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How Birth Control Pills Affect Perimenopause

written by: Suzanne Florin • edited by: BStone • updated: 3/13/2011

Birth control pills provide several health benefits such as regulation of the menstrual cycle, treatment of menstrual disorders and preventing pregnancy. Learn more about birth control pills and perimenopause — the reasons why perimenopausal women may benefit from taking birth control pills.

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    Overview

    800px-Pilule contraceptive A number of benefits may be obtained from taking birth control pills, and perimenopause women may use them to prevent or treat certain medical conditions. Aside from preventing pregnancy, birth control pills are effective in treating menstrual disorders such as heavy bleeding and irregular periods. They also prevent bone loss and osteoporosis, as birth control pills supply estrogen, a hormone that slows down the thinning of the bones and increases bone thickness. Perimenopause women that may have severe acne can also benefit from some oral contraceptives that treat acne. Birth control pills also give protection from ovarian, uterine, and endometrial cancer.

    Low dosage birth control pills are the safest to use for an extended period of time, and they do not usually have side effects. These pills contain less estrogen (20 micrograms) than the regular birth control pills (30 - 50 micrograms). Even so, they still offer a number of benefits for women in their perimenopause stage, or those in their 40's or 50's.

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    What Is Perimenopause?

    Perimenopause is the period in a woman's life that occurs a few years before the menstrual period stops. The age when a woman enters perimenopause varies; some women stop having their period in their late 30's, while for some it occurs around the age of 50. But typically, perimenopausal women are those in their 40's or 50's.

    The perimenopause stage usually lasts for four years, but some women go through it for only a few months, while for others perimenopause lasts for ten years or more. This period ends when a woman reaches menopause, which is twelve months of not having the menstrual period.

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    The Use of Birth Control Pills During Perimenopause

    Perimenopausal women may use birth control pills to reduce the risk of ovarian, uterine, and endometrial cancer. Birth control pills also help regulate menstruation and treat heavy bleeding. Among the other benefits of using birth control pills during perimenopause are the following:

    To prevent pregnancy

    During perimenopause, a woman still ovulates, thus the chance of pregnancy is likely. However, pregnancy in perimenopausal women is associated with a number of risks for the mother and the baby such as the following:

    • Premature delivery
    • Low birth weight
    • Still birth
    • Spontaneous abortion
    • Chromosome abnormalities and gestational diabetes in babies

    A pregnant woman in the perimenopause stage is also likely to have her baby in a breech position, thus delivery is via cesarean section. Recovery during this type of delivery can take longer than vaginal delivery, and cesarean section is also associated with several infections.

    Birth control pills taken during perimenopause stop ovulation, thus preventing pregnancy, if taken regularly.

    To prevent osteoporosis

    When a woman reaches menopause, estrogen production declines. This condition has a great impact on the bones, as estrogen helps slow down the thinning of bones, and promotes bone thickness. Osteoporosis may be prevented by taking birth control pills because of the estrogen hormone that they contain.

    To normalize cholesterol levels

    The estrogen in low dosage birth control pills causes an increase in HDL cholesterol levels (High-Density Lipoprotein), otherwise known as "good" cholesterol, and they decrease LDL cholesterol levels (Low-Density Lipoprotein) or the "bad" cholesterol. However, birth control pills that contains progestin provide the opposite effect.

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    Conclusion

    There are many potential benefits of taking oral contraceptives during the perimenopause stage, but it is important to talk to your doctor about what is right for you. Birth control pills must only be taken with a doctor's prescription. Although there are benefits in using these pills, perimenopausal women that have breast cancer, heart disease, blood clotting disorder and those who smoke are not advised to take oral contraceptives. These medical conditions can increase the risk of complications and serious side effects of birth control pills.

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    Resources

    Very-Low Dose Birth Control Pills in Mid-Life, http://www.aafp.org/afp/981015ap/981015c.html

    Perimenopause, http://www.webmd.com/menopause/guide/guide-perimenopause

    Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons/suzanne88


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