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Doctors often suggest birth control pills as means of regulating menstrual cycle and alleviating an acne problem. Should woman try this? Could it be just a myth? To explain this, we should learn first what birth control pills are, and how they work.

What are birth control pills?

Oral contraceptives, or birth control pills, contain synthetic forms of two hormones that the body produces naturally. These hormones are estrogen and progestin, which regulate the female menstrual cycle. Some types of oral contraceptives use only progesterone hormones, but most use a combination of estrogen and progestin. As of 2004, there were three types of oral contraceptives marketed.
 

  • Monophasic uses a fixed dose of both estrogen and progestin throughout the entire cycle.
  • Biphasic oral contraceptives use a constant amount of estrogen during the full cycle. At the same time, the amount of progestin is lowered during the first half of the cycle, and increased in the second half. This shift in dosage intends to mimic the natural ovarian cycle.
  • Triphasic oral contraceptives may vary both the estrogen and progestin levels at different times during the cycle.


The goal of the biphasic and triphasic formulations is to achieve adequate control of the menstrual cycle while using lower doses of both estrogen and progestin, thereby r

educing the risk of adverse effects.

Do I take the pill or not?

The decision about whether or not to take birth control pills to regulate your period and control your acne is both medical and personal. From your doctor, you need all the facts you can get. It is true that birth control pills can regulate periods, and some are effective in controlling acne. But what are the pros of taking birth control pills, and what are the cons? Think about your options, make a decision, and then let your doctor know what you decided.
You do not have to decide right away, but your doctor may also understand your concerns, and may be able to reassure you as well. If your doctor does not have the patience to answer your questions, then seek a second opinion immediately.

Acne and birth control pills

If you are a woman looking for a way to reduce acne breakouts, you might want to discuss your skin problem with a gynecologist instead of a dermatologist. The FDA has approved low-dosage birth-control pills such as Ortho Tri-Cyclen and generic norgestimate/ethinyl estradiol for use in the adult acne treatment. In Canada, doctors approve Diane-35, a combination of Cyproterone acetate and ethinyl estradiol for the treatment of acne. Depending on your lifestyle and medical history, you could solve two problems with one birth control pill prescription.

How does the birth control pill work for acne?

Increased oil production is a common problem for women if they have excess androgen production. This production can be highest just before menstruation starts. It appears that low-dosage birth control pills can decrease the presence of excess androgen, thereby decreasing breakouts and alleviating an acne problem. They work particularly well when used in conjunction with other therapies such as topical antibacterial agents or tretinoins. For many women this is no surprise, because many have noticed an improvement in their skin after they started taking birth control pills.

According to a double blind, placebo-controlled study published in Fertility and Sterility, low-dose birth control pills can be an effective and safe treatment for moderate acne. The clinical trial found that the birth-control pill containing levonorgestrel actually reduced the appearance of acne. Low-dose oral contraceptives also result in a low occurrence of estrogen-related side effects such as nausea, headaches, and breast tenderness, in addition to causing low, if any, weight gain.

Is taking birth control pills to control acne the right option for you?

You must know there are risks associated with taking birth control pills. That is why you should take some things into account before making a final decision. The risks include increased chances of heart attack, strokes, blood clots, and breast cancer. All these side effects are compounded if you smoke. Some other side effects are vaginal bleeding, fluid retention, melasma (dark-brown skin patches), and depression. Not all that may be a worthwhile trade-off for a skin clear of acne. However, if you are already using or considering usage of the pill for birth control, this remedy may be worth looking into.

Reducing acne with birth control pills

You must consider many issues before choosing birth control pills as an acne reducing treatment. Most important is whether you’ve used any other treatment before making this choice. There are many pros and cons about taking birth control pills, even without considering them for acne. In some cases birth control pills reduce the affects of acne, but it is not always the case. Whether or not birth control pills will help depends largely on the skin type, hygiene habits, and heredity factors.

Possible positives of birth control pill use are that they will alleviate some of the acne problems due to the amount of hormones that keeps the body in hormonal balance. Beside this, birth control pills may regulate periods and prevent pregnancy. Birth control pills may relieve PMS and cramps as well.

Negatives of birth control pill use are that smokers have more chance of getting cancer if they take them. It is also important to know that the pill does not prevent sexually transmitted disease, and does not always prevent pregnancy. If you are too young, you may be setting yourself up for acne yeast infections. These infections are difficult to cure completely. Moreover, you may gain weight; most commonly girls report gaining up to 12 pounds in weight. Birth control pill may also cause cysts in the breasts, and cause them to become tender and painful. Blood clots are possible side effects as well. Other side effects are headache, irregular periods, fatigue, and abdominal pain.

Are there medical benefits of birth control pills?

Birth control pills not only prevent pregnancy, but they also have quite a few medical benefits. Many possible side effects might worry you, as well as many other young girls are worried. However, most women who used birth control pills did not experience any side effects, only benefits. In fact, many teen girls take the birth control pill just for its medical benefits and not for its protection against pregnancy. There are many other medical benefits of birth control pills, and acne solving is just one of those.

Acne: Until now, you’ve probably learned that birth control pills are able to improve an acne situation. For moderate to severe acne, which over-the-counter and prescription medications cannot cure, your doctor might prescribe birth control pills. The hormones in the birth control pill can help stop acne from forming. It does not usually matter which type of birth control pills you take, since most of them could help treat acne. You should be patient though, since it takes several months for the birth control pills to work.

Menstrual cramps: For girls who experience severe menstrual cramps, birth control pills may be the solution, as they can help decrease menstrual cramps. Because birth control pills prevent ovulation, they also get rid of the pain that you experience in the middle of your menstrual cycle.

Irregular menstrual periods: For girls whose menstrual periods are irregular, whether too often or too late, birth control pills can help regulate the cycle. They can also reduce the amount and length of menstrual bleeding.

Read More: Side Effects of Birth Control Pills

Other medical benefits of birth control pills

Because birth control pills reduce bleeding, you are less likely to get anemia. (This condition is a low number of red blood cells, which carry oxygen from the lungs to the tissues.) Birth control pills decrease your chance of getting endometrial cancer and ovarian cancer, ovarian cysts, and breast lumps, all serious disorders of a woman’s reproductive system. The birth control pill also protects against infections of your fallopian tubes. (This is a common problem that some doctors call pelvic inflammatory disease, or PID. This condition requires hospitalization once it occurs.) Birth control pills also protect against pregnancies that occur outside the uterus, called tubal or ectopic pregnancies.

Finally, you must know that birth control pills that contain estrogen and progestin hormones with higher androgen male hormone activity are more likely to make acne worse. Birth control pills that contain hormones with lower androgen activity are less likely to do so, and may actually help clear it.
Birth control pills that may help improve acne include Desogen, Demulen, Brevicon, Ortho Tri-Cyclen, Ovcon 35, Ortho Novum 7/7/7 and Nelova 1/35, so talk to your doctor and choose one of those. If you are having trouble with acne after using one of these for several months, talk to your health care provider about switching to another pill.