Hormonal methods of birth control are considered safe for most
people. But is there a limit to how long you can safely use birth
control?
Some people take the birth control pill for much of their adult lives
without a break. Others use long-term hormonal contraception devices,
such as intrauterine devices (IUDs), that can stay in place for several
years.

The safety of using long-term hormonal birth control may depend on a person’s risk factors, age, and medical history.

Read on to find out the short-term and long-term effects of birth control.

Short-term side effects
woman holding birth control and wondering about the long term effects of birth control
Short-term side effects of birth control may include headaches, nausea, weight gain, and mood swings.
Hormonal methods of birth control contain artificial progesterone or
estrogen and progesterone. They affect the hormone levels in a person’s
body, so many people experience side effects shortly after taking them.

Not all people will experience side effects. Some side effects will
go away within several months as the body adjusts to the hormones. Other
side effects may develop after taking hormones for some time.

Possible short-term side effects of birth control include:

bleeding between periods, or spotting
headaches
nausea
breast tenderness
weight gain
mood swings

Long-term side effects
For most people, using contraceptives for a long time does not cause significant problems.

Many people use hormonal birth control for contraception. But, others
take hormonal birth control to manage long-term medical conditions.
Conditions include heavy or painful periods, endometriosis, and
menopause symptoms. Doctors approve the use of the pills for these
conditions, so they should be okay to take.

A doctor can advise individuals about the safety and risks of using long-term birth control according to their medical history.

There are several factors and possible side effects to consider when taking long-term birth control:

Birth control and cancer
According to the National Cancer Institute, there is mixed evidence that
hormonal contraceptives may increase the risk of breast and cervical
cancer but reduce the risk of endometrial, ovarian, and colorectal
cancers.

The hormones in birth control, including progesterone and estrogen,
may stimulate the growth of some types of cancer cells and reduce the
risk of others developing.

The American Cancer Society (ACS) says that people who have taken
birth control pills are slightly more likely to develop breast cancer
than those who have never used them. However, this risk goes away when
people have been off the pill for 10 or more years.

The ACS also report that taking birth control for more than 5 years
may increase the risk of cervical cancer. The longer people take the
pill, the higher their risk. However, the risk should go back down
gradually when someone stops taking the pill.

A large-scale study published in 2018 looked at the cancer prevalence
in over 100,000 women aged 50 to 71 who were currently taking birth
control pills. The study indicated that long-term use of birth control
decreased the risk of both ovarian and endometrial cancer.

Researchers are not sure why birth control pills may lower the risk
of certain cancers. It may be because the pill decreases the number of
ovulations a person has in their lifetime, which exposes them to less
naturally occurring hormones.

10 most common birth control pill side effects
10 most common birth control pill side effects
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Birth control and blood clots
A 2013 meta-analysis of 26 studies indicated that the use of oral
contraceptives containing both progesterone and estrogen increased
people’s risk of developing a blood clot.

Blood clots increase a person’s risk of a stroke and heart attack.
People who smoke may be especially at risk for developing blood clots
when using birth control pills.

Is it safe to use birth control indefinitely?
Most people can safely use hormonal contraceptives for many years, provided their doctor has recommended it.

However, many long-term birth control methods contain hormones. This
can cause problems depending on a person’s medical history, age, and
overall health. Doctors may advise some people to avoid using certain
types of birth control.

If a birth control pill causes side effects, people can speak to
their doctor and change pills until they find one that works for them.

People with a history of blood clots may prefer progesterone-only birth control pills or the hormone-free IUD.

Long-term contraception options
contraceptive pills iud and vaginal ring
Long-term contraception methods include birth control pills, intrauterine devices, and the vaginal ring.
There are several long-term birth control options. All hormonal methods
of birth control, including the pill, patch or implant, may cause
similar side effects and long-term risks.

There is no one “best” method of birth control. The best option depends on a person’s lifestyle and medical history.

Most long-term birth control options involve the use of hormones. The
hormones work in two main ways: stopping ovulation and thickening the
cervical mucus, which makes it difficult for the egg and sperm to meet.

Long-term non-hormonal options are also available, including the non-hormonal IUD.

Long-term contraception methods include the following:

Birth control pills: Contraceptive pills often contain both
artificial progesterone and estrogen. People can also use
progesterone-only pills.
Contraceptive shots: Contraceptive shots contain progesterone and
prevent pregnancy by stopping ovulation. A doctor can give a
contraceptive shot every 3 months.
Contraceptive implants: An implant is a small, thin rod that a doctor
inserts under the skin in the arm. It releases hormones that prevent
ovulation. The implant protects from pregnancy for up to 4 years.
Vaginal ring: A person inserts a vaginal ring inside their vagina. The
person leaves the ring in for 3 weeks and then takes it out for 1 week.
The ring releases hormones, which prevent ovulation.
Contraceptive patch: The patch contains hormones that prevent pregnancy.
A person sticks the patch on their back, bottom, or arm. The person
changes the patch weekly for 3 weeks then takes the fourth week off.
They must repeat this every month.
Intrauterine device (IUD): An IUD is a small device that a doctor
inserts in the cervix. Currently, IUDs last anywhere from 3 to 12 years.
People can get hormonal or non-hormonal versions of the IUD.
Surgical Sterilization: Options are available for both sexes. However,
these are permanent methods. They are completely hormone-free.


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