What Are The Benefits Of Progestin-Only Birth Control?

Birth control can be one of the trickiest health decisions someone can make. Not only are there many to choose from, but it's a well-known fact that each one comes with its own set of risks, side effects, and adjustment time, with sometimes bad reactions. It's true that no two people will experience the same birth control in quite the same way, and that's even more true when it comes to people who already have certain health conditions. 

A very common form of birth control is the combination daily pill which comes in a blister packet and has to be taken every day at the same exact time in order for it to work the best. Those pills contain a combo of the hormones estrogen and progestin, which work to stop your ovaries from releasing an egg (which could result in pregnancy) along with other changes to the reproductive system, per the Mayo Clinic. But those aren't the only type of daily pills. Progestin-only pills often called the mini pill, are daily and only use one of the hormones. The best way to start off this quest for the best contraceptive for you is by opening a dialogue with your gynecologist. Is there a reason the combo pill is more common? What are the benefits of using progestin-only birth control? Contraceptives using only the progestin hormone come in more forms than just the pill, and it could be the best form for people with certain health conditions or previous reactions.

Progestin-only birth control is great for those with heart conditions

As Healthline reported, "progestin is a synthetic chemical that mimics the effects of progesterone," a steroid hormone the human body naturally makes. Similar to the combo pill, "progestin thickens the mucus of the cervix so that sperm can't enter to fertilize an egg. It also thickens the lining of the uterus, controlling bleeding, and can sometimes stop ovulation." This is already a benefit for some looking to regulate or stop their period altogether. Per Nurx, progestin-only birth control comes in the form of a mini pill (taken daily), an injection (given every three months at the doctor's or self-administered), and an implant (inserted under the skin of the upper arm for up to four years). 

Progestin-only pills often have a lower dosage of progestin compared to combo pills' dosage of estrogen and progestin, per SLYND. But usually, one of the biggest reasons people choose a progestin-only option is because of pre-existing health issues, such as those with cardiovascular conditions, Nurx reported. Unlike the combo pill, "progestin pills are not associated with an increase in blood pressure or cardiovascular disease." People with an increased risk of blood clots or who are over 35 and smoke can't take the daily combination pill, either. As Healthline reported, other good candidates for using progestin-only birth control are those with high blood pressure, deep vein thrombosis (DVT), and cardiovascular disease.

Progestin-only birth control is best for mothers and specific migraine patients

In addition to those with heart conditions or at higher risk of them, Mayo Clinic writes that progestin-only pills are great if you're breastfeeding. Some studies say that birth control containing estrogen can stop or hinder milk production. Even though it's a bit inconclusive, many doctors still recommend the mini pill (or progestin-only pill) if you're breastfeeding. If you are also someone who has migraines with aura, progestin-only forms of birth control are your best option. As Nurx reported, if someone who experiences migraines with aura takes any birth control with estrogen, they're at a higher of stroke. In September, GMA reported that a woman named Jenna Goldman suffered from a stroke at the age of 28 due to the increased risk from her birth control. Goldman has had ocular migraines (under the migraines with aura category) since she was 21, years after she started her chosen form of birth control.

Again, all birth control comes with side effects, and some are going to be exacerbated or bring higher risks if you have other health conditions. But as Dr. Nita Landry, a board-certified OBGYN, told GMA, sometimes risks outweigh the benefits and vice versa. "We have to put the risks in perspective and understand that there are some situations when taking birth control pills will be riskier than it's worth," she said. "But there are a lot of cases when the potential benefits far outweigh those risks."