Birth Control: the good, the bad and the SUPER ugly!

Birth control.  Pretty hot topic right.

Disclaimer:  This article is meant to inform, not offend.

I was on birth control for many years.  Most women I know are on or were on it for many years.  The common result?  Disrupted hormones.

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No one can deny the fact that birth control makes an excellent contraceptive.  By mimicking your hormones, it can prevent pregnancy from occurring while the female is ovulating.  Pills that contain high amounts of estrogen convince your pituitary gland that you are pregnant and don't need to ovulate.  Birth control can help amenorrhea and dysmenorrhea symptoms, thus regulating the periods and menstrual flow.  It can help with a teenage nightmare: Acne!  But what is in birth control and what is it doing in your body?

I was on birth control for many years.  I was started on it when I was 16 years old, primarily because I hadn't yet gotten my period, and I was already experiencing bone density loss due to my eating disorder.  I didn't have enough body fat to get nor sustain a period, and the low estrogen was affecting my bones.  Being placed on birth control was a quick and easy solution, minus the fact that I was disgusted by the concept of having a period.  I didn't realize then what I figured out years later, which is how important your menstrual cycle is to your overall health and why it needs to be as regular and normal as possible to support your own health.

I continued to take birth control for several years...till I was 24.  I was more of an on and off user in the beginning, mostly dictated by what mood I was in and if I felt like getting my period.  Later, when I hit college, I was a more consistent user, all the way up to marriage.  That's when I was placed on a new birth control, and I felt my mood and hormones were more wacky then ever before!

Interestingly, I find this to be the testimony of most of my friends who have taken birth control.  They either have dealt with crazy hormonal imbalance, infertility or early perimenopausal symptoms.  These are girls in their 20s and 30s.  What gives?

What's disappointing is birth control is not designed to be a long term solution.  Yet, because many women start on it in their teens, many are on it for up to twenty years or more, with few to no intermissions.  Here are some of the "bad and the ugly" that birth control can do to the body:

1) Disrupt the gut flora
2) Disrupt the hormones
3) Imbalance and depletion of vitamins and trace minerals
4) Loss of libido and sexual impairment

Think about it.  You are ingesting synthetic hormones to interrupt your natural cycle.  Here are some mild side effects that can be caused by birth control:

1) Migraines (interesting article regarding OCP and migraines)
2) Higher blood pressure
3) Decreased bone density (read this article)
4) Yeast overgrowth and infection (not good for anybody but especially those with or predisposed to autoimmune disease; see this post)
5) Increased risk of cervical and breast cancers (check out this article)
6) Increased risk of heart attack or stroke
7) Increased risk of clotting (check out this article)
8) Increased mood swings (check out this study)

What's super bad for mamas? Birth control can mess with your milk production.  The article "Birth Control Side Effects: What You Need to Know About Contraceptives," shares that if you are breastfeeding, it is best to steer clear of pills that contain estrogen, as they can decrease breast milk production by up to 5%.  As any breastfeeding mama knows, 5% is no small number!  Progestin-only pills don't interfere with lactation, but have to be taken at the same time every day because they are slightly less effective than combination pills.

The thing people must realize who use birth control for acnes, amenorrhea and hormonal imbalance is that birth control is a bandaid, and it does not get to the root of the problem.  Your body is trying to tell you something!  You might need to cleanse your liver, decrease the stress in your life, or address thyroid and/or adrenal imbalance.  Birth control may improve your symptoms for a short time, but your body is likely at overall greater risk in the long run.

So what are other effective, healthier types of birth control? Your best bets are "barrier" methods, such as diaphragms and condoms.  Combining two of the following natural methods can also work:

1) Cervical mucus: this method has a 98% success rate; your vaginal discharge changes with your changing estrogen levels and when it resembles raw egg white, ovulation is near.  There might not be any following menstruation, and intercourse should be avoided until four days following its disappearance or when it becomes cloudy and sticky.

2) Temperature: Take your basal temperature when you wake.  Normal is 97.2 to 97.7 degrees before ovulation, and hormonal changes boost it by 0.5 to 1.6 degrees.  Avoid intercourse until your temperature returns to normal.

3) Calendar Method: Avoid sex the week you are ovulating.  However, to track this accurately you should really track your periods for a year.  You should subtract 18 from the number of days of your shortest cycle; this is when you are likely fertile and should avoid intercourse.

I don't recommend the withdrawal method, as it is only 60 to 80% effective.  The great thing about these natural methods too is they are free! Who doesn't like to save a few extra dollars- or up to 1000 dollars a year with the cost of some birth controls.  More information about natural birth control can be found on Mind Body Green's web site or on this article by Medicinenet.

I truly hope this post can guide you and inform you in choosing what the best form of birth control is for your body...for right now and in the future.  It is a huge responsibility and one not to be taken lightly.  If you are birth control for medical reasons, at the very least I hope this information can help you be more aware of potential side effects and can guide you to seek optimal gut health to keep your body healthy and strong! Please feel free to add a comment, ask me questions or offer feedback!




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