Why I don’t like hormonal birth control (and why it's a feminist issue)
Ever since I was a teenager, I’ve felt very strongly about hormonal contraception. My years of training and experience as a practitioner of natural medicine have only served to validate and reinforce these feelings, and in this article I hope to explain why.
Just to clarify, I’m talking about the oral contraceptive pill as well as contraceptive implants and injections. I refer to these collectively as ‘the Pill’ or ‘birth control’. I’m NOT talking about the Mirena coil, which has its own pros and cons.
To clarify even further, my professional advice to ALL women regardless of their individual circumstances is: do not take the Pill. Here’s why.
1) Synthetic hormones are not real hormones, and women need real hormones.
In order to realise our full potential in a male-dominated world, we women need all the help we can get. Agreed?! So why wouldn’t we want to harness the magnificent power of our female hormones, oestrogen and progesterone? (NB: I warned you I felt strongly about this!)
Natural oestrogen (mainly oestradiol, but also oestrone) builds bone, strengthens muscle, slows aging, raises libido, energy and confidence, improves blood sugar regulation and boosts serotonin, which is important for mood and sleep. It also regulates over a thousand genes, making it one of our most crucial hormones.
Synthetic or xenoestrogens (ethinylestradiol in birth control but also chemicals found in pesticides, plastics, processed food etc.) are not actually even hormones.
Ethinylestradiol potentially causes insulin resistance in women, leading to weight gain and setting the stage for diabetes, cardiovascular disease and polycystic ovarian syndrome later on in life.
Synthetic oestrogen causes insulin resistance and weight gain, setting the stage for diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
And what about progesterone - the Pill contains this, right? Wrong. Natural progesterone is an amazing hormone - it makes us feel happy and calm, promotes sleep, stimulates hair growth, prevents breast cancer and encourages healthy circulation.
We get progesterone by ovulating - but since the Pill stops ovulation, we don’t experience the benefits of progesterone whilst on the Pill.
Instead, synthetic progestins like levonorgestrel used in the Pill have the opposite effects - they increase the risk of breast cancer and fatal blood clots, cause hair loss and possibly anxiety and depression too.
2) The Pill is not an effective treatment for hormonal complaints
Women are sometimes prescribed the Pill to ‘balance’ their hormones. This is an inaccurate description of the Pill’s effects - in fact, it completely switches off our natural production of female hormones and replaces them with the synthetic versions above.
This dramatic form of chemical castration is foisted upon women under the guise of ‘treatment’ for various hormonal conditions, including acne, heavy or painful periods, and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS, which in fact the Pill may worsen: see above).
Instead, what I see time and time again in my practice is: when these women decide to come off the Pill - usually because they want to become pregnant - their old symptoms simply return.
Others come off the Pill and have great difficulty in resuming natural, healthy ovulation, which has obvious repercussions for women trying to fall pregnant. This controversial ‘post-pill syndrome’ can last for months, even years, without effective natural treatment.
Women deciding to come off the Pill often have great difficulty resuming natural, healthy ovulation.
The only situation in which I approve the use of the Pill is in controlling the potentially crippling symptoms of endometriosis whilst investigating other courses of treatment, or waiting for an operation. Even then, the Pill will not heal the endometriosis - it will simply put a lid on symptoms until you come off it.
3) The Pill has unpleasant, under-researched side effects
A 13-year study of over 1 million women in Denmark confirmed the association of the Pill with depression. It found that 23% of women aged 15 to 34 needed antidepressant medication after starting the pill, whereas teens were 80% more likely to experience depression if prescribed the combined pill.
This is sobering data, ladies.
The Pill mimics the hormonal state of pregnancy, causing high blood sugar and insulin resistance leading to weight gain. It increases the risk of fatal blood clots, is associated with migraine and non-migraine headaches, hair loss, autoimmune disease and cervical cancer.
That’s without mentioning the potential adverse effects on fertility and the all-too-common phenomenon of post-pill cystic acne. Most of these side effects are hugely under-researched, and women are simply not made aware of them before starting to take the Pill.
4) Men wouldn’t put up with it
Can you imagine a world where men say:
“Sure, I’ll take this drug that switches off my testosterone, and replaces it with synthetic pseudo-testosterone. I don’t mind that it causes weight gain, depression and loss of libido - all the other boys take it!”
I don’t think so. Gals - we need to start standing up for our hormonal human rights. Particularly considering my last and final point. .
5) There are other, better, natural forms of contraception
With these effective alternatives available, women have to ask themselves: why deprive ourselves of the physical and emotional benefits of the natural female menstrual cycle, whilst exposing our bodies to the long-term deleterious effects of hormonal contraception?
Need help coming off the Pill? Stay tuned for next month’s article on how to come off the Pill naturally and safely.
NB: I’ve included many links here to sites I wouldn’t usually refer to, like other bloggers, webmd and other informal sites. My point is that: this information is out there and I’m not the only one reporting it. Click on a few of the links and see for yourself. I mostly recommend Lara Briden - The Period Revolutionary’s blog for up-to-date scientific information and naturopathic health advice relating to periods.