Birth control has helped many women in many different ways (myself included), but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t come with its own side effects and risks. When I started taking birth control it was because I had incredibly heavy periods and it helped make them more manageable. After some time, I had to be on a particular (more expensive) type of birth control or I was one of the unlucky ones where the pill made my acne worse instead of suppressing it. Another misconception, birth control does not fix acne. If you’re lucky, it can suppress it and makes your skin clearer while taking it. After being on birth control for 14 years my acne came back with a vengeance and it took a few years to be able to control naturally.
Now just like birth control doesn’t “fix” your acne, it didn’t “fix” my heavy periods either. Birth control replaced replaced my periods with a medication induced withdrawal bleed. It's designed to stop you from having a cycle so you don’t get pregnant, therefore you are not ovulating, you are not cycling hormones and you are not having a period. But “I thought I was having a period every time I went into the placebo week.” I wasn’t, you aren’t, and this can mask more serious issues for some women because you are still having a medication induced withdrawal bleed. After 14 years of being on birth control it took me over a year to have a cycle again, and almost another year for it to become somewhat regular again. My hormones were all over the place and probably had been for years, but I was still having my “period” like clockwork because that’s what birth control does.
Check out the side effects of birth control on:
Mood – it can offer relief of cyclical mood symptoms in some women but can amplify anxiety and depression for others. For some it my increase the risk of suicide.
Brain – it alters brain structure, function, mate selection, and can increase the production for neurotoxins in the brain.
Migraines and Headaches – they can become worse while on birth control.
Thyroid – it depletes nutrients the thyroid needs to produce hormones and increases thyroid binding globulin. A protein that prevents thyroid hormones from being used by the body.
Stress – women on birth control have been found to have disruption in their HPA (hypothalamic pituitary adrenal) axis and an altered stress response.
Skin – estrogen and progestin can suppress acne for some women, for others it can get worse.
Hair – some women experience hair loss.
Liver – it alters the liver on a structural and genetic level. There is an increased risk of both benign liver tumors and liver cancer.
Gallbladder – women with a history of gallstones may experience faster stone formation.
Gut – it increases intestinal hyper-permeability (leaky gut), disrupts the microbiome, allows for overgrowth of yeast, and is associated with an increased risk in developing autoimmune disease of the gut in women with a genetic predisposition.
Cancer – it can reduce the risk of some cancers like ovarian, uterine, and colorectal cancers. It has been shown to increase the risk of brain, liver, and breast cancer.
Heart Attack – certain pill formulations can increase the risk of a cardiovascular event. In women with pre-existing conditions, this risk may be higher.
Nutrient Deficiencies – it depletes magnesium and vitamin B6 (pyridoxine).
Blood Pressure – it can lead to an elevated blood pressure.
Blood Clots – there is an increased risk of developing a blood clot while on birth control. If you’re a smoker, have heart or liver disease, have migraines with aura, are overweight, or over age 35 you are also at an increased risk of developing a blood clot.
Autoimmune Disease – it is associated with an increased risk of developing Crohn’s disease, multiple sclerosis, lupus, interstitial cystitis and ulcerative colitis.
Diabetes Risk – birth control use has been shown to lead to insulin resistance and blood sugar dysregulation. In postmenopausal women who have ever used the pill there is an increased risk of developing diabetes.
Vaginal Infections – some women may have more frequent yeast infections.
Libido – many women report low or absent libido. Birth control may also lead to vaginal dryness and pain with sex.
Period Relief – can reduce heavy periods and cramps in some women.
Pregnancy Prevention – some forms are up to 99% effective , but only with PERFECT USE!
There are many formulations of hormonal birth control and it is definitely not a one-size-fits all kind of deal. And as you can see there are many risks associated with birth control use. The longer you use it, the worse the toll is on your body. This was definitely the case for me. If pregnancy prevention is your main or only reason for being on the pill there are other birth control options that have minimal to no risk like those associated with the pill. If there is another reason you need to be on hormonal birth control be sure to go over all options and possible root causes for your symptoms with your doctor or health care provider.
Brighten, Jolene, N.D. Beyond the Pill: A 30-Day Program to Balance Your Hormones, Reclaim Your Body, and Reverse the Dangerous Side Effects of the Birth Control Pill. New York City, Harper Collins Publishers, January 29, 2019.
Pharmacy Solutions Online. Drug Induced Nutrient Depletion, https://pharmacysolutionsonline.com/drug-induced-nutrient-depletion.php. Accessed 18 Jan 2020.