Oral Contraceptives: What You Need to Know

Oral Contraceptives AKA birth control.  As the name suggests, this a prescription that alters a women’s hormones in efforts to prevent pregnancy.  And let’s be real here, IT DOES A REALLY GOOD JOB!  I have no issues with anyone’s decisions about what is right for them or their young girls; however, I think knowledge is power and ignorance isn’t an excuse.  So, read forth and consider all the information before deciding what is right for you.

Why is birth control such a hot topic?  

Most people have 1 of 2 reasons why they are using birth control:

  • to prevent pregnancy
  • to balance hormones, which means they usually have a symptom of disruption such as, PCOS, heavy periods, irregular cycles, PMS, acne, mood disturbance, cramps, ovarian cysts

The reason this may be such a hot topic is because many moms don’t want to give their teen daughters birth control to control symptoms of hormonal imbalance.  OR, they feel as though preventing pregnancy through birth control is an invitation that it’s ok to have sexual intercourse.  The debate of abstinence is not what I care about, but the early use of hormones to regulate such important chemicals in a young female’s body, is.

The common story: “the pill” for period problems

Personally, this was my story, and the story of many of my friends in high school.  Heavy periods, painful periods, or irregular periods lead you to your first OB/GYN appointment, and you leave with a prescription to clear things right up.  You begin taking them, things are great, and you continue to take your magic pills for the next several years, maybe even a decade or more!  Most women don’t get off of them until they wish to start a family.  Let’s think about this, you go on them around the age of 16, and you may not go off of hormones until 10 years later!  What a crucial time in your natural hormone development.  Some women have real issues transitioning off with all the symptoms flooding back with a vengeance, and some women don’t notice a thing.

What’s the big deal with taking birth control?

Taking birth control to artificially “fix” hormone symptoms is like taking pain meds to forget something hurts.  It doesn’t address the source of the issue and it can have huge impacts on the endocrine system long term.  Synthetic hormones are the not the same as your own hormones being made inside your body, and they can have serious health repercussions such as stroke, pulmonary embolism, hormone cancers or infertility.  A side note to that is the new versions of the pill that are low dose like Yasmin, Alesse, etc, have huge increases in the risk of cardiovascular complications!  They know this, and  the FDA updated the risk level for any pills containing drospirenone. You can read more here.

The artificial supplementation of hormones doesn’t address the reason hormones were off in the first place.  Can you imagine the amount of dysfunction that could build up over the course of 10 years if left unaddressed?!  What if you had a thyroid condition that was throwing off your hormones and you were prescribed birth control without ever realizing your thyroid was in crisis?  I would call that an epic fail.  What if you were developing PCOS and had no idea that your blood sugar was such an issue?  Another birth control fail.

What do we do instead?

Regulating hormones comes down to foundations.  Stress, diet, and exercise are all part of the picture. Conventional  animal products contain unhealthy hormones and hormone disruptors.  Certain plants act like estrogens.  Dairy is a huge driver of androgens.  Stress requires cortisol production, which is a hormone.  Too much cortisol can cause someone to have major shifts in their sex hormones.  Lack of fiber means free hormones are not bound and eliminated.  Excessive exercise is notorious for altering body fat percentages that don’t support normal menstruation.  We have all heard of young gymnasts who don’t get a period until they quit training.  On the flip side, lack of movement can predispose young people to store more fat.  Fat produces estrogen!  You can see how lifestyle is so huge.

There are also options in the herbal department, too.

  • Chasteberry is an herb that has been used for many years to regulate hormones by acting on the hypothalamus and the pituitary glands.  It ends up naturally raising progesterone levels without acting as a hormone.  Low progesterone give women the blues, heavy periods, or bad PMS.
  • Maca is a root vegetable that has been used for fertility in certain cultures because it balances hormones.  It aids in estrogen balance, and supports adrenal and thyroid function.
  • Saw palmetto is an herb that balances testosterone that can cause acne.
  • Black cohosh is an herb that can naturally boost estrogen levels.

Depending on someone’s imbalance, a combination of these ingredients can be a lifesaver in the symptom department!  Hormones can really dictate how stable a young person’s emotions are, how confident they are in their body, and how healthfully they develop a fertile environment for child-bearing years.

Are there things I should do if I decide to take oral contraceptives?

Oral contraceptives deplete certain nutrients like B-vitamins, vitamin D, Calcium, Magnesium, Zinc, and Folic Acid.  Yup, folic acid, that B-vitamin necessary to keep a child from having a cleft palate. They can also alter balance in the bacteria living in the gut called the microbiome.  So, if you decide to take an oral contraceptive, I would NOT take one like Yaz or Alesse because of the increased risk in clotting.  I would also supplement with the following:

  • B-complex
  • Reacted mineral
  • Vitamin D
  • Probiotics

This is just scraping the surface, but I hope it helps you make a decision that is right for you!