But, even after 50 years there are still unanswered questions. Does birth control cause breast cancer? Will it affect pregnancy? How do we get rid of the side effects?
To give us the real (and honest) scoop we asked Dr. Yael Varnado to let us know what we should ask our doctors and how do we decide which form is best. One thing is for sure: “The use of birth control decreases the risk of female cancers like ovarian and endometrial, but the jury is still out on breast cancer,” she says. More below.
Vibe Vixen: How does birth control physically and mentally change our body?
Dr. Yael Varnado: The great thing about birth control pills is that through the years they’ve included forms that are more tolerable for women. Most ladies experience nausea, vomiting and spotting on the pill, and an overall sense of not feeling well, weight gain, moodiness.
Additionally, research shows that birth control pills decrease your libido. Women are having issues with not becoming stimulated or aroused. If you sat down with your girlfriends, some would say ‘I don’t have a problem at all’, others would say ‘I’m turned on more with the pill’ and the rest wouldn’t notice any change. However, overall 30% of American women will report that they’re sex drive is decreased on birth control.
That’s horrible. Are there any positives changes?
A lot of dermatologist use birth control pills as a way to prevent or treat acne. The testosterone circulating in our body is responsible for the sebum hormone production. If you can decrease the amount of sebum production, you can decrease the amount of acne. If you’re testosterone is lower, your sebum production is lower, and ultimately you get less acne.
What about yeast infections?
Yes, medications that we take whether it’s antibiotics or birth control pills can offset the flora, the normal gut bacteria that we have. If you do that, that can lead to a change in PH in the rest of our body. Those changes in your PH can lead to dryness, itching, bacterial infections, and yeast infections.
Who shouldn’t be on birth control?
If you’ve had a history of cervical cancer, you’re pregnant, or trying to get pregnant. Those are the types of people who shouldn’t be using any form of birth control or contraceptive.
Let’s talk about the NuvaRing. Is it really safe for it to be in us for so long?
Yes, it’s safe, but the same people that shouldn’t be taking birth control pills, shouldn’t be taking the NuvaRing, or the patch. These are women who have a family history of heart attacks, stokes, etc. The other thing I have heard, some of my girlfriends even say this, is that during intercourse it can come out.
Yikes! That’s awful. What are three important questions every woman should ask a doctor before they begin taking contraceptives?
1. You need to share your family history; they need to know if you’re at a higher risk to have a bad outcome. If you’re a smoker you should not be taking birth control pills. You need to know if you have an increased risk of having a heart attack or blood clots.
2. You should ask what you should do if you miss a pill. Every woman that’s taking birth control should know how to take the pill (or whatever form you decide) on a regular basis and what to do if she gets off track.
3. You also need to think about your ability to get pregnant when you stop taking birth control.
Is infertility an issue if you’re on certain types of birth control?
There can be, but it depends on your body. If you’ve been on a pill where you [haven’t gotten your period] for three months, six months, or even a year then your body has been exposed to constant levels of estrogen and progestin. It may take anywhere from three to six months to get back to your regular cycle. But, we wouldn’t start worrying about getting you tested for infertility until you’ve had unprotected sex for more than a year.
Does birth control cause breast cancer?
Some studies have shown a slightly increased risk in getting breast cancer, while others report no risk at all. It depends on what kind of pill you’re taking, and your family history. I think it’s important that women know that the FDA is actively researching Yaz and Yazmine which are two newer drugs that have artificial progesterone in it.