Being a woman, the question of Birth Control becomes one of the most controversial topics that is all pervasive in dealing with not only our sexual health but also our physical and emotional health. Having been prescribed birth control at the age of 15 years old, I had struggled with the side effects for 9 years before I made the BIG decision to go off of it. As I have come off the pill, the consequences of taking the pill have really come to light, not only for me personally, but for countless women that I have seen in my practice as well. Therefore, this post is all about the birth control pill risks and benefits.
Unfortunately the following information is not clearly been conveyed and discussed upon the introduction of taking the pill, and therefore, many of us are left in the dark about such an important health decision. Fortunately, the media has blown open the discussion with regards to many lawsuits against birth control pills, leading us to question whether they are worth their benefits. While this post is going to be the first of many, I just want to take the time to make a quick overview about the positives and negatives of the Birth Control Pill.
This post is not here to convince you to follow the path I took, it is here to educate and empower you to make the best decision for you and your health.
What is the Birth Control Pill?
Birth control pills are a kind of medication that women can take daily to prevent pregnancy. They are also sometimes called “the pill” or oral contraception. The hormones in the pill work by keeping a woman’s ovaries from releasing eggs — ovulation. Pregnancy cannot happen if there is no egg to join with sperm. The hormones in the pill also prevent pregnancy by thickening a woman’s cervical mucus. The mucus blocks sperm and keeps it from joining with an egg.
The hormones also thin the lining of the uterus. In theory, this could prevent pregnancy by keeping a fertilized egg from attaching to the uterus.
Birth Control Pills are currently used by more than 100 million women worldwide and by almost 12 million women in the United States. Most all women are unaware of the birth control pill risks and benefits.
Type of Contraception
1. The combined oral contraceptive pill contains estrogen and a progestogen
2. The progestogen-only pill contains only progestogen.
The Combined Oral Contraceptive Pill
The combined oral contraceptive pill contains estrogen and a progestogen, and is taken once per day.
How the birth control pill works
a) Reduces period blood flow
b) Reduces bleeding by thinning the endometrial lining.
c) Reduces period pain by inhibiting the hormone prostaglandins. Prostaglandins are the hormones that cause the uterine muscles spasm.
d) Reduce the bleeding of cysts and pelvic cavity because the Pill creates the pregnant-like state.
e) Suppress the hormone estrogen that is needed to start a menstrual cycle.
Symptoms and Risks Reported by Manufacturers
1. Blood clots
All hormonal methods of birth control pose a threat to normal blood flow.The oral contraceptive combination pill is no exception, it increases the risk of of blood clots in your legs or inn the lung due to the estrogen in the pill that makes your blood thicker in the veins.
Women who take the oral contraceptive combination pill increase their risk of stroke caused by blockage of blood flow to the brain. This is a result of high levels of estrogen in the pill that reduce the oxygen transportation as the blood thickens.
Similar to a stroke, as our blood gets thicker, our heart has to pump harder to provide oxygen for our cells. This process can cause damage in the long-term, that may lead to heart disease.
4. Skin Pigment
Some woman may experience increasing of pigmentation of skin that shows up in patchy and light brown area caused by estrogen in the pill.
5. Mood Swing
Some women may experience mood swings while taking the pill. This is caused by significant changes in your hormone levels affecting the chemicals that regulate mood ( estrogen and progesterone).
6. Bleeding and Spotting
Bleeding and spotting when you are not scheduled to bleed and spotting, are very common in the first 6 months of continuous birth control pill use, because your body has to take time to adjust to the change of hormone levels caused by intake of the Pill.
Some women after coming off the birth control pill may experience trouble with getting pregnant. This is due to the natural suppression of hormones that Birth Control causes, leading the body to have to readjust to normalized production. In some cases, the body does not recover its normal hormone production well enough to induce pregnancy.
8. Increase the Size of Fibroids
Oral contraceptive combination pill contains estrogen that promote the growth of fibroids. If you have fibroids and you want take the oral contraceptive pill, you should talk to your doctor first.
