Let me preface this post by saying … the development of birth control was a HUGE win for women’s rights.
It allowed us the opportunity to further our education, grow in our careers, and it allowed us to claim more freedom over our bodies. We worked hard for the rights to birth control and that shouldn’t be dismissed!
Having said that, there is A LOT women don’t know about taking this tiny pill each month.
The reason being … we were never taught. Rarely do we have a discussion with our doctors about what the pill is actually doing to our bodies each month.
And knowledge is power, right?
It’s my goal to spread awareness of the affects of the birth control pill so women can make an informed choice as to whether it is, or isn’t, the correct option for them.
A little backstory …
When I decided to get on birth control freshman year of college, I remember walking into my doctors office complaining of PMS and acne. And let’s be real, making the choice to get on birth control seemed like some adult right of passage at the time.
Without further discussion about why I was struggling these symptoms, I was promptly prescribed Yazmin to “treat” the issues.
I vividly remember calling my gynecologist a few times after starting the pill, complaining of abnormal mood swings (and anxiety) and mid-cycle spotting … but I was reassured that this was all “normal.” Furthermore, I was told the cause of my worsening anxiety was, most likely, not caused by the pill.
So, I developed a very love/hate relationship with the pill. I loved how it helped my acne, that I could manipulate my period (eek, the things I thought back then!), and of course… I never had to worry about contraception.
But, I never found a pill that worked quite right.
I kept experimenting with different prescriptions for about 6 years (various different pills, the NuvaRing, ect…. ), until I decided that the cons out-weighted the pros and I finally called it quits.
I made the decision that my body was just “too sensitive” for the pill and I wanted to see how I felt without it.
Now, after years of researching and diving head first into hormonal health, I am BLOWN AWAY by the amount of information we are never taught when we step into our gynecologist’s office.
There is critical information women need to know in order to make informed choices about whether or not birth control is right for them.
We deserve to understand exactly what the pill is doing chemically within the body and the side-effects.
And, if we DO decide that the pill is the best choice for us, we need to understand WHAT we can do to support the body during our exposure.
5 Things you need to know about the pill:
It may be disruptive to the gut
Have you heard about the negative effects of antibiotics and your gut microbiome? Well, research has been showing that birth control has the same effects.
Here is why it matters: our gut microbiome is home to trillions of bacteria that support necessary functions in the body. The community of bugs in your belly keep you from getting sick, support the absorption of important nutrients in the body, help you to eliminate toxins, and even keep your mood steady (just to name a FEW things!)
As you can see, keeping the balance between the good and “bad” bacteria in the gut is crucial for optimal well-being. We even have special microbes (the estrobolome) that help us metabolize and balance estrogen in our system. When our estrobolome is out of whack, this is a huge cause of concern, especially for women with estrogen dominance.
Birth control disrupts our delicate bacterial ratio, allowing the bad bacteria to overgrow and the good to die off.
This could manifest in you as yeast infections and UTI’s, and of course, will compromise MANY of the important health functions I listed above.
2. It can affect our emotional well-being
I’m sure you have heard of the gut-brain connection. It’s very trendy at the moment and for good reason!
90% of our serotonin is based in the gut. That’s a huge number.
And as you might have guessed … those little gut bugs I mentioned earlier… play a HUGE role in making sure our neurotransmitters are firing correctly.
The connection between birth control and anxiety/depression is no joke
…it’s a side effect on the box for goodness sake! And an imbalanced gut has been shown to directly affect the important hormones/neurotransmitters we need to keep our moods uplifted and balanced.
In addition, the natural hormone fluctuations we should experience each month (our body’s cyclic dance between estrogen and progesterone levels, etc.), are super important for balanced mood. But, when you’re on birth control, you are suppressing this natural hormonal rhythm.
Birth control has also been shown to increase inflammation and immune irregularities within the body, factors that also contribute to anxiety/depression.
Of course, every woman’s body is different. We have different genetic make-ups and different internal factors that play a role in whether the birth control pill may be a contributing factor in our emotional well-being, but the percentage of women on birth control complaining of mood disruptions is incredibly high and should be taken very seriously.
