Hormonal birth control methods such as pills, patches, implants, and shots are very popular among teens and adults to prevent unwanted pregnancy. These prescriptions alter a woman’s body chemistry to prevent an egg from implanting and becoming a pregnancy.
Unfortunately, because these substances alter body chemistry, these methods of birth control come with many risks that may make them dangerous to use over long periods of time. Some potential side effects can be so severe that it can even inhibit a woman from becoming pregnant after she uses these contraceptives for long periods of time.
Birth control hormones are effective because they are similar to hormones that are naturally produced by the body, but since these substances are man made (and not natural) they can react to everyone’s body just a little different.
This can mean unwanted side effects, both immediate and long term, and can even render a woman sterile if she has a bad enough reaction. Before choosing a hormonal birth control method, it is important for a woman to understand the risks and the benefits to make the decision that is right for her.
An estimated 67% of women use some type of birth control to prevent getting pregnant. Of those, an estimated 25% of those women use hormonal birth control pills; and most of them know the negative affect that these pills can have.
What Are Birth Control Pills?
Birth control pills are a form of hormonal birth control that is put into a pill form to be taken daily. They tend to alter a woman’s natural ovulation cycle, and can prevent pregnancy by taking the place of certain hormones.
The birth control pills mimic the affects of a woman’s natural hormones; and prevent an egg from being released to be fertilized. This prevents pregnancy, and the studies on these pills claim that their effectiveness is up to 99.9% effective if they are taken exactly to the directions.
Because of the affects these pills can have on the body, some women take them to regulate their own hormones: to control periods, to stop periods, reduce PMS symptoms, lessen bleeding and cramping, clear up acne, etc.
While these uses are sometimes shown to improve quality of a woman’s life, they are not exempt from the potentially dangerous side effects of birth control pills—even with appropriate (and sometimes necessary) use.
In the same way these fake hormones are effective, they are dangerous to the body. Any substance that mimics a natural hormone found in your body can cause harm or dangerous side effects.
There are many doctors out there that are now recommending natural alternatives to birth control pills because newly emerging information has recently been illuminating how dangerous they really can be.
What Are Some Different Types of Birth Control Pills?
There are many different brands of birth control pills, but only two different types: combined hormone pills and progestin-only pills. Both types have different side effects and risks associated with them, because each mimics different hormone function.
-Combined Hormone Birth Control Pills: Combined birth control pills are formulated with a mixture of female sex hormones, estrogen and progestin. These types of pills are designed to prevent a woman’s ovulation, which means there will not be an egg to fertilize and implant.
These pills can also further help prevent pregnancy by thinning the lining of the uterus and thickening the cervical mucus. Thinning the lining of the uterus makes it harder for a fertilized egg to implant, and thickening the mucus of the cervix makes it harder for sperm to pass the mucus and move into the uterus.
These pills are usually taken in 4 week cycles: 3 weeks of hormones and 1 week of placebo. The week with no hormones is when the woman would experience her period for that month.
Some manufacturers create packs that have 12 weeks of hormones and 1 week of placebo; making it to where the woman has one period every 3 months. Their effectiveness is directly correlated to if they are taken every single day, and at the same time of day.
Combined hormone birth control pills are usually lower doses because of the multiple hormones they mimic. These are generally accepted as “safer” than higher dose pills, but they still have their side effects, regardless of how small the dose is.
-Progestin-Only Birth Control Pills: Progestin-only birth control pills do not contain estrogen; only progestin. They are typically recommended for women who have a hard time with hormones or who may have an estrogen sensitivity.
These pills are commonly known as the ‘mini-pill’, and on their own they prevent pregnancy by thickening the cervical mucus and thinning the lining of the uterus. Typically the mini-pill does not stop ovulation.
These pills are more rare, and women on the mini-pills often see more break through bleeding between periods than women who take the combination pills.
These pills are usually in packs of 28 pills, with 3 weeks of hormones and one week of placebo.
What Are Some Side Effects of Birth Control Pills?
Because birth control pills mimic the hormones that our bodies make, they keep the hormone levels raised for most of the month. A woman’s body is meant to cycle, and the hormones naturally fluctuate, but with birth control the hormones are present more than they are not.
This constant stream of hormones can not only create harmful and uncomfortable side effects, but can become dangerous to her health sometimes. Keeping estrogen present in the body at all times can lead to side effects such as:
- Increased risk of breast cancer because of the constant exposure to hormones
- Increase risk of blood clots, heart attack, or stroke. These risks are much higher if a woman who is overweight takes the pills
- Migraines and headaches
- Liver problems, including tumors (non cancerous)
- Gall bladder issues including stones and pain
- High blood pressure
- Weight gain
- Severe mood changes and mood swings; including depression and anxiety
- Break through bleeding and/or spotting between periods
- Breast soreness
- Cramping and pain
It is also important to remember that any birth control method that does not provide a barrier between fluids will NOT prevent sexually transmitted infections.
Some women take these pills to alleviate symptoms associated with their cycles, but recent studies have shown that these pills are not as effective as originally thought. Sometimes they can even contribute to the problems and make them worse. Estrogen is a known contributor to painful cramping during periods, and because some pills contain estrogen, it can worsen symptoms.
Why Are Birth Control Pills Dangerous?
