So many of the women of my generation have spent 10+ years on birth control pills, being told by our doctors that there are no side effects, minus a few extra pounds on the belly.  I am one of them, and honestly until fairly recently this has continued to be the best choice for my lifestyle.  However, I have learned that birth-control pills do more then raise the pant size- and why should we be surprised? All humans have delicate hormone cycles which dictate things such as energy levels, stress response, healthy sleep, adrenaline response time, thyroid, the ease of our menopause symptoms, fertility. etc.  And although menopause may still feel long off for some me, I have already begun the run the clock in terms of time to detoxify the body from the synthetic hormones I have used for years and begin to create a more healthy hormone balance.

The basics

Birth control pills have been used in the U.S for over forty years. Over the years many changes have been made to the pill in the variations of hormones used, estrogen and progestin, and also in hormone levels.  According to the Centers for disease control and prevention, the birth control pill is the leading birth control method used by women younger than 30 years (17% use the pill).  Over 30 different combination’s of birth control pills are available in the United States. The majority of the combination’s of these pills have 21 hormonally active pills followed by 7 pills containing no hormones.

How they work

Less frequently discussed is birth control’s effects on the body and its natural hormone production.  All hormonal birth control methods have the same objective: to prevent a mature egg from developing in the female reproductive system. This is achieved by inhibiting the two main hormones that trigger ovulation: the follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and the luteinizing hormone (LH). Both FSH and LH are triggered by decreased levels in oestrogen and progesterone hormones that are normally produced in the ovaries and are decreased in preparation for ovulation. Hormonal birth control methods work by administering regular supplies of synthetic oestrogen and progestin and maintaining constant hormonal levels in order to prevent ovulation from taking place. In other words, birth control pills send the message that the body that it is constantly pregnant, by keeping oestrogen and progesterone high.  These messages are sent from the hypothalamus gland to the pituitary gland.  Repetitive passing and receiving the message of constant hormone levels will leave this feedback loop exhausted, possibly making actual conception much more difficult.

Other harmful effects include a heightened risk of: blood clots, cancer (specifically with smokers), stroke, cancer (specifically liver/ gallbladder), depression, anxiety, hormonal imbalance, (leading to later) difficult menses and menopause, weight gain.

References

Bauman College, Forum. Men and Women’s Health. March, 27th 2007

Berman, Lenna. Hormones and Menopause. Your health and fitness. KPFA. May 26th, 2010

Murray, Michael. The encyclopedia of herbal supplements.  Roseville, Prima Publishing. 1996