The Birth Control Pill Risks and Benefits
1. The GOOD: positive effects of birth control
a) Control Unwanted Pregnancy
The pill prevents impregnation.
b) Control Menstrual Cramps
It helps to inhibit the over production of prostaglandins which causes muscles spam, resulting in reduced period pain and period flow.
c) Reducing the Rate of Reproductive Organ Diseases
Study shows that intake of oral contraceptive combination pill helps reduce the rate of ovarian and endometrial cancer, benign breast disease, benign ovarian cysts, and pelvic inflammatory disease.
d) Shrinking Endometriosis
Endometrial implants, adhesion or cysts are often reduced or eliminated when on the Pill.
Birth Control Pills help to reduce over-bleeding, which can lead to anemia in many women. By reducing the period blood flow, Birth Control Pills can help in anemic cases.
f) Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
In some cases birth control can help relieve symptoms of PCOS, polycystic ovarian syndrome. If you are suffering from PCOS, consider going natural using my guide on How to Address PCOS Naturally.
2. The BAD: negative side effects of birth control
a) Growth of Fibroids
Fibroid starts from a single cell that grows abnormally. Fibroid occurs mostly in women after puberty and shrink after menopause. Growth of a fibroid is caused high level of estrogen and progesterone. The intake of the pill increase the level of both hormones resulting in increase the risk of growth of fibroid.
b) Recurrent of Menstrual Symptoms
Some women who stop taking the pill may see all their menstrual symptoms return.
c) Blood Clots
The intake of estrogen through the pill can cause the blood getting thicker. This may result in blood clots in the small vessels in the leg and the lung.
d) Stroke and Heart Diseases
Studies show that women who have higher natural estrogen levels may have a higher risk of stroke and heart diseases.
e) Hormonal Imbalance
The pill influences the body’s natural production of estrogen and progesterone, leading one to have trouble rebalancing after coming off the pill. It can take up to 2 years to normalize hormones after coming off the pill.
f) Depression and Mood Swing
The intake of the pill at the beginning may cause abnormal fluctuations in estrogen and progesterone. This can lead to both depression and mood swings.
Prolong used of the oral contraceptive combination pill may cause loss of period in some women. Some women may take months or years to get their period back which results in temporary or sometimes permanent infertility.
h) Contraceptive Pills Alter your Natural Choice in a Mate
Human and animal studies show that a group of genes called the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) can influence odor. In general, females prefer the odor of mates with a dissimilar MHC — but this effect is reversed in women on oral contraceptive pills. Ninety-seven women completed this study, wherein they had to select favorable odors from men with either similar MHC or dissimilar MHC genes. It was found that single women preferred the odor of MHC-similar men, while women in relationships preferred the opposite. This shows that the use of contraceptive pills could influence mate preferences.
* This is significant, because humans are hardwired to choose mates with different genes than theirs, therefore providing a dynamic and healthy gene pool for reproduction. The more dynamic the gene pool, the less chances there are for birth defects. Furthermore, studies show that once a woman comes off the Pill, often she is no longer attracted to her partner.
3. The UGLY: harmful side effects of the birth control pill
a) Bleeding and Spotting
Bleeding and spotting is normal for the first six months for women starting any oral contraceptive combination pill because our body needs time to adjust to the new medication.
b) Lost Interest in Sex
Women who take the contraceptive pill are in danger of loosing their interest in sex, because the oral contraceptive pill inhibits testosterone, the hormone that drives sexual desire.
c) Chloasma or Melasma (Dark Skin Spotting)
In some cases, chloasma or melasma may occur due to the change in estrogen levels. This is the occurrence of brown spotting on the face and arms. It may or may not be permanent.
