normalises the menstrual cycle. Women reported experiencing less menstrual cramps and shorter, lighter periods.

Prevents anaemia

Periods are a normal, vital part of a woman's fertility. However, heavy and long periods mean excess blood loss and less vitality. By regulating periods, OCs control the otherwise excess blood loss, avoiding the occurrence of anaemia.

Lessens facial hair

Darkening of facial and body hair [especially on the chin, chest, and abdomen] is mainly caused by high levels of the hormone androgen secreted in our body. As already discussed above, progestogen hormone in OCs suppresses the secretion of androgen.

The results seen are lightening/reduction of facial hair. In a relevant study, New Zealand Ministry of Health reports that over 40 per cent of women claimed that their facial hair cleared within nine months of using OCs.

Averts pelvic inflammatory disease

Pelvic inflammatory disease [PID] is a serious bacterial infection of the fallopian tubes and uterus. The consequences are severe pain and infertility. By preventing ovulation, OCs help in averting PID.

Better cholesterol levels

Hormone progestogen—a major component of OCs—increases the levels of good cholesterol [HDL] in our body, while lowering the bad cholesterol levels, says a report published in The New England Journal Of Medicine. This results in a significant improvement in our body's serum lipoprotein profiles—simply meaning optimum cholesterol levels.

Awareness is key

Only two people can decide the right contraception for a woman—woman herself and her gynaecologist. All said and done, Dr Fonseca concludes that the best contraceptive choice for each woman is the one that is most compatible with her health and lifestyle.

Every woman must be made aware of the various choices available and allowed to choose one that best suits her needs and desires. This, in turn, will keep her satisfied with all the benefits she reaps.

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