All of your questions about the pill answered.
Does the pill cause breast cancer, some ask? Others ask if it increases the risk of ovarian and uterine malignancy. Women wonder if they can change the timing of their period for an important event. The birth control pill has now been available for over 40 years. Yet year after year letters show that many women are still confused and worried about oral contraceptives (OCs). What's fact and what's fiction?
FACT: Forget age 35 as a deadline for the pill. Many women still believe it's necessary to stop OCs at this age. This is no longer true. Today's pill dosage is a shadow of its former self. We now know that low dose pills in healthy non-smoking women can be used up to menopause and for a few years beyond it. This is a great advantage for women who worry about being a new mother and a grandmother at the same time. Or for those women who develop irregular or heavier periods at this time. The pill can help to regulate inconsistent or irregular cycles.
FACT: Don't worry about OCs and your skin. In fact, the pill helps many patients who suffer from acne. The female hormone in the pill counteracts the effects of testosterone which is naturally present in the body. Virtually all of today's pills have this positive effect.
FACT: Some women are concerned the pill will prevent future pregnancies. Not so. About 50% of those on the pill become pregnant within three months of discontinuing OCs.
FACT: Worried that your period will occur the day of a wedding or another important event? If that's the case it's possible to change the date. You simply start a new pack without taking the usual week off.
FACT: Patients frequently say that the pill causes weight gain. But low dose pills rarely cause any symptoms. A little bloating may occur for a month or two and trigger the feeling you're gaining weight. But if you see the scale going up it's more likely due to lifestyle and diet.
FACT: Many women lose sleep thinking there's a link between OCs and cancer. But studies show that women who have used the pill for eight years have half the chance of developing ovarian cancer and one-third the chance of developing uterine malignancy. No research study has yet shown a convincing association between OCs and breast cancer.
FACT: More good news. Several studies link the pill with a 65% decrease in the formation of benign ovarian cysts. There's also less menstrual pain and bleeding when OCs are used.
FACT: Studies show that OC users have fewer operations. Since OCs decrease the likelihood of pelvic infection there's less injury to fallopian tubes and less chance of tubal pregnancy requiring surgery. And since endometriosis and ovarian cysts are rarer with pill users again there's less likelihood of surgery.
FACT: Some patients say, "I would be willing to use the pill, but I always forget to take pills." Fortunately, there's a novel way to get around forgetfulness. Each starter pack of Marvelon 28 birth control pills contains a smart card. It's the size of a credit card which contains a space-age, but simple alarm clock. A single button on the Forget-Me-Not-Card controls everything. All patients do is activate the starter button when they take the first pill. Twenty-four hours later, a reminder alarm sounds and occurs every 20 seconds for three hours until the pill is taken and the button pressed again. But if the alarm is not turned off, women get another beep eight hours later. Once activated, the alarm will work for three months. By that time, the patient has hopefully learned the routine!
FACT: Some women ask if they can smoke and take the pill. Not a good idea. Smokers over 35 have 40 times greater risk of complications than non-smokers. And if you have a history of liver disease, blood clots, cancer, heart attack or stroke, use other means of contraception. But for healthy women the pill has proven to be one of the great medical benefits of modern times. And it's time to send old ideas off to the museum where they belong.