The Birth Control Pill: What I wish I knew about 'The Pill' + My Health
Birth control. The pill. Health. We're going there today. I know it's an out-of-the-ordinary topic, but it's something I just HAD to share with all of you.
I went on the pill back when I was 19 or 20. All I did was ask my doctor to get the magical pill and avoid teen pregnancy, and she wrote the prescription immediately. No questions asked or any side effects discussed. I happily continued on it for years without worrying about it at all, like all my friends and every other 20-something not ready to have kids yet.
Until my health started to get sketchy. The pharmacy switched the brand on me, and less than a month later, digestive symptoms started to pop up - bloating, constipation, and stomach pain. It was only then that I realized that my initial stomach cramps and sharp pains started a month or so after I started the pill years ago, but I never connected the two. (Of course, there are likely a number of factors impacting my digestion, but the Pill seemed to worsen it significantly.)
So, I turned to the Google and started to find stories from other women on the birth control pill...and having their health destroyed. Most of them were related to the biggest side effect discussed - blood clots - but also women having IBS and digestive health stories, or major hormonal imbalances and loss of their period for months or years after getting off it.
When I stopped the pill, it took me over a year to get my periods back on a regular cycle each month. Not to mention the emotional mood swings that came with being in hormonal havoc. I was no hormonal expert at the time, but I did do my research and implemented a few things to support my hormones. I was also lucky enough to find other bloggers ditching the pill and their stories with it.
This post is not to 'slam' the pill because of course, I think it has its benefits. Even I used its benefits and avoided teen pregnancy! The point is to share my story with the pill and what I've learned about it to take a strong stand against it...from a health perspective. If you're on the fence, it's always best to know the facts and weigh the options. This is what I wish I would have known before I started taking the pill. I can't say my teenage self would have NOT taken it, but at least, I would have known the negatives of it.
1. It depletes essential nutrients - zinc, Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12, Vitamin B2, folic acid, Vitamin C, and Magnesium.
I'm starting with the nutrient deficiencies, especially since these are a few of my favorite nutrients lately (#nutritionnerd). Having adequate nutrient stores is essential for vibrant health, and low levels of zinc or Vitamin C may impair your immune system. The biggest risk is someone coming off the pill and trying to get pregnant immediately because the body (if even able to get pregnant) won't have time to establish nutrient stores to grow a healthy baby. See the folic acid on the list? Folate is essential for healthy pregnancies!
If you're coming off the pill, you could consider taking a methylated, B-vitamin complex and making sure your diet is rich in foods with B-vitamins, Vitamin C, zinc, and magnesium. If it were me, I'd wait a year or so to get pregnant after coming off the pill to optimize your nutrient stores and regain fertility to have a healthy pregnancy.
(PS: The pill isn't the only drug that causes nutrient depletions. Most pharmaceuticals do; check a drug-nutrient depletion or interaction handbook if you're curious.)
2. There are medical risks with taking the pill...
- Increased risk of breast cancer, cervical cancer, and liver cancer
- It's classified as a carcinogen by the World Health Organization. This is reason enough for me to never take it again.
- It increases risk of blood clots, or pulmonary embolism in severe cases.
- Migraines are 40% more common in women taking the pill vs those not taking it.
- A 2012 study showed an increased risk for digestive condition - inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn's and ulcerative colitis. It may impact our gut flora - hello, my ruined digestion and IBS during and after! You could consider a probiotic afterwards or boost your probiotic-rich fermented food intake.
If you're going on it to help your acne, PCOS, or other hormonal imbalances, it's just a 'band-aid' to your health concerns. It only masks the real problem and hides symptoms until you get it off it years later. Instead, there are plenty of research-supported and natural ways to support your hormonal health, heal acne, and manage PCOS without a pill, or I'd be happy to help you via nutrition counseling + coaching create your own nutritional plan to help.
3. It may lower your sex drive.
What?! Ladies, if you're going on the pill to enjoy sex without the risk of pregnancy, you're in for a surprise. Research shows taking the pill actually decreases your sex drive. Your choice...
4. You don't experience your true cycle as a woman.
Our periods are wonderful. I know, I know - it may seem like an inconvenience, but I've come to totally appreciate my natural cycle. I'm able to listen to my body throughout the month. Periods aren't supposed to be painful or cause you to curl up in bed with a hot water bottle. PMS symptoms and hormonal imbalances can be managed or healed - I highly recommend reading the book The Hormone Cure* by Dr. Sara Gottfried.
I was able to heal my hormones to get back to regular cycles without pain, mood swings, or sore breasts with simple tips to help my hormones balance out. In modern day, we are exposed to high levels of estrogen in our food (conventional meat and dairy) and environment (plastics, soaps, shampoos, cleaning products, etc.) that can do a number on our hormones and may lead to estrogen dominance.
Make a Decision for YOU.
The Pill was not for me, and I hope you are able to decide if it's for you or not. You always have a choice, and I believe it's better to know both sides of the story. I definitely wish my teenage-self knew this info before I went on the magical, anti-pregnancy pill. Luckily, with time and research, I was able to heal my hormones and regain my fertility.
If you're interested in healing your hormones with the use of food as medicine, contact me about nutrition coaching. I've healed my own hormones through nutrition (and other tools), and I love working with women to balance their hormones.
Here are a few of my go-to resources for hormonal health, as well as info on natural birth control.
- Dr. Sara Gottfried + her book The Hormone Cure*
- Nat Kringoudis
- Nicole Jardim + Birth Control Options 101
*Image via Creative Commons