Noncontraceptive benefits and therapeutic uses of the oral contraceptive pill

Semin Reprod Med. 2001 Dec;19(4):295-303. doi: 10.1055/s-2001-18637.


The oral contraceptive pill is one of the most extensively studied medications ever prescribed. The health benefits are numerous and outweigh the risks of their use. Definitive evidence exists for protection against ovarian and endometrial cancers, benign breast disease, pelvic inflammatory disease requiring hospitalization, ectopic pregnancy, and iron-deficiency anemia. It has also been suggested that oral contraceptives may provide a benefit on bone mineral density, uterine fibroids, toxic shock syndrome, and colorectal cancer. Minimal supportive evidence exists for oral contraceptives protecting against the development of functional ovarian cysts and rheumatoid arthritis. Treatment of medical disorders with oral contraceptives is an "off-label" practice. Dysmenorrhea, irregular or excessive bleeding, acne, hirsutism, and endometriosis-associated pain are common targets for oral contraceptive therapy. Most patients are unaware of these health benefits and therapeutic uses of oral contraceptives, and they tend to overestimate their risk. Counseling and education are necessary to help women make well-informed health-care decisions and improve compliance.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bone Density / drug effects
  • Contraceptives, Oral / therapeutic use*
  • Endometrial Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Female
  • Fibrocystic Breast Disease / prevention & control
  • Health Education
  • Humans
  • Hyperandrogenism / drug therapy
  • Menstruation Disturbances / drug therapy
  • Ovarian Cysts / prevention & control
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Pelvic Inflammatory Disease / prevention & control
  • Pregnancy
  • Premenstrual Syndrome / drug therapy


  • Contraceptives, Oral