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Acne Health Center

Birth Control for Acne

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Benefits of Birth Control for Acne

Several clinical trials have shown that taking combination birth control pills can result in:

  • Decreased acne flare-ups
  • Fewer pimples
  • Less inflammation
  • Less severe acne

Many women with severe acne take oral contraceptives with other acne treatments. For women who also want contraception, taking birth control pills for acne also offers one of the most reliable forms of contraception, as long as the pills are taken on schedule as prescribed.

Risks of Oral Contraceptives

Today's birth control pills contain lower doses of estrogen and progesterone than in the past. This has significantly lowered their medical risks. Still, women taking oral contraceptives do have a higher risk of side effects, including heart attack, stroke, and dangerous blood clots in the legs or lungs.

Other risks include:

  • Hypertension (high blood pressure) and other cardiovascular problems
  • Liver and gallbladder disease
  • Migraine headaches
  • Depression and mood changes

Who Should Avoid Birth Control Pills

A decision to take birth control pills needs to take into account your medical history. Certain medical conditions could become worse if you use an oral contraceptive. Birth control pills are usually not advised if you have any of the following conditions:

  • History of heart disease, hypertension, blood clots in your legs or lungs
  • Blood clotting disorder such as factor V Leiden deficiency
  • History of cancer, especially breast, uterine, or liver cancer
  • Liver disease, diabetes, or migraine headaches

You also shouldn't take oral contraceptives if:

  • You're a smoker over age 35
  • You're currently pregnant or breastfeeding
  • You're severely obese or physically immobilized

Tips for Maximum Benefit

Here are tips for getting the most benefit from your acne treatment:

  • Continue taking other acne treatment prescribed by your doctor. An oral contraceptive targets only part of the acne problem.
  • Be sure to precisely follow the schedule for taking birth control pills. Doing so provides the maximum benefit and safety.
  • Talk with your doctor about possible side effects of the birth control you're considering. These can include breast tenderness, headaches, breakthrough bleeding, or an initial, temporary flare-up of acne. It's important to know what to expect.
  • Tell your doctor about any other medications you're taking. Some can interfere with the effectiveness of an oral contraceptive and lead to an unwanted pregnancy. Taking some types of birth control pill together with oral tetracycline (an antibiotic) may make it necessary to use a back-up form of contraception.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Varnada Karriem-Norwood, MD on June 27, 2013
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