6 Reasons Why People Take Birth Control (Only One Is Pregnancy Prevention)

Photographed by Jessica Nash.
Although politicians continue to debate the importance of birth control, let’s get one thing straight: Birth control is vital to health. It gives people the opportunity to plan their futures and families and decide if, when, and under what circumstances to get pregnant — and 87% of adults believe that is “one of the most important decisions” a person can make. Plus, according to a 2017 study, more than 85% of adults agree that birth control is a basic part of women’s health care.
No one should have to explain why they’re opting for a specific type of medical treatment, but with so many birth control myths floating around, it’s important to clarify that contraception isn’t just used for pregnancy prevention — though there’s nothing wrong or shameful about using it for that reason. In fact, a survey that from Seventeen magazine and Power To Decide (the campaign to prevent unplanned pregnancy) found that 57% of girls ages 15-18 (and a whopping 77% of the 15- to 16-year-olds) were primarily using birth control for reasons other than pregnancy prevention. So whether it's hormonal or non-hormonal, long-acting or a quick condom, birth control is vital for many people for many reasons.
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In case you need more convincing (or someone you know does), here are just a few reasons that people might need, want, or choose to use birth control.
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illustrated by Paola Delucca.
Pregnancy prevention

Birth control allows people to decide when they want to start a family – or even if they want to start a family. This is important for single and married people, as well as child-free people and parents, alike.
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illustrated by Paola Delucca.
Endometriosis

As we know from Lena Dunham's struggle with endometriosis, it can be a debilitating disease that causes painful cramps, irregular bowel movements, and even infertility. Contraceptives are often the first line of treatment for endometriosis, so birth control can be vital and life-changing for the 1 in 10 girls and women in the US that struggle with it. Even if you don't have a diagnosis like endometriosis, using hormonal birth control can alleviate cramps and symptoms of PMS that put you out of commission.
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illustrated by Paola Delucca.
Acne

Many teens start birth control to help clear up and prevent acne. This is just as valid a reason to use birth control as any other. In fact, I started the Pill at 15 for acne and used it for eight full years before I became sexually active. Combined hormonal birth control methods (which contain progestin and estrogen hormones) can help stop breakouts, as can hormonal IUDs. The Pill is even considered more effective at treating acne than antibiotics. Birth control can slow down the production of sebum, a naturally occurring oil that can cause acne, and help regulate (or eliminate!) periods for those people who break out around that time of the month.
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illustrated by Paola Delucca.
Economic opportunities

Maybe people aren’t explicitly going on birth control for this reason, but that doesn’t change the fact that the economic opportunities that birth control opens up are vast. There were no women CEOs of Fortune 500 companies when birth control was legalized for all women in 1972, and since then that number has jumped to more than 30. Not to mention, a 2012 study found that the availability of birth control contributed to 30% of the wage gains made by women between the 1960s and the 1990s. Because this number should be — and will be — much higher eventually, it’s imperative to continue the fight for women’s rights and access to birth control for all.
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illustrated by Paola Delucca.
Regulating periods

As Chinese Olympic swimmer Fu Yuhanui knows, periods can come at the most inconvenient times. But there are lots of reasons people may want to regulate their periods, whether it affects their jobs, or they have irregular periods thanks to polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). Thanks to hormonal birth control, you can even opt to skip your period entirely. (And yes, it’s generally safe to skip your period — just ask your doctor.)
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illustrated by Paola Delucca.
Maybe someday: cancer prevention

For a long time, studies have suggested that the Pill reduces women’s risk of uterine cancer, and a recent study suggests that the IUD might also reduce the risk of cervical cancer. It’s a little too early to come to final conclusions about birth control’s cancer-preventing potential, but these finding are promising. Hopefully, with more research, we’ll have a better idea about whether or not this is truly a benefit of taking hormonal birth control.

It’s also worth mentioning that there have been a few recent articles claiming that birth control use is linked to breast cancer, though the context is misleading. According to a New York Times letter to the editor from three doctors, “Given the existing literature showing that hormonal contraception reduces both cancer-related and all-cause mortality, raising false alarms about the safety of contraceptives is a disservice to women… New alarm about the relationship between birth control and breast cancer is unwarranted.”

So, while this study does appear to raise concern about potential risk factors, it is important to note that the researchers did not rule out the possibility that the association between birth control use and breast cancer may be due to other lifestyle choices (like alcohol consumption and physical activity). If you’re worried about the risk, there are plenty of non-hormonal methods out there to use that can keep you protected without worrying about potential side effects.
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