In industrialized nations today, synthetic hormonal oral contraception (aka the birth control pill) is the most common practice for preventing pregnancy. Despite evidence suggesting that there are many possible dangers of birth control pills, millions of women choose to take these hormonal medications every year.
It’s been found that dangers of birth control pills can include side effects like cystic acne, anxiety or moodiness, breast tenderness, weight gain, or for some difficulty getting pregnant after stopping the pill. Birth control pills may even cause depression.
If you currently use birth control of any kind (the pill, shots, the patch, etc.), I cannot urge you strongly enough to consider natural birth control alternatives instead. There are many other safer ways to prevent pregnancy, such as using condoms or avoiding sex during certain days of the month, that do not cause the side effects associated with taking birth control pills.
5 Dangers of Birth Control Pills
1. May Contribute to Nutrient Deficiencies
Most people don’t know that in order for the body to metabolize the pill, the liver requires extra amounts of the B-complex vitamins, vitamin C, magnesium and zinc. This means that if a woman has been on the pill for years at a time (as many American women are, starting in their 20s or even late teens), she is creating a situation where nutrient deficiency is more likely. Deficiencies, such as iron deficiency or magnesium deficiency, are some of the primary contributors to most disease (others being factors like diet, genetics, stress and toxicity). If you take the pill, consuming a nutrient-dense, healing diet is key for maintaining gut health and preventing deficiency side effects, like fatigue, indigestion, muscle pains and sleep troubles.
2. May Cause or Worsen Candida
While yeast (candida albicans) generally makes its home in the digestive tract, common lifestyle choices like use of birth control pills, taking antibiotics, a diet high in refined grains and sugar, and high stress levels often lead to a candida overgrowth that infiltrates other parts of the body and leads to candida symptoms.
According to the Healthy Women Organization’s website, yeast overgrowth has been closely linked to estrogen dominance in a woman’s body, which is highly influenced by taking the pill. Women who use hormonal birth control (not just the pill but also a patch or ring) may have more yeast infections than those who don’t.
Toxins from yeast overgrowth can lead to a host of other problems, presenting themselves in a variety of manners far beyond the common vaginal infection. For example, symptoms like migraines, infertility, fibromyalgia, endometriosis, psoriasis, PMS, depression and digestive disorders have all been linked to candida yeast overgrowth. The evidence clearly shows that when you address the yeast overgrowth, the symptoms improve or subside. If you do choose to use birth control pills, try an oral contraceptive that’s a progestin-only pill, since these are linked with occurrence of fewer yeast infections.
3. Often Causes Moodiness (Symptoms of Anxiety and Depression)
Does taking birth control pills cause depression or simply worsen moodiness and existing symptoms? There’s evidence that with estrogen and progesterone levels in the body out of their natural equilibrium due to taking the pill, the brain’s response system is consequently altered, leading many to experience psychological side effects. A proportion of women express concern about low sex drive, lack of appetite, helplessness, disinterest and an overall sad disposition while on birth control pills — yet often their doctors tell them, “It’s all in your head.”
A study conducted in Denmark involving more than 1 million women found a notable increase in depression rates among women taking birth control versus women who were not. Progestin-only pills, the transdermal patch and the vaginal ring were all especially tied to higher ratio of depression diagnoses and antidepressant prescriptions. To be fair, however, other studies, such as one published in 2012 in the Archives of Gynecology and Obstetrics, have not found the same correlation, so there seems to be individual differences in terms of the pill’s psychological effects. Some evidence now suggests that most of the side effects of hormonal contraception may actually be a result of a psychological stress response to the practice of contraception (wanting to prevent pregnancy despite having sex).
4. May Increase Cancer Risk
The National Cancer Institute tells us that the risk of developing breast cancer is around one in eight for the general public. But studies done by doctors, such as Chris Kahlenborn, M.D., from Altoona Hospital in Altoona, Penn., indicate that “women who took oral birth control before having their first child have a 44-percent increased risk of developing breast cancer.” If this is true, that would bring your risk of developing breast cancer to one in five, a staggeringly high risk.
According to the Breast Cancer Organization’s website:
“There are concerns that because birth control pills use hormones to block pregnancy they may overstimulate breast cells, which can increase the risk of breast cancer. The concern is greater if you’re at high risk for breast cancer because of: a strong family history of the disease, past breast biopsies showing abnormal cells, or you or someone in your family has an abnormal breast cancer gene.”
There is lots of ongoing debate about the breast cancer-depression link. For example, one study published in Cancer Research found a higher risk for breast cancer among women taking high-dose estrogen birth control pills. A review of 54 studies in 1996 found that women have a slightly higher risk of breast cancer while they’re taking birth control pills that contain both estrogen and progestin and during the 10 years after they stop taking the pills. And results from the 2010 Nurses’ Health Study found that use slightly increased risk, especially among women taking triphasic pills, which alter doses of hormones over three stages of the monthly cycle.
Why doesn’t your doctor tell you about this? “There’s tremendous vested interested — drug companies with a lot of money, government agencies who give a lot of money for contraception. It doesn’t make people look good when a study like this comes out,” Dr. Kahlenborn said.
5. Increased Risk for Blood Clots (Pulmonary Problems, Embolism and Thrombosis)
The link between estrogen use and developing blood clots in the veins (called venous thromboembolism) was identified more than 20 years ago. Extensive literature has now been published describing how the risk for embolism increases as estrogen dosages increase. When a clot forms in a deep vein, usually in the leg, it’s called a deep vein thrombosis, and if that clot breaks loose and travels to the lungs, it’s called a pulmonary embolism, which is a serious condition (10 percent to 15 percent of cases cause sudden death). Estrogen seems to increase clotting factors in the blood, making clots more likely.
It’s been found that combination hormonal birth control pills that contain the progestin called desogestrel increase the risk of blood clots more than birth control pills that contain other types of progestin. Birth control pills containing drospirenone are some of the most popular types available and include such brand names as Yaz, Yasmin, Beyaz, Ocella and Zarah.
Shortness of breath, chest pain (particularly with deep breathing), coughing up blood, persistent leg pain, or redness, swelling, or warmth in your lower legs are all signs of clots. The risk is highest among women with family histories of clots, those who smoke and those who are obese/sedentary — so if any of these apply to you, carefully discuss options with your doctor.