Hormonal contraceptives work by suppressing your body’s natural production of the hormones estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. If you did a full blood panel on a woman who currently uses birth control (the pill, IUD, implant, or patch) it would look like a woman who was in menopause. They work in three specific ways:
- They suppress ovulation by causing a break in communication between your hypothalamus, pituitary gland, and your ovaries.
- They interfere with implantation of a fertilized egg. Normally during ovulation, progesterone makes your uterine lining about 10 mm thick so that a fertilized egg can attach and implant itself, resulting in a pregnancy. On the pill, your lining shrinks down to 2mm-8mm thick, which impairs the ability of a fertilized egg to implant.
- They prohibit your cervix from producing quality cervical fluid. Instead, it makes it thicker so that sperm cannot pass through the cervix to fertilize an egg.
Informed consent includes being aware of the benefits as well as the risks.
If utilized properly, HC’s are 99.7% effective. However, there are significant side effects – including, but not limited to:
- Thrombophlebitis, with or without embolism
- Myocardial infarctions, ie. heart attacks
- Gallbladder disease
- Benign liver tumors
- Mood issues
- Low libido
- Long term hormonal disruptions
There are a few lesser known side effects of hormonal contraceptive use that are incredibly important to be aware of.
The Pill & Choosing a Partner
As you approach ovulation you are more likely to prefer a partner based on their scent and your perceived scent. When you are on birth control it affects your ovulation, thus affecting your major histocompatibility complex. When cycling naturally you are more likely to pick a partner whose features and behavior are more masculine. While on birth control you are more likely to pick someone who has more feminine features and who is more genetically similar to you.
The Pill & Nutrition
When you are on hormonal birth control, your nutrient and mineral stores are depleted. Nutrients like folate, vitamin B6, zinc, selenium, phosphorus, magnesium, coenzyme Q10, vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin E.
Inversely, hormonal contraceptives increase your levels of copper, iron, and calcium. We recommend getting on a high quality multi-vitamin and increasing your intake of minerals.
The Pill & Cancer
Because birth control causes a huge deficiency in folate, it really affects your cervix and can increase your risk of developing persistent HPV infection, cervical dysplasia, and cervical cancer. It also increases your risk of developing breast cancer and liver cancer.
The pill does decrease your chances of endometrial, ovarian and colorectal cancer. However, if you have used birth control for over 5 years, you have an increased risk of cervical cancer by 60%. If you’ve been on hormonal contraceptives for over 10 years, it increases your risk by 20%.
If you are currently on birth control or if you are trying to support your body after choosing to discontinue birth control, here are a few things you can do to support your body:
- Consume organic whole foods
- Take a high quality multivitamin
- Receive brain-based chiropractic care
- Receive acupuncture
- Consistently exercise
- Seed cycle
- Castor oil packs & dry brushing
- Support your gut health
- Support your liver
- Reduce your chemical exposure
- Dr. Liz’s webinar titled ‘Explore the Side Effects of Birth Control’ & ‘Supporting Your Cycle’ on our website
- The Fifth Vital Sign by Lisa Hendrickson-Jack
- Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler
- Woman Code by Alisa Vitti
While hormonal contraceptives can be effective in preventing pregnancy, it’s important to understand the long term side effects so that you can make the most informed and conscious decision for your health.