Posted: April 2012
Nancy, an executive for a big firm, rushes through the airport after leaving the restroom, almost late for her plane. It is a typical monthly ritual she has come to dread. Only today, she did not ruin her favorite new suit.
Megan, a young college student, is not attending classes today because her menstrual cramps are so bad she cannot get out of bed. A heating pad and ibuprofen worked in the past, but are no longer providing relief.
And Emily, a high school sophomore, stares at the mirror wondering how much makeup she can cake on to hide her unsightly blemishes. She has tried all of those expensive creams and even taken antibiotics, but still suffers from acne.
These are common scenarios experienced by women every day. To help improve their quality of life, women are seeking alternative options. One option which may offer immediate health benefits is the use of oral contraceptive pills.
Oral contraceptive pills are not just for birth control. For years, the pill has been prescribed to improve menstrual related disorders. The pill can reduce excessive menstrual bleeding (menorrhagia), which may lead to anemia. It can regulate irregular bleeding and also suppress menstruation entirely.
Menstrual-related disorders and irregular menses are particularly common during adolescence. With the pill, women can take control of their cycles by predicting when they will have their menses. It can relieve severe menstrual pain (dysmenorrhea), which can lead to absences from school and work. It also has the potential to improve acne and excess hair growth (hirsutism) by decreasing the levels of testosterone in a young woman’s system.
Other non-contraceptive uses include lowering the risk of both endometrial and ovarian cancer, prevention of menstrual-related migraines, and treatment of Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder.
In perimenopause, the pill can be used to regulate cycles along with control hormonal imbalances.
Finally, the pill offers symptom relief for women who have disorders including polycystic ovarian syndrome, endometriosis and various pelvic pain disorders, many times preventing unnecessary surgical intervention.
Risks for using oral contraceptive pills are the same whether they are being used for contraception or for other non-contraceptive benefits. Each brand carries its own benefits and risks according to the components of the specific pill. Obviously, when considering the pill, the benefits should significantly outweigh the risks.
Use of oral contraceptive pills can alleviate a range of immediate health problems experienced by women of all ages. To improve quality of life, women should partner with their healthcare provider to determine whether the pill is an appropriate choice to meet their individual needs.
By Kris A. Scalf, registered nurse clinician, women’s health nurse practitioner, Missouri Baptist Medical Center. For referrals to the Women’s Health Center call 314-996-LIFE.