Calling them “birth control” pills is less of a mouth full than improve-your-acne pills or cure-heavy-and-painful-periods pills or get-some-control-over-your-life pills, but it’s very misleading. All the birth control prescriptions I wrote (well, um, typed and clicked, since everything is electronic now) this year have not been for “birth control.”
I have written them for girls who have missed several days of school and endured embarrassing stains due to irregular and unpredictable and/or heavy and/or painful periods. I have written them for female athletes and actors who want lighter and fewer periods for their practices and performances. I have written them for girls who just want control over their life, so they can control when they bleed and plan out their menses around SAT tests and vacations. I have written them for girls with moderate to severe acne. There is so much there than just “birth control”.
And there are so many more options, than just pills. I have prescribed patch and chewable options for girls who can’t swallow pills. I have also referred female patients to the gynecologist to discuss safe and really first line option of the levonorgestrel-containing intrauterine device (IUD), more commonly knowns Mirena. This is a small, flexible T-shaped device that contains a low dose of hormone.
Of course side effects vary for everyone, but studies show that pills and Mirena have few side effects and on average don’t cause weight changes and don’t affect fertility. Again, everyone’s body is different and some people who have fertility issues may have had them before starting on any of these therapies. They also don’t cause cancer (see the Q&A here). In fact, studies show that they decrease the risk of ovarian and uterine cancer.
Here is the website that I frequently refer my patients and their families to, from Nationwide Children’s Hospital and the very smart Dr. Elise Berlan. BC4Teens, as in birth control (really in quotes) for teens. Please read it if you think you or your child is interested in pills or call for a referral to a gynecologist to learn more about the IUD procedure. We can raise a generation of empowered girls. Let’s do it!