The pill is safe for healthy, non-smokers from teens to women in their 40s. The pill makes your period regular, light and virtually painless. It is highly effective in preventing pregnancy, and most women have few side effects. Side effects may include nausea, breast tenderness, spotting, weight gain (mild to none on new, low-dose pills), and mood changes. For most women, the risks of using today's lower-dosage pills are very small, and there can be health benefits in addition to contraceptive benefits.
The pill and women in their 40s.
For women in their 40s, the pill can help ease the symptoms of perimenopause, such as hot flashes, night sweats and irregular monthly periods. And it can make your periods lighter and lessen cramps. If you don't want to become pregnant, you need birth control during perimenopause-even if your periods are not regular.
Fewer periods on the pill.
The newest birth control pills available limit your period to four times a year. The pill keeps the lining of your uterus very thin, which is why your period is light on the pill. Your period on the pill is a withdrawal bleed—your body bleeds in response to the withdrawal of the hormones. If you take the pill continuously, you will not have a withdrawal bleed. The lining of the uterus is not building up, it actually continues to be quite thin. In fact, it is not ever necessary to have a withdrawal bleed, and you could technically have no periods at all. This is the principal behind the newest pill on the market, in which you have a withdrawal bleed four times a year.
Osteoporosis The pill can help strengthen your bones and protect against osteoporosis.
Cancer of the Ovary and Endometrium (Lining of the Uterus). Studies show that using the pill over a period of time may lower the risk of developing ovarian and endometrial cancer.
Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID).
This disease is an infection of the uterus, ovaries, fallopian tubes and other related areas. If it is not treated, it can cause scarring and lead to infertility, tubal pregnancies, and chronic pelvic pain. The pill can help prevent bacteria that cause PID from entering the uterus.
Most studies show that the pill does not increase the risk of breast cancer.
Printed from Oprah.com on Saturday, December 7, 2013