Using Birth Control Pills for Noncontraceptive Reasons

In 2011, the nonprofit Guttmacher Institute, using federal survey data from the National Survery of Family Growth found that 14 percent of pill users said they were taking the medication for a purpose other than contraception. That means about 1.5 million women rely on birth control pills exclusively for noncontraceptive purposes.

Among the reasons for using oral contraception other than the obvious, are reducing cramps or menstrual pain, regulating periods and treating acne. Other uses include controlling endometriosis, a condition in which uterine tissue grows outside the uterus, and reducing bleeding due to uterine fibroid tumors. Birth control pills can also be taken to treat Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. PCOS is a hormonal imbalance which causes irregular menstrual periods, acne, and excess hair growth.

"It is well established that oral contraceptives are essential health care because they prevent unintended pregnancies," said study author Rachel K. Jones. "This study shows that there are other important health reasons why oral contraceptives should be readily available to the millions of women who rely on them each year."

There are also some risks associated with the pill. Users are at a slightly higher risk for rare but serious problems such as stroke, heart attack or blood clots. The risk is much higher for users who are thirty-five and older, overweight or are smokers.