It was sometime in middle school that I first heard one of my classmates mention taking birth control. I imagined her round plastic case holding its tiny pills, and I immediately assumed this meant she was having sex.
With a name like “birth control,” it’s easy to think the pill’s only function is to prevent pregnancy—but that isn’t true at all. In fact, there are a plethora of causes that provoke women of all ages to enlist help from the pill. Here are some of the most common reasons your peers take hormonal contraceptives (none of which have to do with sex).
1. PCOS: Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
This hormonal endocrine disorder is so common amongst women that it racks up three to five million cases a year. It involves having tiny cysts clustered around your ovaries. A lot of young teenagers who experience menstruation irregularly may have PCOS to blame.
Other common symptoms include annoyingly long periods, unwanted hair growth, acne, and weight gain. Luckily, birth control can be used to help regulate periods, and combination formula pills can give you a break from the other side effects.
2. PMDD and PMS
Most girls know what Premenstrual Syndrome is—a pesky set of symptoms that nag you before your period—but they don’t realize a more escalated version of PMS exists.
Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder, or PMDD, is characterized by PMS symptoms that affect a woman more severely. The line of distinction between the two is symptom severity and whether or not mental health is affected. Though PMS is no walk in the park, PMDD usually tacks on things like depression or anxiety.
Several different types of hormonal birth control can be used to combat symptoms, so it’s important your doctor understands what affects you the most before prescribing your pill.
Ouch! This painful condition affects up to one in 10 women every year and occurs when tissue starts growing outside the uterus. Symptoms are very similar to PMDD and PMS, but endometriosis can cause internal scarring and even infertility. Birth control is used to help keep that tissue at bay by reducing the hormones that encourage growth.
Let’s face it (no pun intended), every girl wants her skin to be radiant and beautiful. Unfortunately, puberty and overactive testosterone levels can get in the way of that natural glow. However, the female hormone estrogen in most birth controls can decrease your body’s level of testosterone, so oily skin and the pimples that follow are much more manageable.
5. Cancer Prevention
If you and your friends are young and otherwise healthy, it’s hard to imagine cancer as a looming risk. However, popping an oral contraceptive every day for longer than a year could cut your risk of ovarian and uterine cancer by up to 50%. If these types of cancer run in your family, or if your mother has been diagnosed, it may be a good idea to sign up for your own round case of tiny pills.
This list could go on and on. Try to remember your peers may have other reasons for popping the pill before you give them a judgmental side eye. Plus, if they are having sex, you should applaud them for being safe!
Cover image courtesy of Shutterstock.