3. It strips our body of important nutrients
Nutrient deficiency is yet another factor that affects both your mental and physical health. When you’re on the pill, your body becomes stripped of important nutrients that it needs to keep you feeling healthy and happy.
With the majority of women already struggling to get the proper amount of nutrients from diet alone, worsening the issue with birth control is less than ideal.
Remember those neurotransmitters we talked about previously? Your body needs specific nutrients in order for those to do their job.
Here are a few of the important nutrients that are depleted by the pill:
B Complex Vitamins
The role that these nutrients play in your health should not be underestimated. Women need to know the challenges of these deficiencies when deciding to take the pill.
4. It masks symptoms, not treats them
When you’re taking the pill, it doesn’t heal the root problem behind your hormonal imbalances. In fact, it is just masking the symptoms, and this is a big problem.
This means that women are walking around with untreated hormonal conditions that might later impact their health and fertility.
When a woman finally DOES decide to get off the pill, those ugly symptoms usually return (and sometimes with a vengeance) making it difficult to regain a “normal” period, and in some cases, even get pregnant.
Think about it….as you grow and age… so does your body and your hormones.
When you’re on the pill, you are not receiving the natural signs and signals your body is trying to send to let you know something might be “off.”
That heavy period, annoying acne, and menstrual pain you were feeling were all SIGNS that your body needed some love. When we take the pill to “quiet” those signs, the underlying imbalance continues and can even change and develop over time.
It’s truly a women’s health issue that we are masking our symptoms for YEARS (how many women start birth control when they are merely 14-15 years old?)
We can’t expect a young girl’s hormone levels to stay consistent through their teen and young adult years. Our nutrition changes, our environment and stress levels change… WE CHANGE.
And through all those life changes, the pill doesn’t allow women the ability to notice what their body really needs in order to feel balanced and happy.
How are we supposed to start feeling better and really SHOW UP in the world when we aren’t getting the deep healing we deserve and need?
5. It suppresses normal hormone function
If there is one thing I could preach forever, it’s that your body is SO incredibly smart.
It knows exactly what to do to keep you healthy and happy. Sure, it becomes out of balance and things happen, but that’s why we learn to listen and learn the warning signs.
That’s why we DO have doctors to go to when we need extra assistance and supplemental support.
BUT, when you’re on the pill, you’re actively suppressing your body’s normal hormone function. And it’s these natural fluctuations between estrogen and progesterone, and very important ovulation hormones, that your body has for a reason.
Here’s a quick & simplified overview….
The pill flatlines your natural hormones, and instead, fills your system with a higher doses of the synthetic versions.
While various birth controls give out different doses of synthetic hormones, one thing is for sure: birth control prevents your brain from communicating to your ovaries.
This means that your brain is not sending the proper signals to your ovaries to make sure they produce the hormones you need for ovulation (which of course is great if you don’t want to get pregnant, haha) but not so great for your overall health and wellbeing.
It can take years for a women’s brain to start communicating these messages properly again and this is something that is not emphasized well enough in my opinion.
Now that you are backed with more information, what do you do?
Now, you can make the CHOICE to greater support your body if you do decide to get on the pill OR you can choose another form on healing // contraception all together.
It’s up to you!
Here are a few ways you can support your body on (or off) the pill:
Prioritize nutrition for hormone balance
Consider supplements to balance nutrient deficiencies
Take more time for stress reduction and support for your mental health
Consider a good probiotic and eat gut-healthy foods that support your microbiome
Learn about the FAM method (natural family planning) and other forms of contraception (did you know that you can really only get pregnant about 6 days out of the month?! YES!!!)
There is so much we can do to take charge of our menstrual health and fertility.
For more information on this topic I highly recommend Jolene Brighten, Alisa Vitti, and Toni Weschler books. Also, this podcast episode by Aviva Romm.
I am always here to offer private coaching support and guidance, too. You can apply below to see if coaching is right for you!
This blog post is for informational and educational purposes only. The information and education provided here is not intended or implied to supplement or replace professional medical treatment, advice, and/or diagnosis.