Birth Control Side Effects
TRANSCRIPT EPISODE 105
Do you take birth control? Did you ever?
I think the majority of us have at some point right? That's why we are diving into birth control side effects. And it pairs nicely with the hormone information in the last PCOS episdoe.
It's mostly considered harmless. But have you thought about birth control side effects? Have you ever thought about what the consequences of taking that little birth control pill every single day might have for you? The same goes for you if you are taking any kind of oral hormones. Many women post child-bearing years take oral progesterone for sleep or anitaging or many other kinds of oral hormones.
For the birth control pill...I mean sure - it is probably protecting you against pregnancy right? Maybe easing some cramps or flow issues? Maybe even temporarily helping with acne.
But what else might be happening?
Today we are talking about those unintended effects of birth control pills or oral hormones. I always say, there are no “side effects” they are simply the effects of the medication. Birth control side effects are the same. These things are not the “side effects of birth control pills,”birth control pills cause you to not get pregnant AND also cause many other things.
There are 2 points here, firstly - knowledge is power and I feel that you should know what you may be getting into, it’s important to understand the consequences of what is primarily sold to us as harmless. Second, you must know to look here as a root cause as to WHY you may be experiencing some of the symptoms that you are.
Many women, myself included, are put on oral contraceptives or birth control pills at a young age and continue them off and on, with the exception of intentional child-bearing, until menopause.
I had a similar journey, I started birth control pills at a young age. I took them until after my second child, then I switched to the IUD or intrauterine device for birth control. Luckily, I wised up and only did that 1 round. But IUDs are a topic for another day.
Today we are focusing on oral birth control pills, and we always have to consider when we are putting stuff in our body, anything really, that the route of letting it into our body - like through our mouth and digestive tract may be easy but may not be the best way for your wellness to get that in the body.
Side Effects of Birth Control Pills
There is a really large body of evidence that has been around a LONG time about the issues with taking oral birth control or oral hormones long term (and even short term too!)
Here’s the kicker, this science, this information, is NOT new information,
There are so many of them, so I will touch on a couple.
Copper and Zinc Balance
One problem is that oral birth control pills increase the level of copper in the blood and body.
You may be thinking this isn’t a big deal because copper is a necessary mineral in the body. The caveat is copper and zinc must be in a very delicate balance in the body, both of these minerals compete for absorption in the GI tract and in the cell.
When we take birth control for extended periods of time, this increases copper which intern increases the conversion of dopamine (the happy hormone) to norepinephrine and epinephrine, and guess what that does? Increases anxiety, paranoia, restlessness, insomnia, depression, and panic.
A woman can end up with significant issues with anxiety, depression, panic, and/or insomnia, and even further downstream high blood pressure, or a number of other issues - all from taking birth control pills. Have you experienced these symptoms? I have, personally.
On top of this anxiety issue, the higher levels of copper lead to low levels of zinc...which leads to an insufficient immune system.
Vitamin B and D Deficency
Much like a gameshow, at this point I get to say… ”but WAIT that’s not all…” it is also very well known that ongoing birth control use depletes vitamin D-6. Vitamin D-6 is not as popular as its cousin D-3, but it still has lots of jobs. One of them is to ensure that the byproducts of estrogens in the body are not carcinogenic. Hello, breast and uterine cancer...Mind blown, right?
Oral contraceptives and hormones also block the body’s ability to absorb Vitamin B6. Kinda like D6, B6 isn’t as popular, but if you have ever heard that birth control pills make you gain weight - then this is likely one of the culprits. B6 is an important part of protein, fat and carbohydrate metabolism.
Another consequence of oral birth control pills includes increasing inflammation. This happens really really fast - as in within DAYS of starting the pill and it is easily demonstrated on your labs. As we know, inflammation is a precursor to almost every health issue and autoimmune condition that has been discovered.
This brings us to the autoimmune risk - if you take the pill you are at a significantly increased risk for autoimmune diseases (specifically 50% more likely to develop Crohn's, Ulcerative Colitis, and Inflammatory Bowel Disease).
I mentioned an increase in earlier blood pressure issues combined with anxiety, but it is also important to understand that high blood pressure is a standalone effect of birth control pills or oral hormones. The inflammation and the blood pressure cause a 4x increase in cardiovascular risk above your existing risk factors.
Now, this isn’t to say that everyone that takes birth control pills will have all of these issues, just like everyone who takes birth control pills doesn’t prevent pregnancy. Each of us is unique, different, or as you may have heard me say before - bioindividual. Thanks to that each person has a unique path to their chronic or autoimmune condition. I am just giving you the rundown of what these “harmless” drugs do in the body.
What do we do instead of oral birth control or pills?
So what’s the answer?
I’m sure you are waiting for me to tell you that you don’t need birth control. And frankly, I’m not about that life. I have 2 kids, and I am a-okay without any more. So I get it.
In the same regard, oral birth control pills are not safe. So if you are taking them for any other reason other than to prevent pregnancy - then yeah...STOP.
If pregnancy prevention is what you are needing, there are some options for you outside of oral contraceptives.
The best one for convenience is going to be something Transdermal. There are transdermal or through the skin, hormones available for many uses, including birth control. It’s still medication and it will still have consequences but they are far less than dropping those pills down the hatch.
There is lots of evidence in studies that tell us all of these unintended consequences and harmful effects of birth control are not present with topical or transdermal bioindentical hormones.
Other more labor-intensive methods include charting, diaphragms, condoms (his or hers), cervical caps, sponges, and spermicides. There are even some plant-based non-spermicide birth control methods popping up. All things to consider.
To wrap this up:
Many things that we are so frequently prescribed or seem such the cultural norm have deep deep impacts on our long term health meanwhile being seen as harmless. Robbing Peter to pay Paul style until the consequences catch up to us. And they DO! I see them in my practice every week.
Know that you have other options available to you that work! So don’t settle, ask questions, do your research and make sure you speak up for the option you want. It’s your health, take it back!
Know that medications can be important and lifesaving - I'm not against them in acute situations, but we have to be realistic about the consequences of common medications that are used and overused frequently.
Make sure that when you are prescribed any medication even if you think your provider says its harmless or necessary, ask:
- Is there any other option before trying medication?
- What are the intended and unintended consequences of taking this medication? (hint: all medications have side effects - so don’t take “there’s not any” as an answer)
- What is the plan to get off this medication?
This is so important and it's important to have your entire holistic basket of systems and symptoms addressed to ensure that you are addressing the root cause.
If you think this route is for you, feel free to jump on a complimentary case review.
Thanks for listening to the Naturalistic Nurse Podcast, if you’d like to contribute to this podcasting effort of getting the work out about how to shift your practice to ditch the bandaid fix and shift to root cause resolutions that stick be sure and subscribe, rate and leave a review - I’d be oh- so grateful.