d) Nutritional Deficiency
Oral contraceptive pill causes vitamin and mineral imbalances or deficiencies. It depletes magnesium for a healthy heart, coenzyme Q10 for healthy heart muscles, folic acid for preventing cervical abnormalities, and vitamin B6, B2, B3, and Zinc. In some cases, birth control can even cause high levels of potassium which cause severe mineral imbalances in the body.
e) Atrophic Vestibulodynia or Vulvar Vestibulitis
Research has shown that the birth control pill can lead to Atrophic Vestibulodynia or Vulvar Vestibulitis. This condition tends to be associated with a highly localized “burning” or “cutting” type of pain. The pain of vulvodynia may extend into the clitoris; this is referred to as clitorodynia. AV or VV is characterized by severe pain with attempted penetration of the vagina (including a penis or tampon) and complaints of tenderness with pressure within the vagina. Usually there are no reports of pain with pressure to other surrounding areas of the vulva. The feelings of irritation and burning can persist for hours or days following sexual activity, engendering a sense of hopelessness and depression.
Many lawsuits have been made over the harmful side effects of birth control pills, especially YAZ (which I took). You can learn more about them here.
My Personal Notes about the Birth Control Pill Risks
1. B6 Deficiency
This is one of the greatest problems with taking Birth Control Pills because it greatly decreases B6 in the body, more specifically in the Gallbladder. While all birth control pills originally stated that they must be taken with a B6 supplement, this is no longer the case. As a result, decades of women are now dealing with mild to severe B6 deficiencies, that most always manifest as a gallbladder issue. B6 is an integral part of bile formation and precipitation, and without adequate B6, bile functioning is greatly impaired. As a result, the following symptoms manifest: stomach ache, inability to fall asleep, dry skin, bumps on the back of the forearm, burping, nausea, inability to digest fatty or fried foods, irritable bowel syndrome (diarrhea/constipation), fatigue and morning brain fog. I personally experienced almost all of these symptoms, and have worked with countless woman dealing with them as well due to birth control use. It was not until I started addressing the Birth Control/Gallbladder connection that I was able to get these symptoms under controlled and completely healed.
Lawsuit Note: One of the main side effects that has been filed against Bayer for their Yaz and Yasmin Birth Control Pills is Gallbladder Disease. This is a serious issue, not to be taken lightly.
If you are currently taking birth control pills I highly urge you to supplement with a live-source B6. This does not include synthetic B6, which is not effective enough. Furthermore, you must take B6 with a Vitamin B complex, because all B vitamins must be taken together in order to prevent deficiency of other vitamins and optimal utilization in the body.
* When on birth control I suggest taking 10 mg of B6/daily. I personally use 1 tsp of Max B ND (live-source B vitamin complex) with 1/2 tsp B6 ND (live-source B6). This is imperative to maintaining gallbladder health while on birth control.
** If you have taken Birth Control and are now off, then you might want to consider getting on a Gallbladder restoration program with Gallbladder ND and Gallbladder Complex. After a couple months on these products, then you can supplement with B vitamins for recovery.
2. Hair Loss (dry, thinning hair)
From years of birth control pills, my natural hormone production essentially turned off and I began to experience thinning of hair. I use Hair and Nails by Dragon Herbs which has made all the difference for hair regrowth.
3. Fatigue and Morning Fog
I personally experienced an unexplained fatigue that was not able to be remedied until I came off of birth control pills.
Birth Control caused a build up of cellulite on my thighs despite exercise, a clean diet, and toxin-free living.
Coming off of Birth Control Pills
As my awareness and desire of optimal health grew, I personally knew that it was in my best interest to come off birth control pills. For me, the birth control pill risks outweighed its benefits. I can say that the journey was not easy, as I experienced many ups and downs as my hormones normalized, but now after 2 years, I am almost completely back to my healthy normal self.
Because I have just presented such a controversial topic, I will let you digest the information, and then I would suggest that you read my journey of revitalizing my natural hormone cycle in “Getting Off Birth Control Pills, Now What?”
I hope that you can glean some information here that will empower you to make the best decision for your health, whatever that may be.