Birth Control Awareness: The Positive & Negative Effects of Hormonal Birth Control
We all know the obvious purpose that hormonal birth control serves: and that's to prevent pregnancy. While it’s very effective for women to use as a contraceptive, the effects aren’t just limited to pregnancy prevention.
In fact, birth control is often prescribed for noncontraceptive reasons for common reproductive health issues that women experience such as: an irregular, heavy or painful period, menstrual cramp relief, endometrios, fibroids, PCOS and even hormonal acne issues.
With that said, however, hormonal birth control doesn't come without some not so pretty side effects. As with all drugs, there are beneficial effects and potential risks that affect everyone differently.
First, let's cover some of the different forms of birth control.
Hormone-based contraceptives are available in many forms, including:
- Pills (or oral contraceptives): The key difference between brands are the amounts of estrogen and progestin in them — this is why some women switch brands if they think they’re getting too little or too much hormones, based on the symptoms experienced. The pill must be taken every day to prevent pregnancy.
- Patch: The patch also contains estrogen and progestin, but is placed on the skin. Patches must be changed once a week for full effect.
- Ring: Similar to the patch and pill, the ring also releases estrogen and progestin into the body. The ring is worn inside the vagina so that the vaginal lining can absorb the hormones. Rings must be replaced once a month.
- Birth control shot (Depo-Provera): The shot contains only progestin, and is administered every 12 weeks at your doctor’s office.
- Intrauterine devices (IUDs): There are IUDs both with and without hormones. In ones that release hormones, they can contain progesterone. IUD’s are inserted into your uterus by your doctor and must be changed every 3 to 10 years, depending on the type.
- Implant: The implant contains progestin that releases through the thin rod into your arm. It’s placed under the skin on the inside of your upper arm by your doctor. It lasts for up to 3 years .
Each type of birth control has similar benefits and risks and every woman's body responds differently to these hormones.
Positive Side Effects of Birth Control...
1. Pregnancy prevention
Depending on your reason for taking birth control, this can be seen as a positive or negative effect. Changes to the consistency of cervical mucus serves to stop sperm from entering your uterus and decreases your chances of becoming pregnant.
2. Prevents and stop ovulation (no egg released).
Certain forms of birth control stop ovulation from happening all together. No ovulation means no egg leaving the ovaries and traveling up the fallopian tube to be fertilized. This can also be seen as a positive or negative effect depending on your reason for taking birth control, to prevent pregnancy or not. I will add, that whether a womam wants to get pregnant or not, our ovulation cycle needs to happen for optimal health.
3. Menstrual Pain & Cramp Relief
Hormonal birth control may control or decrease your menstrual cramps, flow or other menstrual cycle symptoms like PMS or PMDD. I want you to keep in mind though that birth control is a bandaide solution for your menstrual cycle and period problems. Shop the Period Health tab for herbal supplements that help improve your menstrual cycle and period symptoms, and that help address your root causes like inflammation, estrogen dominance and poor blood circulation.
4. Endometriosis, Fibroids, Cyst & PCOS Symptom Relief
Birth control can help relieve symptoms of endometriosis, fibroids, ovarian cyst, and PCOS. Again, it's important to know that while birth control does relieve these symptoms, they really only mask what's going on beneath. So work on addressing your root cause - optimizing your nutrition and lifestyle.
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5. Reduce Acne & Skin Issues
The hormones from birth control can make acne clear up for some women. And in others it can make skin issues worse. Every woman's body is different.
6. Possible Cancer Prevention
Some studies show that certain type of birth control offers a bit of extra protection from uterine and ovarian cancers. But although that may be true for short term use, birth control definitely contributes to other types of cancer.
Negative Benefits of Birth Control...
1. Breast Changes
Breast changes are definitely a possibility when taking birth control because of the excess estrogen. The most commonly reported symptoms are breast tenderness and enlargement.
2. Mood Changes
Birth control can affect your mood. While some women experience less anxiety some experience depression and severe mood swings. This is because of the manipulation of progesterone hormone and even the changes to your gut microbiome.
3. Nutrient Deficiences
Birth control depletes your body of many minerals and vitamins, as do most drugs and medications. Nutrients that birth control deplete are zinc, selenium, b vitamins, phosphorus, magnesium, and coenzme Q10.
4. Gut dysbiosis and IBS
Birth control can change your microbiome: the community of bacteria and other microorganisms living in your gut. Changes in this community, what we call dysbiosis, is a cause of IBS. Not having enough diversity in your gut flora – which is common in those with IBS – can make your IBS worse. Hormonal birth control can significantly increase your risk of Crohn’s disease, increase inflammation and increase intestinal permeability (aka leaky gut), two factors that are known to increase risk of IBS.
5. Candida overgrowth, yeast & vaginal infections
The synthetic estrogen in birth control can contribute to candida (yeast) overgrowth and other infections. Estradiol (E2) stimulates colonization of the vagina by Candida albicans. Estrogen and candida bind to each other, and high levels of estrogen promote candida infection. The impact candida has on our pH, hormones and vaginal flora can create fertility challenges, and increase the contraction of STD's.
6. Weight Fluctuations
Birth control can cause weight fluctations in some women. This can be attributed to changes in your sex hormone levels, metabolism and your appetite.
7. Elevated Blood Pressure
When taking birth control there is an increased risk of elevated blood pressure. Birth control is still a drug, which means there are still synthetic and foreign inorganic chemicals in it. This will contribute to more toxin circulating in your blood, which in turn raises your blood pressure. Have your blood pressure checked regularly.
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8. Increase Risk of Cancer
Birth control actually does increase women's risk of developing breast cancer. It contributes to the "estrogen dominant" state in the body. Estrogen receptor positive breast cancer means that estrogen encourages the growth of the cancer cells. This is why part of the treatment plan for these types of cancers usually involves medications that lower estrogen levels in the body or help block the estrogen receptors, and progesterone, too, if needed.
Hope this article brought light to the positive and negative effects that birth control can have on women's body, especially when used long-term. Do your due diligence and research this topic.
Love and health,