Birth control pills (OCPs) are an effective form of contraception, preventing pregnancy in the vast majority of women who take the medication as prescribed. Ortho Evra is a patch equivalent that can be more convenient than taking a daily pill. While these meds are primarily used to prevent pregnancy, they are also used for a variety of medical conditions. However, there are risks involved, and OCPs should not be used in certain patient groups.
Birth control pills are frequently used to regulate periods, and can decrease cramping and heavy menstrual flow in conditions such as endometriosis. They can treat as well as prevent benign breast and simple ovarian cysts from developing. Long term use decreases the incidence of ovarian and uterine cancer. Acne is often successfully treated with OCPs, and male type hair growth such as that found with testosterone producing conditions like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is suppressed.
However, patients with underlying vascular (blood vessel) disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and/or those greater than 35 years old who smoke should not use OCPs, because of the increased risk of heart attack and stroke. Birth control pills also increase the risk of serious blood clot formation in the legs or lungs, leading to deep venous thrombosis and pulmonary embolism respectively. Pancreatitis can result from increased triglycerides, and OCPs should not be used in patients with underlying liver disease or breast cancer. Migraines and gall bladder disease can be made worse. Frequent side effects include weight gain and nausea, and use of antibiotics while on birth control pills can result in pregnancy. Women taking OCPs are not protected from sexually transmitted disease (STD).
Birth control pills are useful at preventing pregnancy and treating a number of common medical conditions. Every woman that is contemplating therapy with this class of medication should consult with her physician to determine the risks versus benefits of its use…Richard R Samuel, MD Family Practice and Urgent Care