There are a ton of really great things about the birth control pill. First of all, it aids in the family planning process (in that you don’t make one way earlier than you intended!). Another advantage of taking the pill as a form of contraceptive is that women know pretty much exactly when they’ll get their period every month. But these are only a couple of the many benefits of taking the pill —there are more that every woman should be aware of, whether she’s taking it now or wants to in the future.
So, according to a new study, it turns out birth control can protect you from a whole lot more than pregnancy and a surprise period. . . it can save your life. The study, conducted at the University of Oxford and published in The Lancet Oncology, states that the birth control pill offers long-term protection against endometrial cancer. According to the researchers, over the past decade alone, the pill has prevented 200,000 cases. Oh, and even if you go off the pill after using it, the benefits are still there.
“The strong protective effect of oral contraceptives against endometrial cancer — which persists for decades after stopping the pill — means that women who use it when they are in their 20s or even younger continue to benefit into their 50s and older, when cancer becomes more common,” lead study author Prof. Valerie Beral, of the University of Oxford in the UK, explained.
Endometrial cancer begins in the inner linings of the uterus (the endometrium). Previously, research had already associated the birth control pill with reduced diagnoses of endometrial cancer —but it was always unclear whether those benefits lasted after you stopped taking it. However, after collecting data from 36 epidemiological studies, they found that the risk of the cancer reduces by about 25% for ever five years of pill use. This reduction persisted for over 30 years after ceasing use.
“Since the introduction of oral contraception in the early 1960s, about 400 million women have used it in high-income countries alone, often for prolonged periods during early adulthood,” the researchers said. “Medium-to-long-term use of oral contraceptives (eg, for 5 years or longer) results in a substantial proportional reduction in the incidence of endometrial cancer, the magnitude of which is similar to that seen for ovarian cancer.”
While the pill is NOT for everyone, and we seriously recommend talking to your OBGYN and primary care doctor before starting (especially if you have health conditions that you think might affect how the pill works with your body), this form of birth control has been a relief for many ladies. And remember —each brand of pill is different, and side-effects vary, depending on which one you take.
In celebration of this very happy fact, here are a few other things the pill can do for you.
It can give you clearer skin
Many who use birth control enjoy clearer skin due to the estrogen in the pill, which decreases the amount of testosterone. That pesky male hormone stimulates oil production, so in terms of zits, the less of it, the better.
…and lighter periods
When you’re on BC, you don’t actually have a *real* period. The bleeding during the placebo week is just withdrawal bleeding, because you don’t actually ovulate on the pill, meaning that your uterine lining doesn’t build up as much. . . and you’ll have a lighter flow for a shorter amount of time.
Plus, little-to-no cramping! Yass!
If you get really painful cramps, you can thank prostaglandins for that. They’re chemicals that trigger muscle contraction to help shed your uterine lining. . . and cause CRAZY pain as a result. Ugh, those jerks. But it turns out that being on the pill can reduce the amount of prostaglandins your body sends out. Yeah, bye bye, cramps. What a wonderful world.
Oh, and let’s not forget about fewer periods
You know that placebo week that makes you get your period? It’s safe to just hop onto the active pill of the next pack and postpone your period, according to Planned Parenthood.
It protects you from anemia
Blood loss from periods normally can cause anemia in a lot of women, making you exhausted and physically weak. Lighter periods = less blood loss = a happier you. Math, man.
Relief from conditions such as endometriosis and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
While it’s not a cure, often, women with these painful conditions can take the birth control pill and see relief from their symptoms.
(Image via iStock)