Birth control pills are dangerous because they cause side effects that can be harmful to the body. Here are 5 main ways that birth control pills are dangerous, and may not be a good choice for contraceptive
- Birth control pills can contribute to deficiencies in the body. Because birth control pills mimic hormones, sometimes the can cause deficiencies in key nutrients that a woman’s body needs to stay healthy. Prolonged use of birth control pills has been shown to reduce iron, magnesium, and B-vitamins in a woman’s body.Nutrient deficiency is one of the leading causes of other sicknesses and disease. If you do take a birth control pill, it is crucial to have a diet rich in vitamins and minerals and other healing ingredients to make sure your body is getting what it needs and is not being deprived. Diet is going to be your key to avoiding deficiency-related symptoms, such as mood issues, indigestion, pain, and sleep issues.
- Birth control pills can initiate or inflame candida. Candida is a natural yeast that live in the digestive tract. Sometimes, overgrowth can occur when there is an abundance of sugars, antibiotics, and refined multigrain. Birth control can contribute to this overgrowth as well, and sometimes the candida overgrowth can be seen in other body systems as well.The Healthy Women Organizations Website suggests that yeast overgrowth has been linked to excessive estrogen in the body, and women who use hormonal forms of birth control tend to have more symptoms and trouble with this than women who choose alternative methods.Yeast overgrowth can be toxic and can contribute to migraines, infertility, endometriosis, psoriasis, depression, and more. If you must be on a birth control pill, progestin only varieties do not have as many yeast-related issues as the pills with estrogen in them also.
- Birth control is known to cause excessive mood swings, but can also be a cause of anxiety and depression. There is strong evidence that constant exposure to these hormones is a large contributing factor to extreme mood issues. It is not natural to be subjected to these hormones all the time, and because the hormones interrupt a woman’s natural cycle, it can also disrupt her mood and cause depression. Symptoms of depression are: lack of sexual desire, loss of appetite, increased appetite, fatigue, no motivation, etc. There have been studies that link progestin to these symptoms the most, but any disruption in hormones can potentially cause these effects.
- Higher levels of estrogen may increase your risk for certain cancers. Chris Kahlenborn, M.D. From Altoona Pennsylvania has conducted studies on breast cancer rates. The general population has approximately an 8% chance of developing breast cancer. Dr. Kahlenborn has found that that risk is increased as much as 44% for women who have taken birth control before having their first child.This is a staggering statistic, and shows just how much hormones can affect our bodies in ways that we don’t even think about. That means women on birth control have as much as a 1 in 5 chance of developing breast cancer. The reason for this is that the same hormones that block pregnancy tend to over stimulate the breast tissue, which can lead to cancer.
- Finally, birth control pills come with the risk of increased potential for blood cloths (pulmonary problems, embolism, and deep vein thrombosis). The link is between estrogen and blood clotting in the veins, and it was identified more than 20 years ago. Blood clots in the body are meant to help you, but if they form inside the veins, and then break off and head to the heart or lungs they can be fatal.Estrogen has been linked to clotting, and the risk of a blood clot increases if you smoke or are overweight. 10-15% of these cases of blood clots in the legs that break off and travel within the body lead to sudden death.
Are There Any Alternatives to Birth Control Pills?
If you are looking for safe and effective contraceptive methods, there are many different hormone-free varieties available on the market that you can try
- Male condoms: Male condoms block the semen from entering the vagina, and are 98% effective when used properly. An added benefit is that they do protect from sexually transmitted infections.
- Female condoms: Female condoms are also a barrier method. They are slightly less effective than male condoms, with a 95% success rate. Female condoms can also protect against sexually transmitted infections as well.
- Diaphragm: A diaphragm must be fitted by a doctor, but is also a barrier method. They are 92-98% effective at preventing pregnancy. They work by covering the cervix and blocking the sperm from traveling into the uterus.
- Cervical cap: The cervical cap is a heavy rubber cap that a doctor applies for you that covers the cervix. It can be left in place for up to 48 hours, and are around 92% effective.
- Natural Planning/Calendar/Temperature/Mucus methods: All of these methods are designed for contraception without the use of hormones or barrier methods. These methods involve tracking parts of the woman’s cycle to determine when she is ovulating. The calendar method tracks the number of days from her last period.The Temperature method tracks ovulation by tracking her basal temperature every day (ovulation is indicated by a slight temperature increase). Mucus method tracks the cervical mucus to indicate ovulation. All of these methods are completely natural. They can take some time to perfect, but they require nothing but patience and consistency.
How Can I Protect Myself if I Choose to Use Birth Control Pills?
If you must use birth control pills, make sure that you are getting a diet rich in nutrients and vitamins, keep your weight at healthy levels, and report any strange symptoms to your doctor. This can help you learn more about your body and how the pills can affect your personally, and can help you prevent the issues that can arise from hormone use.
Where Can I Learn More About Birth Control Pills and Decide if They Are Right for Me?
When making a choice about contraceptives, it is important to be informed about the potential risks, and if the benefit outweighs those risks. With something that can affect your health as much as birth control potentially can, it is crucial to educate yourself before you try the product.
That way you can make sure that you are making the right decision regarding your health and future. Sometimes the benefits outweigh the risk, but it is very important to recognize the potential risks before starting a new hormone therapy regimen.
You can consult your doctor about birth control pills versus other forms of contraception, or visit a local women’s health clinic near you. Your OB-GYN would also have information about the birth control pills and other methods that could replace the pills, and can often recommend alternatives that are just as effective without the hormones.
You can also find information about birth control pills and alternatives at websites such as https://draxe.com/birth-control-pills/ and sometimes the manufacturer’s websites have good information about the pills as well.
All of these resources can help you choose the method of contraception that is best for you.