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Contraceptives: what about your health?

Your method of birth control can actually do more than just protect against pregnancy. It may also affect things such as your appearance and your risk of certain kinds of cancer.

Health benefits

Some methods of birth control have benefits for your health.

Clearer skin: Studies have shown a connection between the use of some birth control pills and decreased amounts of acne. This is because some pills can moderate levels of hormones called androgens, regulating the production of oil in the skin. Some are even approved by Health Canada to treat acne.

Protection from certain diseases: Hormonal forms of birth control are associated with protection from some diseases affecting women. These include benign ovarian cysts, endometrial (uterine) cancer, ovarian cancer, iron deficiency (anemia), and pelvic inflammatory disease.

Relieve symptoms of certain conditions: Hormonal forms of birth control help improve symptoms of endometriosis and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). They can also reduce the volume of menstrual flow and the painful cramps that often accompany your period.

Protection against STIs: Condoms provide protection against sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Depending on the nature of your sexual relationship, this protection can be vital, even if you use another form of birth control, because other forms of birth control do not provide protection from diseases such as HIV/AIDS, chlamydia, gonorrhea, genital herpes, human papilloma virus (associated with genital warts and cancer of the cervix), and syphilis.

Things to watch out for

Your state of health is an important consideration when deciding on or during the use of any birth control method. Certain birth control methods may affect some medical conditions, and medication for some conditions may change the effectiveness of some birth control methods.

Antibiotics: The antibiotic rifampin reduces the effectiveness of birth control pills. As for other antibiotics, there is less conclusive evidence that they decrease the effect of oral contraceptives. This effect may only occur in a small number of women. If you're worried, adding a barrier method (e.g., male or female condom) is a good idea if you're taking antibiotics.

Latex allergy: Most male condoms are made of latex. People who are allergic to latex can consider such options as condoms made from polyurethane. Lambskin condoms are also available, but they offer less protection against STIs. If protection from STIs is not an important issue, there are many contraception options, ranging from sponges to IUDs to pills.

Medical conditions: Women with epilepsy need to determine the proper form of birth control with their doctor and neurologist. Many anti-seizure medications may reduce the effectiveness of hormone-based birth control methods by speeding up the breakdown of these hormones in the liver. Including a barrier method will reduce the chance of pregnancy.

Women who meet any of the following criteria should talk to their doctor before deciding on a birth control method:

  • have/had breast cancer
  • have diabetes and associated damage to small blood vessels
  • have a family history of stroke
  • have high blood pressure
  • have a history of blood clots in a vein (deep vein thrombosis) or lung (pulmonary embolism)
  • have liver disease
  • have migraine headaches
  • are a smoker over the age of 35

While taking the pill, watch out for early danger signs described by the acronym ACHES:

  • Abdominal pain (severe)
  • Chest pain (severe)
  • Headaches (severe)
  • Eye problems
  • Severe leg pain

If you experience any of the above symptoms, inform your doctor immediately.

All material copyright MediResource Inc. 1996 – 2024. Terms and conditions of use. The contents herein are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Source:

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