My functional MD and ND friends always say that the pill is the worse thing medicine invented for women. I could relate, to some degree, to this strong statement based on my own experience of being on the pill for a short period until I realized how sick it made me feel.
But, writing this article and investing several hours to further research on this topic, I’ve realized that this statement is far from exaggerated. When you finish reading this article, you will know that the pill is simply a robber of women’s health.
Since the 60s, the contraceptive pill has promised us greater control over our bodies and fertility, but this “freedom” may come at an enormous cost to a woman’s health. Unfortunately, several generations of women have been used as guinea pigs, and many of the dangers of birth control pills are only just coming to light.
These birth control pill dangers are particularly concerning, given that an estimated 100 million+ women worldwide are currently using oral contraceptives yet are largely unaware that it can pose many health risks because it upsets natural hormone balance.
And the harmful effects of birth control pills go beyond whether birth control pills and strokes or cancer. Also concerning is the pill’s increasing use to treat issues like acne or Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, without addressing the cause of these problems (such as food intolerances, high sugar levels, lack of sleep and stress).
The Normal Menstrual Cycle
Each month your levels of progesterone and estrogen fluctuate at different times of your cycle. In a nutshell, your estrogen peaks right before ovulation and after that your estrogen drops while your progesterone peaks to ready the lining of the uterus for pregnancy.
How The Pill Works
– Birth Control Pills disrupt your body’s normal hormone production with synthetic versions of estrogen and progesterone (called progestin) which suppresses ovulation, tricking your body into thinking it is pregnant all month.
– Is taken in a cycle of 21 – 24 active days of hormones, followed by 4 to 7 days of no hormones, when a withdrawal bleed occurs – but this is not like a regular period.
The combined pill (which comes in pills and patches) contains synthetic versions of both estrogen and progesterone (progestin). Some birth control hormones like Depo-Provera and mini-pills contain progestin only (and one form of this called drodrospirenone, appears to cause more problematic side effects than the others).
Your Body On Birth Control Pills
Doctors rarely discuss side effects with women when they prescribe them the contraceptive pill, adding to the myth that the birth control pill is completely safe and barely impacts on your mind and body. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Unfortunately, many women first start taking the pill as teenagers and don’t realize that as they get older that their health could be impacted from these hormonal imbalances over time.
What are the effects? I drilled down into the research on the pill and what it shows about health fallout is staggering.
Hormonal Effects of the Pill
By utilizing synthetic hormones that change a woman’s levels of estrogen and progesterone, the pill can have potent hormonal impacts. It can:
1.1: Lower Thyroid Hormones: Women taking birth control pills release more of a substance called Thyroid Hormone Binding Globulin (THBG), which binds to your thyroid hormones so that less for your body to function well (such as have energy, healthy hair, skin and the ability to lose weight).
Lower Testosterone: Women on the pill experience an increase in Sex Hormone Binding Globulin (SHBG), a glycoprotein mostly made in your liver. SHBG binds to testosterone, so when levels go up, testosterone levels go down. In fact, free available levels of testosterone can drop by as much s 61% in women taking BCPs.
As testosterone is necessary for energy, mental clarity, healthy bones, confidence as well as strength and muscle building – this can be bad news for your body. Lower testosterone may also explain why many studies confirm that women who are taking a contraceptive pill may experience diminished sexual interest and arousal, reduced frequency of sexual intercourse and reduced sexual enjoyment.
Stopping the pill doesn’t magically fix the hormonal imbalances. In women who report a decreased libido from the pill, elevated SHBG in “Oral Contraceptive Discontinued-Users” did not decrease to the levels of “Never-Users of Oral Contraceptive” after they went off the pill.
After coming off the pill some women can still experience an elevation in sex-hormone binding globulin levels, shows research published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine.
Often leaving them with long-standing hormonal problems from low values of “unbound” testosterone (which can impart ongoing sexual, metabolic, and mental health consequences).
1.3: Shutdown Natural Hormone Production: Your body has inbuilt mechanisms to try to maintain homeostasis (a natural body balance). It also has many feedback systems letting you know when levels of chemicals in the body are getting out of balance. For this reason, you will become insulin resistant if you eat a diet high in carbs and sugars, which can often trigger elevated blood sugar and insulin. The same thing happens when you are taking antidepressants that affect serotonin. Registering your body’s serotonin levels that have suddenly shot up, your brain will start shutting down your serotonin receptors, (thereby producing less serotonin naturally) to ensure that you don’t have issues from excess serotonin.
