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. But parents should know that being a contraceptive isn’t the only benefit of birth control, and teens should feel comfortable having an open conversation about their needs with caregivers.
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 your teen is thinking about starting birth control to help control and regulate their period, or are just curious what other benefits it has, here’s all the information you need to have a conversation with them on how to make the best decision for their body.
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 occurring. Hormones are the "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 child's body. It’s up to your teen and their doctor to decide which birth control is right for them if they 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. People on this pill take it for 21 days. For the last week of their cycle, they can either take the pills or skip the inactive pills (with no hormone). On these placebo pills, they will get their 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 the menstrual cycle, people have the same choice of taking or skipping the inactive pills and they'll still be getting their period.
Extended-cycle pills: These are more long-term-focused pills and are usually given out in 13-week cycles. People take active pills with hormones for 12 weeks, after which they can take or skip inactive pills and get their period. They will only get their 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 someone's period. Here are some things birth control might be able to help with:
Birth control can regulate the menstrual cycle. When taking birth control pills, your teen can essentially pinpoint the exact day their period will be arriving. This means the arrival of their period is never a guessing game. It also helps they know when their period will end, and keep the amount of days their period lasts fairly steady. This can help them prepare their period emergency kit on time, or rock our Leakproof Period Underwear on days they know their period is due.
Birth control can chill out the 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 your teen to control their period. Do you have a beach vacation coming up, or they want to have sex on an upcoming date without bleeding? Perhaps they're an athlete and have a big game on the way, or a long flight ahead. Sometimes, periods can come at the most inconvenient times. With birth control, they have the option to skip from one pill pack to another and choose to skip their period entirely for one month. If they do plan to or want to do this, please have them talk to their doctor.
Birth Control FAQs
Does Birth Control Cause Acne?
Sometimes. Birth control pills lower androgen (these are sex hormones– they help kickstart puberty and are involved in the reproductive system and body development) levels, which can have the pleasant side effect of giving clearer skin. However, this doesn’t happen with all of them, and depending on which one your teen takes, the change in hormone balance can sometimes make acne worse. They may have to try a few different types of birth control pills before finding the right one for them and their body.
Does Birth Control Make Your Boobs Bigger?
The hormones in birth control pills can increase the size of their 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 your teen after starting the pill, talk to their 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, your teen will need a prescription from their doctor, though this may change in the future. They will likely bring your teen in for check-up appointments every six months to make sure things are going smoothly.
If your teen is thinking of starting birth control to help regulate their periods, encourage them to talk to you and their doctor about it. Their doctor will help them find the pill that fits them best or an alternative if the pill doesn’t feel right. And in the meantime, try our Leakproof Period Underwear so they never get caught by surprise.