The birth control pill became the symbol of sexual freedom some 50 years ago. But have you ever wondered how “the pill” works? Women have easy access to birth control pills in Singapore (after medical consultation) and in most developed countries. However, not many are aware of possible side effects of birth control pills.
There are more than 100 million women worldwide whom are currently on the pill. Before going on the pill, one should find out how it can affect your body.
How do birth control pills work?
Birth control pills contain different types of synthetic hormones in varying concentrations. They cause temporary infertility by triggering a number of changes in the body:
- They stop ovulation
- They thicken the cervical mucus, preventing sperm from reaching the uterus
- They make the uterus lining thinner, making implantation of the egg difficult
Birth control pills can cause a “fake” menstrual period to occur during the one-week pause (if you’re taking packs of 21 pills). Many women believe that the pill can promote regular periods. However, this is not true. Instead of actual menstruation, withdrawal bleeding occurs. A menstrual cycle involves a different hormonal action than the one induced by the pill.
Side effects of birth control pills
Besides preventing an unwanted pregnancy, there are many side effects of birth control pills.
- Birth control pills thicken the blood, thereby developing blood clots and puts one at risk of artery blockage in the lungs, stroke and heart disease. Women who are over 35 and smokers are at higher risk.
- Another side effect is weight gain. By altering your hormones, the pill can make your body retain water or increase fatty tissue.
- Hyper-pigmentation is common with women who take contraceptive pills. Your skin can become darkened, especially above the upper lip.
- Women who take birth control pills can experience low libido. A study conducted by Indiana University showed that women on the pill had difficulty becoming sexually aroused. Pills containing estrogen can lead to a decrease of testosterone, which is responsible for stimulating sexual arousal.
- The subject of cancer and birth control pills is still under debate. Some studies claim that birth control lowers the risk of ovarian cancer. However, there are also links between birth control pills, breast and cervical cancer. Women with HPV are at a much higher risk of developing cervical cancer while on the pill.
- Birth control pills can have an effect on future fertility. This is especially true for women who have been on the pill for a longer period of time. Research shows that continued consumption of the pill can lead to “permanent impairment of cervical mucus production.” Many women who go off the pill report irregular periods or total absence of menstruation. This is usually caused by anovulation, which is one of the many side effects of birth control pills.
Research on side effects of birth control pills is still ongoing. But if you plan to go on the pill, make sure to discuss all possible side effects with your doctor.
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