The Birth Control Pill and Teenagers
Many times doctors will prescribe the pill to teenage girls for reasons other than birth control. For young women who have consistently had irregular menstrual periods, severe menstrual cramps, severe acne, chronic and severe PMS symptoms, endometriosis or polycystic ovary syndrome, oral contraceptives may be prescribed in an effort to regulate hormone levels and regulate menstrual periods. Sometimes girls may not be producing a sufficient amount of estrogen, whether as a side effect of anorexia or excessive exercise or from damage to the ovaries from radiation or chemotherapy. In situations such as these, birth control pills may be prescribed in an attempt to replace lowered estrogen levels. Young women who have had endometriosis for a certain length of time may also be prescribed oral contraceptives to suppress the condition. Finally, teens and young women who are sexually active may ask to be prescribed the birth control pill to prevent pregnancy. Generally speaking, the pill is pretty safe for women in this age bracket, and generally has only a few relatively minor side effects.
Health Benefits of the Pill for Teens
The birth control pill can be an effective treatment of acne, can protect against PID, can lower the risk of a pregnancy outside the uterus, and can actually lower the risk for certain cancers. Studies have shown that the pill may protect young women against cancer of the ovaries and cancer of the uterine lining-a woman is only half as likely to get cancer of the uterus or ovaries if she is taking the pill. Additionally, the birth control pill can regulate menstrual periods which have been irregular or particularly heavy, decreasing cramps as well. Young women who have had severe acne once they went through puberty may also see significant skin benefits after starting the pill.
Health Risks for Teens on the Pill
There appears to be no significant increase in heart attack or stroke risk in healthy young women taking the pill as long as they do not smoke and are not obese. While there appears to be a slight risk for young women on the pill for developing blood clots in the legs, it is actually less of a risk than pregnancy itself. Women taking the pill have a risk of 15-20 women out of 100,000 developing a blood clot, while women who are pregnant have a 60 out of 100,000 risk of developing a blood clot. Remind teens that if they are on the pill and are on an airplane flight they should drink lots of water and should get up and walk around whenever possible.
There appears to be no change in fertility following use of the birth control pill, and regular periods and ovulation should begin almost immediately following cessation of the pill. Keep in mind that a teenager who had irregular periods or heavy bleeding prior to going on the pill, will quite likely have the same symptoms after going off the pill. Since most teens have reached 95% of their final height before they have their first period, birth control pills will have no bearing on a teen's growth. While some teens gain weight while on the pill, many more do not. Encourage your daughter to eat healthy meals and get plenty of exercise while on the pill. All in all, the pill is an effective and safe medication for young women, both for certain medical conditions and as a form of birth control.