This article explores the specific risks that women of all ages face in using birth control pills, including helpful information like: how it interrupts our natural hormone cycle and what is in the Pill, anyways?
In Part 1 of “What Your Doctor Didn’t Tell You About Birth Control Pills” I covered, in general, the long-term risks of taking the Pill and how it is empowering and crucial that we are passing the information on at this time (and all times) even when access to the pill is at risk, and not letting conservatives control our agenda. They will always be trying to control women’s bodies. We need to continue our agenda, regardless.
What are hormones?
Hormones are all-pervasive, ever-present in all tissues of our bodies and brains and serve to keep our mental and physical balance. We have stress hormones (like adrenaline and cortisol) that kick in during a fight-or-flight response, keep us alert, and pumps more blood to our major muscle groups. We also have sex hormones (estrogen and progesterone) that nourish us and are responsible for things like re-creation of the uterine lining and production of breast milk. Meanwhile DHEA helps to keep cortisol in check when we are stressed, and progesterone keeps estrogen in check. When we are not “feeling ourselves”, stressed much of the time, or experiencing abnormal periods or heavy cramps, it’s because there is an imbalance in our hormones. When we are stressed a lot of the time, then there are not enough stress hormones to keep up, and our body will have to take from the sex hormones to keep up with our high level of stress. This is one common example of having an imbalance of hormones, and pushing our bodies too hard while not understanding that we need to slow down and nourish our bodies.
What are synthetic hormones?
Synthetic hormones are animal-derived estrogen and progesterone (progestin). One common form of synthetic hormones is hormone replacement therapy (HRT). I mentioned in the last post that post-menopausal women who are taking synthetic hormone replacement therapy (HRT) for menopause increase their chances for breast cancer, heart attack, strokes, and dementia. So why is it OK for young women to be taking HRT which is the same synthetic hormones in birth control pills?
What do synthetic hormones or birth control pills do?
The most common birth control pill contains both synthetic estrogen and progesterone (progestin). Some have varying levels of each throughout the monthly pack. The synthetic hormones serve to essentially trick your body into thinking it’s pregnant. Thus, preventing your ovaries from producing eggs and your uterus from developing an egg-receptive lining—a combined sterilizing and abortive effect. Also, it makes your cervical mucus much thicker and thus more difficult for sperm to swim through—a contraceptive effect.
When they suppress ovulation, they also suppress the production and behavior of natural hormones, as well as its natural rhythms.
Some birth control pills only contain progestin. It doesn’t inhibit ovulation, instead thickening the cervical mucus as well as preventing preparation of a uterine egg-friendly lining. However, it has not been approved in all countries, as compared to the Pill containing both estrogen and progestin.
Most oral contraceptives are taken for 21 days, followed by 7 days of placebo pills, which allows for a “withdrawal bleed.” This is not the same as a natural period. It is only a result of stopping the drug. (The original promoter of birth control pills, John Rock, gave women placebo pills so that they would have enough “breakthrough bleeding” that the pattern would resemble a natural cycle, hoping that it would draw less opposition from the Church.)
NOTE: Menstrual blood is actually rich in immune cells and is the only blood in the body that does not clot. When we have menstrual bleeding, it is cleansing the uterus, cervix, and vagina with its antibacterial, antiviral properties.
What are the risks of taking synthetic hormones long-term?
Usually the lower the dosage of synthetic hormones, the fewer the side effects. But even if there are currently no visible side effects, synthetic hormones can be taking a silent toll that may show up years later.
If a woman uses the Pill before age twenty, her risk of breast cancer may double. There are many studies showing the correlation between breast cancer and taking synthetic hormones. I usually don’t advocate the use of fear in education, but it’s also important that we open our eyes to the real dangers we are putting our body in. I’d rather learn this early on than when it’s too late. Even now after quitting the Pill after 12(?) years I don’t know what its silent effects are, but I can take action now and do my best from now on.
Diminished Bone Density
Young women who exercise regularly increase their bone density by 1-2%. Young women who are on the Pill and exercising regularly still do not increase their bone density.
Increased Plaque in Blood Vessels
Young women who took the Pill had a 20-30% increase in plaque in their arteries by middle age.
Fertility Awareness Method and Natural Family Planning
These two methods Fertility Awareness Method (FAM) and Natural Family Planning (NFP) have gotten bad raps and have been often confused inaccurately with the “rhythm method”. However, if learned thoroughly and practiced diligently, they are effective forms of birth control. And once you learn the signs of your own fertility, you can use to either prevent or try for conception.
I feel loathe to say this—but it turns out there are even chemicals in lubricants on condoms or creams that can not only be irritating, but also damaging to our delicate vaginal tissues. (Ever had any condoms or lubes that made you itch?) In doing so, it can make it easier for viruses or bacteria to enter. Suffice it to say, that I am looking forward to learning more about my fertility cycle so I know not only what is going on “down there”, but also so I am more empowered when I have sex if I absolutely need to use a condom or not (and not just blindly using a condom every time because I’m terrified to become pregnant and have no idea where I’m at in my cycle). It seems such a revolutionary concept—to have full knowledge and power and information of my body—though it really should be automatic and required learning for all women.
I embrace my body! I embrace my health!
Here is an interesting form from the book, The Pill: Are you sure it’s for you? that I thought may be helpful. I made it into a pdf for ease of use. Click to download!
My Contraception Plan
The Pill: Are you sure it’s for you? by Jane Bennett & Alexandra Pope
Balance Your Hormones, Balance Your Life: Achieving Optimal Health and Wellness through Ayurveda, Chinese Medicine, and Western Science by Dr. Claudia Welch