I started using birth control in grade 12, but personally, I thought about using it way before that. The only reason I waited so long was because I was too scared to talk to my mom about it. I thought she would automatically assume that I was having sex – or wanted to have sex – and the thought of that conversation made me uncomfortable. If that’s your motivation, no problem. However, being a contraceptive isn’t the only benefit of birth control.
Birth control can be prescribed for a variety of reasons, from the obvious contraceptive purposes to acne treatment. But one of the most common reasons people take birth control is to help normalize irregular periods and to make the menstrual cycle more predictable.
Whether you are thinking about starting birth control to help control and regulate your period, or are just curious what other benefits it has, here’s all the information you need to make decisions about your body going forward.
What Is Birth Control?
Birth control, also known colloquially as “the pill,” is a medication with hormones in it that work to control and change the way the body works, often with the goal of preventing pregnancy from occuring. Hormones are “your body’s chemical messengers.” They travel around the body through the bloodstream and tissues and control various organs and processes. In this case, the hormones we’re talking about control sexual reproductive organs found in assigned female at birth (AFAB) people– the uterus and the ovaries where these hormones are produced. Most birth control pills contain a combination of different synthetic hormones, usually a mix of estrogen and progesterone.
There are many brands that make birth control, and each one is a bit different and will react differently within your body. It’s up to you and your doctor to decide which birth control is right for you if you decide to start taking it.
How Does Birth Control Work?
There are various types of birth control, and they each work slightly differently from one another. Let’s take a quick look and break down the three main types of birth control.
Monophasic pills: These pills come in one-month cycles. Each “active” pill (meaning that it has hormones in it) gives the same dose or amount of hormones. You take this pill for 21 days. For the last week of your cycle, you can either take the pills or skip the inactive pills (with no hormone). On these placebo pills, you will get your period.
Multiphasic pills: These pills come in one-month cycles too, but they have different levels of hormones during the cycle. During the last week of your menstrual cycle, you have the same choice of taking or skipping the inactive pills and you’ll still be getting your period.
Extended-cycle pills: These are more long-term-focused pills and are usually given out in 13-week cycles. You take active pills with hormones for 12 weeks, after which you can take or skip inactive pills and get your period. You will only get your period three to four times a year on these types of pills.
What Can Birth Control Do?
In addition to the fairly obvious pregnancy prevention part of birth control, it can also offer many benefits related to your period. Here are some things birth control might be able to help with:
Birth control can regulate your period. When taking birth control pills, you can essentially pinpoint the exact day your period will be arriving. This means the arrival of your period is never a guessing game. It also helps you know when your period will end, and keep the amount of days your period lasts fairly steady. This can help you prepare your period emergency kit on time, or rock our Leakproof Period Underwear on days you know your period is due.
Birth control can chill out your worst period symptoms. One of the main reasons people love birth control is because it reduces really bad cramps. In fact, severe cramps and extreme period pain are some of the most common reasons that birth control is prescribed.
Taking birth control allows you to control your period. Do you have a beach vacation coming up, or want to have sex on an upcoming date without bleeding? Perhaps you’re an athlete and you have a big game on the way, or a long flight ahead. Sometimes, periods can come at the most inconvenient times. With birth control, you can skip from one pill pack to another and choose to skip your period entirely for one month. It’s a fairly common myth that this is unhealthy to do–medical studies have reported no “significant medical effects” from using birth control to do this. That said, if you do plan to or want to do this, please talk to your doctor– they may have different pills in mind for you.
Birth Control FAQs
Does Birth Control Cause Acne?
Sometimes. Birth control pills lower your androgen (these are sex hormones– they help kickstart puberty and are involved in your reproductive system and body development) levels, which can have the pleasant side effect of giving you clearer skin. However, this doesn’t happen with all of them, and depending on which one you take, the change in hormone balance can sometimes make acne worse. You may have to try a few different types of birth control pills before finding the right one for you and your body.
Does Birth Control Make Your Boobs Bigger?
The hormones in birth control pills can increase the size of your breasts slightly, usually as a result of fluid retention or temporary weight gain.
Does Birth Control Make You Emotional?
Some hormonal birth control options, including the pill, list mood swings as a possible side effect. If you suspect this could be the case for you after starting the pill, talk to your doctor about alternatives.
Does Birth Control Make You Gain Weight?
It’s rare, but birth control can sometimes cause temporary weight gain. This is usually due to fluid retention rather than extra fat, and often the symptoms will subside within a few months. Studies have otherwise shown no evidence that the pill leads to weight gain.
Can You Get Birth Control Pills Over The Counter?
In order to get birth control pills, you will need a prescription from your doctor. They will likely bring you in for check-up appointments every six months to make sure things are going smoothly. So no, birth control pills can't be purchased over the counter. If you come across pills that are, they probably aren't safe or licensed, and you shouldn’t take them.
If you’re thinking of starting birth control to help regulate your periods, don’t be afraid to talk to your loved ones about it, and, most importantly, talk to your doctor. They will help you find the pill that fits you or they will help you find an alternative if the pill doesn’t feel right. And in the meantime, try our Leakproof Period Underwear so you never get caught by surprise.