This protective mechanism also applies to your reproductive hormones. When you are taking daily doses of synthetic hormones, your body registers that you are getting unusually high levels of estrogen and progesterone throughout your cycle. As your brain perceives an upset in your hormone balance, it will try to correct any excess by shutting down production of your natural estrogen and progesterone. This shut-off may be why some women complain that their menstrual cycle takes years to return to normal after they come off the contraceptive pill.
1.4: Compromise Fertility
Danish research shows that the birth control pill significantly affects ovarian reserve – the number of immature eggs in a woman’s ovaries – which can be a predictor of future fertility. Also, the pill can cause the shrinkage of the ovaries, which becomes between 29 and 52% smaller, with the biggest reductions seen in women aged 19- 29.9 years.
In younger ovaries levels of anti-Müllerian hormone (AMH) and antral follicle count (AFC) tend to be high, but in women taking the pill, they can be 16-19% lower – also indicating that synthetic hormones have an aging effect on the ovaries.
According to research from the University of Liverpool, the pill may also disrupt a woman’s ability to choose a partner genetically dissimilar to herself, potentially increasing the risk of having a child with genetic abnormalities:
1.5 Reduce Serotonin and Melatonin
The pill can interfere with your body’s methylation process by reducing methyl donors, thereby, leaving women deficient in hormones like serotonin (which can improve mood) and melatonin (for better sleep).An estimated 20% of people are slow methylators anyway so adding the pill to that mix can be disastrous for their well-being, leaving them edgy and anxious all day long, then unable to get a good night’s sleep.
1.6: Help Trigger PCOS: Some integrative practitioners believe that the hormone disorder, Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) can be triggered by the use of birth control pills. This is because excess insulin and inflammation are known triggers of PCOS, and both of these states can be caused by being on the contraceptive pill.
Estrogen Dominance and Birth Control Pills
Natural hormone balance is the foundation of a woman’s emotional and physical health. During a woman’s natural menstrual cycle her estrogen levels rise and fall at different times of the month. The pill disrupts this cycle altogether – keeping estrogen levels high all month.
Continuously elevated levels of estrogen can overload the liver, which can’t perform its essential function of detoxification. As a result, these unhealthy estrogen metabolites go back into your bloodstream and get circulated in your body — quickly leading to Estrogen Dominance (ED)
ED from the pill also leads to too much estradiol (E2), also known as an “aggressive estrogen,” compared to estriol (E3), which is the “protective estrogen.” This imbalance can be behind tender breasts, mood swings, hair loss, weight gain, fibroids, endometriosis, breast and ovarian cysts, and even breast and ovarian cancer.
High estrogen levels can also cause a rise thyroid binding globulin, which binds up thyroid hormones making less available to do its work in your body. ED has also been linked to the development of thyroid nodules and cancer.
2. Synthetic Hormones and Emotional Wellbeing
For a small and seemingly innocuous tablet, the contraceptive pill may have huge negative health impacts, causing: Depression and Anxiety
Do Birth Control Pills Cause Cancer?
The link between birth control pills and breast cancer risk cannot be ignored. BCPs can increase breast cancer risk, particularly in women who take the pill before they have had children.
The figures are startling. Research from the Women’s Lifestyle and Health Study in Sweden and Norway has shown that the risk of breast cancer in women taking the contraceptive pill rose by:
– 26% in women who had used the pill but had ceased to take it.
– 58% in women still using the pill compared with never-users.
– 144% in women aged 45 or over who were still using the Pill.
According to the National Cancer Institute, BCP’s may also increase the risk of benign liver lumps which have the potential to turn into cancer.
Plus women on BCPs are also at a higher risk of developing cervical cancer. The good news? The risk lessens after 10 years of no longer taking the pill.
What about ovarian cancer and birth control pills? In this case, studies suggest that BCPs have a protective affect.
But when you consider the many other negative impacts of these tiny pills, you would do better to reduce cancer risks naturally and avoid the other dangers of birth control pills.
3. Other Health Problems Caused By The Pill
BCPs cause many other hormones imbalance symptoms and health problems including:
- Weight gain
- Nutrient Deficiencies: A drop in vitamines and essential minerals
- Gut Issues
- Candida (yeast infection) overgrowth
- Liver overload
- Lowered muscle gain from exercise
- Higher risk of stroke and heart disease
- Increased blood clots
- Reduced bone density
- Changes to immunity
- Epilepsy Seizures
- Gum Disease