Menopause is a phase where your menstrual cycle stops completely. When you have not had your menses for twelve months in succession, you have officially entered the menopause phase. In most women, menopause begins when they are 45-55. In the United States, 51 is considered the average menopausal age. Menopause doesn’t happen one fine day.
The process is slow and gradual. The symptoms begin showing up about 5-10 years before menopause occurs. That phase is called perimenopause or menopause transition as your body gradually prepares for menopause.
Can you reverse or delay menopause? Well, that’s a matter of contradiction. We all know that menopause is a natural biological process. It will happen when it has to. However, studies conducted over time talk about several possibilities for delaying menopause.
One study deduced that lowering your carbohydrate intake and adding more legumes and fish to your diet may help to defer menopause by approximately two years. So, now, coming to the topic, do birth control pills can delay menopause? Let us read on to know more of the same.
The Role of Birth Control Pills – Understanding the Basics
It’s not unknown that the best, simplest, and most convenient way to avoid a pregnancy is by taking birth control pills. However, that’s not the only functionality of these pills. You’ll be amazed to know the other functions these pills have. Let’s take a look at them. Birth control pills:
- Help to control the menstrual cycle
- Minimizes the risk of anemia
- Lessens menstrual migraines, and menstrual cramps
- Minimizes hot flashes (when transitioning from perimenopause to menopause)
- Lessens the risk of colon cancer, ovarian cancer, and uterine cancer
- Helps in treating uterine fibroids
- Helps to manage acne and unwanted hair growth
So that was about the birth control pills. Now, let’s look at the role of birth control pills in delaying menopause. Or, rather, is there any possibility of the same? Let’s check it out.
Does Birth Control Pills Delay Menopause? How?
No, menopause will not be delayed. But when on birth control pills, it may be difficult for you to understand if you have reached menopause or not. This is because birth control pills can conceal or mask most of the menopausal symptoms.
As mentioned above, birth control pills help in regularizing your periods. They are also beneficial in lessening the incidences and frequency of hot flashes.
So, you may be nearing menopause. But suppose you are on birth control pills to avoid unwanted pregnancy. In that case, you may not experience an increased incidence of hot flashes. Your period also won’t be irregular, like how it usually is in the menopause transition phase. Moreover, birth control pills also work towards regularizing the flow. So, even in perimenopause, you will have regular periods.
Moreover, perimenopause comes with several problems of the bone and skin. The birth control pills also help to revert this to a greater extent. So, even if you are transitioning into menopause, you won’t be able to feel the bone and skin problems so intensely.
Of the different contraceptive pills available, one is the combination pill. It has both estrogens and progesterones (in their artificial versions). Another type is the POP (Progesterone-only pill), which only contains synthetic progesterone.
In menopause, the two main reproductive hormones undergo a massive decline. They are responsible for the majority of the symptoms women encounter. Their numbers start depleting in the perimenopause stage. In the last two years of perimenopause, the levels of these hormones are exceptionally low.
Now, if you are on the combination pill, the effects are even more because it has the artificial forms of both hormones. You will bleed each month just like you do in your periods. The combination pill could also have side effects like alteration in appetite, low sex drive, and mood swings.
In the case of the progesterone-only pill, the effect may be less. Your periods could be irregular or stop until you are on the tablet. You could even experience spotting between your cycles.
Women above 50 should refrain from using the combined pill, which could lead to health complications. At the same time, the progesterone-only pill may be used up to 55 years of age.
How to Tell if You Are in Perimenopause or Menopause When on Pills?
As mentioned, the time frame for menopause is 45-55 years. Whereas for perimenopause, it is 40-44 years. If you fall under any of these age groups, then the best way to see if you are in the transition phase or have hit menopause is to stop the pills. Once you do that, then the natural cycle of the body will resume. However, things won’t happen readily. Your body will take a while to return to its previous form.
Suppose you were on the combined pill, and your menses eventually start getting irregular or stop once you cease taking the pill. In that case, that means perimenopause or menopause has set in.
The same goes for the progesterone-only pill. Suppose irregular periods continue even when you are off the pill. Then, it would be best to conclude that you are transitioning into menopause. If your periods stop right after you discontinue the pills, menopause has begun. The false menses were because of the effect of the drugs.
Once the effect of the pills starts going away from your system, you will begin to experience other menopausal symptoms as well. Some of these include:
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats
- Vaginal dryness
- Mood swings
- Hair thinning
- Dryness of skin
- Bone loss
- Weight gain
- Irregular or stopped periods
- Fullness of breasts
- Lessened sleep
- Concentration problems/forgetfulness
For those who have diabetes, heart problems, blood clots, or high blood pressure, taking blood control pills might aggravate their condition. Common side effects include bloating, nausea, headaches, breast tenderness, high blood pressure, etc.
Birth control pills aren’t suited for females who smoke and are above 35 years of age. Tobacco products have nicotine, which produces additional stress on the blood vessels when it reacts with birth control pills.
Women may opt for birth control pills. There are other choices as well. These include skin patches, hormonal injections, vaginal rings, and IUDs. There are barrier methods, like sponges, condoms, cervical caps, and diaphragms, that block the sperm from reaching the egg.
Birth control pills do not just help you avoid pregnancy, but they also have various health benefits. However, suppose you have reached the perimenopause and menopause stages and still show no symptoms. In that case, you must consider stopping the pills for a while.
But, when you do that, you can put yourself at risk of an unwanted pregnancy, especially if your periods haven’t yet stopped. So, talk to your doctor, who may advise you on alternatives for birth control pills. However, if you are 55 and above, birth control pills can be stopped as pregnancy chances are almost nil.