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Access to Birth Control Is About Much More Than Controlling Birth

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BIRTH CONTROL PILL
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Every month, I refill my prescription for birth control pills and every day at the same time (well, mostly the same time), I swallow one of the little pills with a sip of water. But the reason I started taking birth control pills and continue to take them is probably not what you're thinking.

In high school, I thought the birth control pill was supposed to be used only to prevent pregnancy. It wasn't until I began having irregular periods that I learned the pill could be used to help regulate my menstrual cycle. I went to the gynecologist and was prescribed my first pack of birth control pills.

When I graduated from college and went in for another gynecological exam, I found out I would be, again, using the pill for a reason other than family planning. My gynecologist had wanted to do an ultrasound because something didn't seem right. Trying to keep my heartbeat down, I waited to ask questions until after he delivered the diagnosis: I had a five-centimeter ovarian cyst.

Small growths are normal, but this one was borderline hazardous to my health. My gynecologist wrote out a prescription for a different brand of birth control for me to take, as certain types aid in reducing the size of ovarian cysts. He also told me that if I started to feel any immediate, searing pain, I should go straight to the hospital. I asked why, and he said that the pain would be caused by a ruptured cyst, which can cause internal bleeding.

I filled the prescription that day.

The birth control pill, also called an oral contraceptive or just "the pill," has at least half a dozen health benefits in addition to preventing pregnancy. A recent study from the Guttmacher Institute found that 58 percent of all pill users use it for reasons other than family planning.

The 5-4 Supreme Court ruling on the Hobby Lobby case that "corporations cannot be required to provide contraception coverage for their employees" is a slap in the face for all women, especially those who are employed by for-profit companies and use hormonal contraceptives.

Women need to have access to the birth control pill (and other forms of safe contraception) for family planning, for the prevention of certain cancers, for menstrual regulation and many other health concerns. I am one of many women who have used the pill for reasons other than birth control, because not being on the pill could have had serious consequences. My health was on the line and birth control was the solution.

The merits of the pill and whether it should or should not be covered by employee-sponsored health insurance have been debated for years. There have been articles and posts that talk about why the birth control pill should be covered and there have been women who talk about using it for safe sex. However, there needs to be more conversations from men and women about the additional benefits of the pill.

Here are five important benefits of the pill that go beyond just birth control:

1. Menstruation Regulator or the "Save My Underwear" Pill
Some women switch to taking birth control pills because it helps to regulate periods that are unpredictable or simply irregular. One of the most common reasons for irregular periods is Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, the progesterone-like medication included in most pills helps the menstrual cycle. Having a regular cycle also has a direct relationship to marking it off on the calendar and being prepared for the inevitable blood flow; it's best to avoid ruining a perfectly good pair of underwear.

2. The "Better Your Flow" Pill
On a similar note, while self-explanatory, women who have a heavier flow lose more blood than women with a lighter flow. Women with heavier flows are vulnerable to the symptoms of anemia including feeling tired or weak. The pill helps lighten women's menstrual blood flow.

3. The "Bad Ass Cancer Fighter"
According to a 2010 study, hormonal contraception "could be used for primary protection from ovarian and endometrial cancer development." Even though ovarian cancer accounts for JUST three percent of cancers for women, Cancer.org states that it "causes more deaths than any other cancer relating to the female reproductive system."

4. The (Real) Miracle Cure for Acne
No one likes to wake up in the morning on the right side of the bed with a new crop of pimples spread across her face. The birth control pill can help to clear your skin because most contraceptives help to decrease the male hormone testosterone, which is bad news for trying to maintain a clear face. Thus, the birth control pill is offers one of the saving graces to having smooth skin.

5. "That-Time-Of-The-Month" Relief
We all know it: The must-have-chocolate, time-to-grab-the-heating-pad-because-periods-are-coming feeling that affects us once a month. Cramps, or the female body's version of torture, are caused by prostaglandin, a chemical that triggers contractions in the uterus. The more prostaglandin is produced, the worse the cramps. The birth control pill decreases the amount of prostaglandin, relieving thousands of women of monthly uterine pain.