How does it work and what are the side effects of the birth control pill? The expert answers this and other questions
The reproductive sphere and that of sexuality constitute a universe so jagged and full of facets that it attracts so much curiosity, but also numerous questions and doubts. And the birth control pill is an integral part of it. This contraceptive method, although known for its contraceptive functionality, has at the same time advantages, but also side effects that should be investigated for its conscious use.
In fact, its therapeutic function is also of great note, but it must be evaluated based on the patient's general health status. In fact, being a drug in effect, the contraceptive pill must be prescribed by the gynecologist following a careful medical history and if in line with the woman's expectations and age.
We discussed the subject in depth with Dr. Elisabetta Colonese, surgeon, specializing in Gynecology and Obstetrics, couple infertility therapy.
- What is that
- How to choose it
- What are the benefits
- What side effects can it have
- Does it make you fat?
- When is it good to stop?
- Can you start getting older too?
What is that
«It is a method that prevents pregnancy and also serves to control certain disorders of the menstrual cycle such as irregular periods, heavy periods or pain during periods. The birth control pill can also be taken to regulate the balance of hormones: these can sometimes be unbalanced due to an excess of male hormones compared to female ones ".
How to choose it
“It depends on the patient. Before prescribing any type of contraceptive, it is in fact necessary to assess whether the patient is suitable or not for the type of contraceptive we are proposing, but we must also understand if she accepts that type of contraceptive. So it is necessary to evaluate if there are any absolute or relative contraindications linked for example to the contraceptive pill.
This is because there are women who cannot take the estrogen present in the estrogen-progestogen pill such as obese patients, those who have important coagulation pathologies, women who have headaches with aura, epileptic women. In these cases it is necessary to find other solutions. For the others, however, it is necessary to assess whether they are healthy, if they do not have different risk factors, if they do not have problems with high blood pressure. Based on the patient's condition, a contraceptive will then be chosen in line with her age and expectations. If the purpose is only contraception, however, low-dose estrogenic pills will be preferred when possible ».
If, on the other hand, the patient needs a proper therapy, as in the case of hormone therapy or even in the presence of polycystic ovary syndrome, pills with a slightly higher estrogen dosage will be chosen. All this is evaluated during the examination and transvaginal ultrasound.
What are the benefits
"The birth control pill prevents unwanted pregnancies, controls the cycle well, decreases (almost eliminating) dysmenorrhea – that is, pain during menstruation -, frees the woman's physical activity. Furthermore, it makes her aware of her fertility and sexuality, because she decides when she wants to become a mother ».
The contraceptive pill therefore essentially has the advantage of not having major side effects.
What side effects can it have
«Generally the side effects of the contraceptive pill are very mild, but it depends from person to person, because as I often tell my patients the pill is like a sheath dress: technically it is good for everyone, but it might be less good for some.
The most common side effects are spotting (blood loss between cycles which can also last up to 3 months from the start of taking the pill), headache, water retention. All of this is kept at bay with good information when we give the pill to the patient. So we will explain to you that you will have to do more physical activity, eat healthy with a preference for vegetable proteins, limit salt and junk food, drink at least two liters of water a day. Furthermore, I almost always associate a draining agent ».
Taking the birth control pill therefore requires some extra precautions on the part of those who take it, especially in terms of lifestyle. Therefore, the ban on comfort food, ready-made foods rich in salt and added sugars that could raise the needle of the scales.
Does it make you fat?
"It is not the pill that makes you fat because it does not increase fat, however in some patients it can increase the amount of water in the body, hence water retention".
Water retention can be counteracted by following a healthy lifestyle and good nutrition, carrying out lymphatic drainage massages from time to time and taking a drain if necessary. In this way the pill can become a kind of incentive to live healthy.
When is it good to stop?
"When the woman wants a baby, if there are side effects or if she wants to change the contraceptive method".
Can you start getting older too?
«Generally, people take birth control pills up to about 45 years old. Then it is necessary to evaluate why to take it, since after the age of 43 a woman's chances of becoming pregnant are less than 3% on average. Evaluation is essential because cardiovascular problems may appear, or there may be an increase in blood pressure: all conditions that are not compatible with taking the pill ", concludes the expert.
In general, therefore, the contraceptive pill is a contraceptive method that also brings advantages of a therapeutic nature. However, any side effects that should be monitored are not excluded. In case of doubts or if you notice different manifestations than usual related to its intake, the advice is to talk peacefully with your gynecologist.