Hormonal Birth Control Pros & Cons

Choosing the right birth control method for you and your partner can be a very personal decision. While some women feel the most comfortable using barrier methods, others may opt for one of the hormonal birth control options. From condoms to IUDs to implants and the pill, there are quite a few methods available for couples to choose from.

However, there has also been a rise in natural family planning methods and fertility awareness. This is one of the most natural forms of birth control because there are no hormones or barriers. Instead, a woman typically takes her temperature every morning, tracks her natural phases, avoids intercourse, or uses other protection during her ovulation window.

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Related: The Different Types Of Birth Control Explained

With so many birth control options out there, you may be wondering why people would choose to take or avoid hormonal contraceptives. The truth is, there are many pros and cons that come along with taking hormonal birth control.

Pro: You Can Control When You Have A Period

When you are taking hormonal birth control pills like the combination pill, it can actually be very convenient. Usually, there are three weeks of active pills and then one week off of the active pills. You may take sugar pills or no pills at all this fourth week, which is where bleeding occurs like a period.

However, if you decide that you want to go to the lake that weekend, plan an international trip, or a romantic getaway with your partner, you can simply skip your break week and continue taking a new pack of active pills. This essentially allows you to skip your period and leaves you in total control.

Pro: It’s 99% Effective With Perfect Use

While some people may complain that hormonal birth control stops your body from doing what it’s naturally supposed to, for some women that’s a great thing. The fear of pregnancy when the time is not right can be terrifying. Knowing that your body is not ovulating can provide a lot of comfort since pregnancy prevention is the goal.

It can also ease your mind when you begin to understand why hormonal birth control is so effective. The combination pill works in three ways. According to Mayo Clinic, this oral contraception contains estrogen and progestin which work to:

  • Keep your ovaries from releasing an egg
  • Thickens the cervical mucus making it harder for sperm to get through
  • Thins the uterine lining to prevent implantation

The mini pill works similarly, but it is a progestin-only birth control pill. According to VeryWell Health, the mini pill mainly prevents pregnancy by changing the cervical mucus, but it may also thin the uterine lining. Progestin-only pills also prevent ovulation in about half the women who use them.

Pro: Hormones May Improve Skin

If you have heard anything about hormonal birth control before, you’ve probably heard people say that it can help your skin. If you’ve struggled with acne for years, going on hormonal birth control may have been one of the things your doctor suggested for you.

This is because birth control pills can affect the skin. According to Medical News Today,


Birth control can benefit the skin by lowering androgen levels, which decreases sebum production and can reduce acne.

The reduction of androgen production occurs in the ovaries and adrenal glands but combined hormonal contraceptives also lower the amount of testosterone in the bloodstream.

Con: Side Effects Include Sore Breasts, Nausea, & Headaches

Nausea

As with most medications, there are some side effects that are good to be aware of. One of the side effects of starting hormonal birth control is nausea. This may occur in the first few months and then go away once your body adjusts to the hormones.

According to For Hers, an estrogen hormone known as Ethinyl estradiol is typically what causes nausea, and it’s found in the combination pill, the patch, and the ring. Estrogen can also irritate the lining of your stomach, which may cause you to feel nauseous.


More Breasts

Breast pain or tenderness is one of the more common and minor side effects of starting hormonal birth control. This is likely due to the increased levels of estrogen and progestin in the contraceptives that lead to breast changes.

While breasts becoming fuller might not be a bad thing for some women, the tenderness and sensitivity can be quite bothersome.

Headaches

Headaches are another common side effect that accompanies hormonal birth control. Interestingly, it’s not the rise in hormones that cause the headaches but likely the drop in hormones during your inactive week.

However, if you are still getting headaches throughout the entire month, try taking your pill at the exact same time each day. This may help to stabilize the hormones and ensure your levels remain steady.

Con: May Have Spotting Between Periods

While birth control is commonly touted as a way to regulate your cycle and give you a normal period, that’s not always the case. For some women, hormonal birth control can cause irregularity with their bleeding. Spotting or bleeding breakthrough when it’s not expected can be extremely inconvenient and uncomfortable.

According to Mayo Clinic, breakthrough on the birth control pill is most common within the first few months of use. However, it is also more common with extended cycle regiments where the active pills are taken for multiple months in a row without a break week.

Con: Mood Changes Or Depression Can Occur

The evidence shows that hormonal birth control can lead to mood changes and increase a woman’s risk of depression. While the overall number of women affected was small, Health Harvard shows that about 2.2 out of every 100 women who used hormonal birth control developed depression.

The estrogen in birth control can also make you more emotional because of an increase in serotonin, which generally leads to a positive mood but too much can cause anxiety.

Sources: Mayo Clinic, VeryWell Health, Medical News Today, For Hers, Healthline, Mayo Clinic, Health Harvard

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