Birth control: More than pregnancy prevention

Your daughter’s gynecologist may suggest birth control pills for specific health conditions. Before you say no, understand how it can help.

Your teen’s doctor just suggested the birth control pill. Before you mutter, “I don’t think so,” hold on a minute. There might be a good reason — a medical reason — that has nothing to do with pregnancy prevention. Prescribing birth control doesn’t mean your teen will start having sex.

Teen girls often go on the pill (or another method of hormonal birth control) for several medical reasons. The pill can regulate certain hormone levels and make life a little more bearable.

Here’s how the pill can help with certain conditions:

  1. Regulate absent or irregular periods: Athletes, girls who are underweight, those dealing with a lot of stress, or those who have begun periods in the past year may not make enough estrogen, which helps to regulate the menstrual cycle.
  2. Replace estrogen: Some girls have conditions in which they produce too little estrogen, such as Turner syndrome or premature ovarian insufficiency. Estrogen is important for normal development of strong brain and bones, and needs to be replaced if it is low.
  3. Ease heavy periods: The pill can make the period lighter, shorter, or not happen at all for girls who have heavy periods and are susceptible to anemia or have bleeding disorders.
  4. Control acne, cramps and PMS: Sometimes the pill is prescribed for girls with moderate to severe acne or painful cramping. It also can help alleviate some symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS).
  5. Endometriosis: Endometriosis grows because of estrogen and can lead to severe cramps or pelvic pain during a girl’s menstrual cycle. Some pills can stop a girl from having a period and therefore eliminate these painful symptoms and treat the underlying endometriosis as well.
  6. Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS): This is caused by a hormone imbalance that brings on irregular periods, acne and excess hair growth. The pill can improve these symptoms.
  7. Other ovarian cysts: Some girls may have pain caused by cysts that are a normal part of the menstrual cycle. These cysts can be prevented by using the pill.

If your teen’s doctor has recommended the pill, be sure you and your daughter understand the side effects and risks.

Possible birth control side effects

Birth control may have some associated side effects, with most usually going away within a few months:

  • Moodiness
  • Headaches
  • Spotting
  • Sore or enlarged breasts
  • Very slightly higher risk of developing blood clots

Norton Children’s gynecology

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The main risk is a slightly higher chance of developing blood clots. Ask your doctor about any other risks.

Types of birth control

The pill works best if it is taken at the same time every day. If you don’t think your teen can keep up with taking a pill at the same time every day, ask your doctor about other options. There are injections, patches, vaginal rings, under-skin implants and intrauterine devices (IUDs) that may control your teen’s symptoms.

Now let’s address the sex part: A lot goes into making the decision to start having sex, and being on birth control is just one factor. If your daughter needs birth control for a medical reason, it’s the perfect opportunity to start an ongoing conversation about sex, even if your daughter seems too young. Maintain an open and welcoming line of communication so that your daughter is comfortable talking to you about sex, and vice versa, and keeps you informed about her relationships. Whether sex is happening or not, be sure she knows that while the pill protects against pregnancy, it does not protect against sexually transmitted diseases.