You’ve used it for years to prevent pregnancy. But is there another reason to stay on the Pill as you get older?
It’s just a little pill but, since its introduction in the 1960s, it has had a huge impact on our lives. Thanks to being 99 per cent effective, the contraceptive pill, used by so many of us to avoid unwanted pregnancies, is one of the most popular choices of contraception — and around 3.5 million British women take some form of it every day.
But could the Pill have another use?
The answer is yes. It can help regulate periods, clear up skin problems and reduce acne. And it may also help us look younger.
That was the finding from one study carried out by scientists, at the University of Erlangen-Nurnberg in Germany, into the Pill and hormone replacement therapy (HRT).
This is because both HRT and the contraceptive pill contain oestrogen. This hormone — at higher levels — can, according to the study, make women look up to eight years younger than they really are.
Naturally, oestrogen starts to decline in our 40s, and we produce less collagen and elastin. This makes us look older.
So, is the Pill the secret to looking younger for longer? And should we keep taking it into our 40s?
Years ago, doctors advised that it was risky for women over 40 to continue with the Pill. But in more recent times, medical opinion has changed.
Experts now say that the combined oral contraceptive pill is perfectly safe to take after the age of 40, as long as you aren’t overweight and don’t smoke.
Consultant gynaecologist Tania Adib, says: ‘If the Pill is working for you, and you don’t have those risk factors, then it’s fine to stay on it until menopause.
‘In fact, we recommend it, because lots of women over 40 think they are no longer fertile, and that’s when many women can be caught out.’
There are many benefits to the contraceptive pill, aside from contraception itself.
Tania says: ‘The Pill can help with heavy periods, pelvic pain, moodswings and, in fact, it’s often prescribed to help with PMT — premenstrual tension.’
Not only that, it can also help reduce the symptoms of the perimenopause — the period leading up to actual menopause.
For some women, the symptoms can arrive just a couple of years before the menopause proper. But for others, they can last for 10 years, or more.
Tania says: ‘Some women have no perimenopause symptoms. But others have hot flushes, night sweats, moodswings and skin breakouts. The contraceptive pill can mask these symptoms, because it regulates your hormones.’
The pros health-wise of taking the Pill seem plentiful.
And increasingly, we are discovering the benefits it can have on our looks too.
Tania says: ‘Oestrogen is the hormone that makes women glow. Look at a pregnant woman and they always look fantastic. This is because of the oestrogen in their blood. Oestrogen does make women look great.’
Edited by Julie Cook
The Pill makes me look better… and feel fitter
Once I hit 40, my periods became irregular — heavy one minute, vanishing the next. I run a lot, and the erratic periods interrupted my fitness routine. It made me feel and look sluggish. So I went on the Pill. It changed everything, and made my periods regular. It also stopped any PMT symptoms I was having — such as feeling angry or upset. Plus, the lack of hormonal fluctuations means my skin’s clearer too. I fully intend to stay on the Pill until the menopause.
From Jen Harrison, 43, of Darlington, Co Durham