This Is the Best Birth Control for Acne, Cramps, and Mood Swings

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Welcome to The V, our weeklong series devoted to all things sex and reproductive health. This is a safe space free from "taboos," because there's no reason anyone should feel awkward talking about their bodies—ever. That said, we'll be clearing up any misinformation on the subject, starting with this huge misnomer: The "V" in this case doesn't refer to the vagina, but the vulva, which is the anatomically correct term for external female genitalia (including the opening of the vagina). Stay tuned all week for need-to-know guides on birth control, tips for taking your orgasm to the next level, real-life stories about endometriosis, and everything in between.

As someone who's never been on birth control, I find the topic fairly confusing. To be quite honest, the subject isn't exactly cut and dry for those taking the pill either. There are issues of limited access, finite education, and a whole lot of mixed messaging when it comes to women's sexual and reproductive health—this you know.

So to clear things up in case you're looking to start taking birth control, want to switch based on negative symptoms, or are just hoping to learn a bit about your options, I reached out to experts in the field for answers.

"There are many noncontraceptive benefits to using combined oral contraceptive pills including reduction of acne, facial hair growth, menstrual cramping, PMS and PMDD, as well as regulation of irregular periods," says Anate Brauer, MD, a reproductive endocrinologist. "While all combined contraceptive pills that contain both estrogen and progesterone work in a similar way with similar results, there are different preparations with nuances that may lead them to be more efficient at treating some symptoms. There are also different ways to take standard preparations of pills.

"Available preparations of combined contraceptive pills include monophasic (delivering a stable dose of hormone throughout the cycle) versus multiphasic (delivering various doses throughout a cycle to 'mimick' physiologic hormone fluctuations). OCPs are further classified by length of active pills—21-day versus 24- or 28-day versus extended-cycle or continuous, as well as types of estrogens and progesterone in the pills."

So different pill preparations may be more appropriate for your personal symptoms. "If you are not taking any birth control pills at all, your doctor can prescribe Gestagen pills if you want to get a bleeding-free period (i.e., during a planned holiday)," notes Gunvor Ekman Ordeberg, MD, Ph.D., the medical advisor for DeoDoc Intimate Skincare and ob-gyn. "A hormonal IUD may result in no bleeding at all. Additionally, about 20% of women who take mini pills do not bleed as well." The bottom line is that there many different options for birth control. It is important to talk to your doctor to decide which type of birth control method is right for you. Below find some helpful facts to inform your decision (along with your personal doctor's advice).