Birth Control has a major role to play in the overall physical and psychological health of both males and females. An unwanted pregnancy may lead to severe conflicts among partners and change the course of their lifestyle. When it comes to having children couples may be categorized into four sections. First section consists of those couples who are ready to start a family. The second section of couples are those who want to start a family but not at the present time. The third section of couple consist of people who do not want to start family at this time and the fourth section consists of couple who already have kids and do not desire to have any further children[1].

Advertisement

In the United States, most of the couple desire to have at maximum two children. Thus birth control is an important factor in preventing any undesired increase in the family. However, despite all the methods of birth control present still around 50% of pregnancies in the United States tend to be unplanned. Among these, majority of people are adolescents who may be physically matured but psychologically are not in a condition to nurture children[1].

Studies suggest that around 5 million teenage girls use contraceptives on a consistent basis. Studies also suggest that a staggering 1 million girls between the age ranges of 16-19 become pregnant every year. There may be many reasons for this of which inadequate sex education is the primary cause of unwanted pregnancies[1].

Coming to birth control, some matured couples use various forms of birth control for most of their adult lives till the time they are sexually active continuously. There are also certain couples who use barrier form of contraception like intrauterine devices which remain in place for many years[1].

How safe are birth control methods when used for long periods of time is what has been highlighted below in the article. However, the age, past medical history, and certain risk factors all play a role in determining whether birth control in the long run is safe for an individual [2].

Advertisement

What are the Long Term Effects of Using Birth Control?

The most used birth control method as of today is oral contraceptive pills. These pills can be taken for short periods of time but they come with a side effect profile of headaches, weight gain, nausea, and mood swings. Similarly hormonal method of birth control is equally popular. In this method medication containing artificial progesterone or a combination of estrogen and progesterone is present. This boost of hormones in the body affect the hormonal balance which leads to certain side effects till the time the body gets used to the influx of hormones[2].

In some cases, the side effects may be noticed some time after taking this hormonal method of birth control. These side effects may include irregular menstrual cycles with periods of bleeding or spotting in between. There may also be headaches and nausea due to the medication. Unintentional weight gain and mood swings are also quite common in people who take hormonal birth control for some time[2].

Advertisement

Females who use birth control continuously for long periods of time generally do not have any side effects once their body gets used to the pills. There are many females who use contraceptives to treat other medical problems like heavy bleeding during periods, endometriosis, and to control the symptoms of menopause. Since most physicians recommend females to take these pills proves that they are quite safe to use[2].

However, based on the medical history and age of a female, physicians tend to warn them about potential side effects of long term use of birth control. There have been several studies conducted to look at the safety aspect of birth control. According to these studies, there is a likelihood of certain serious complications as a result of long term use of birth control. These complications include:[2]

Cancer. The American Cancer Society is of the opinion that long term use of hormonal birth control increases the risk of breast and cervical cancer in some individuals. In the same token, they also suggest that this form of birth control reduces the risk of endometrial, colorectal, and ovarian cancer. The opinion is based on the study that the progesterone and estrogen present in hormonal form of birth control accelerates the growth of cancer cells in some people and decrease the chances of cancer in some[2].

The Society also is of the opinion that people who have used birth control are at an increased risk of breast cancer than those people who have never used any form of birth control. This increased risk for cancer however comes to a bare minimum when individuals have been off any form of birth control for more than a decade. The risk of cervical cancer is also increased in people who take birth control for long periods of time according to American Cancer Society[2].

This is especially in the population who has been on birth control for more than 5 years. Again, this risk starts diminishing after discontinuation of the pills. Another study done to assess the risk of cancer in females with a sample size of over 100,000 females showed that females between age ranges of 50-70 who were on birth control pills for another medical condition tended to have decreased risk of ovarian and endometrial cancer. Researchers are of the opinion that birth control pills decrease the number of ovulations taking place and thus decreasing the risk of cancer[2].

Blood Clot. A study conducted in 2013 indicated towards a possible increased risk of blood clots in people who use birth control containing both progesterone and estrogen. An increased risk of blood clots means an increased risk of cardiovascular illnesses including myocardial infarction and stroke. This risk magnifies if the female is a smoker[2].

In conclusion, majority of people who have been recommended to use birth control by physicians tend to have no problems even if they use it for long periods of time.

However, the presence of hormones in certain forms of birth control which can be a source of complications in certain females depending on their age, past medical history and overall health status[2].

In such cases, physicians may recommend to avoid certain forms of birth control. The two most serious side effects of long term birth control is the increased risk of cancer and blood clots. This risk rises significantly if the female has a past history of blood clots or cancer or there is a family history of these conditions[2].

These female are recommended to use alternate forms of contraception in the form of intrauterine devices or vaginal ring. It is best to consult with a physician before starting on birth control to review whether there is any increased risk of side effects if the individual plans to use the birth control for a long time[2].

References:  

Also Read:

Sheetal DeCaria MD

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

,

Last Modified On: June 18, 2019

This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer

Advertisement

Sign Up for Our Newsletter

We'll help you live each day to the healthiest