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Non-Contraceptive Benefits Of "The Pill"

The contraceptive birth control pill--"the Pill"--has now passed it's 40th birthday.  Yet the past few years brought the pill several new credits to its already lengthy list:  it is now approved by the FDA for emergency (i.e. post coital) contraception and there are pills available for use by nursing mothers.  There is one FDA-approved pill to treat acne.  In addition, physicians are now comfortable prescribing the pill as contraception to non-smoking women over age 35 and into perimenopause.

This news gives us reason to reflect on the good news about the pill.  First, for years physicians have prescribed birth control pills for many more reasons than contraception.  These include: 

  • menstrual regulation:  for women with irregular periods, from none at all (amenorrhea) to too many (polymenorrhea) or too few (oligomenorrhea) or to decrease heavy flow.
  • to treat benign ovarian cysts (including polycystic ovary syndrome)
  • to decrease menstrual cramps (dysmenorrhea)
  • to decrease the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
  • to increase appetite in underweight or anorexic women

These uses are all in addition to the primary benefit of excellent contraception.  There are also many secondary benefits-all medically proven--to taking the pill.  These include:

  • decreasing the risk of ovarian cancer
  • decreasing the risk of endometrial cancer
  • decreasing the risk of colorectal cancer
  • decreasing the risk of osteoporosis
  • decreasing the risk of pelvic inflammatory disease (**compared to women not using the pill but also not using condoms; your best protection against PID and all other forms of sexually transmitted diseases is to practice safe sex which includes condom use)
  • decreasing the risk of ectopic (tubal) pregnancy
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 Physicians are now comfortable prescribing the pill as contraception to non-smoking women over age 35. 

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