Hormonal birth control (HBC) has been a big part of my health journey and morphed my career path, and is something that has impacted many of my clients' lives as well. This isn't surprising since 80% of women will take the pill at some point in their lifetime (1).
I don't want any woman EVER to feel bad about taking hormonal birth control. I took it for seven years and then had a copper IUD, and I don't regret it. This allowed me to avoid pregnancy while finishing college and starting my career. I have since adopted and successfully use the Fertility Awareness Method, but that's a whole other post. My goal with this post is to teach you how HBC impacts the body since I was not told this by my doctor so that you can be informed.
To be honest, the pill was revolutionary for women, but at this point, I think we deserve a better option. Something that won't shut off our hormones and potentially cause health problems in the future.
Dr. Jolene Brighten puts it best in her new book, Beyond The Pill, when she states:
"The truth is, the pill hasn't kept up with the times, and there's been a bit of an 'If it ain't broke don't fix it' attitude about it. Pharmaceutical companies have very little incentive to improve upon the pill because they know the burden of pregnancy falls on us."
If the pill came out today, society would most likely be appalled due to shutting down fertility and the long list of side effects (often long term) that come with HBC. Fifty years of this and we haven't come up with anything better? It's pretty hard to believe. Please share this article and help raise awareness.
HBC works by putting synthetic hormones into the body, which are very different from our natural hormones. This shuts down your natural hormone production and stops ovulation. Ovulation is when one of our ovaries releases an egg and is the only time we can get pregnant during our cycle (plus the five days leading up to this because that's how long sperm survive).
Yes, you read that correctly. HBC works "by shutting down your ovaries and switching off your hormones. Yes. On the pill, you have no sex hormones of your own. Instead, you have steroid drugs given to you as a kind of 'hormone replacement'--not unlike the hormone replacement that is given to women in menopause (2)".
Certain types of hormonal birth control don't directly suppress ovulation, but they do tend to indirectly suppress it, which is the main issue with HBC.
Why does it matter if we suppress ovulation? Ovulation is what is the true all-star of the menstrual cycle. You don't technically need to bleed every month, but you do need to cycle. Otherwise, you won't have the shifts in hormones that keep us healthy, thriving, and young.
Period pain? Here's the pill.
Heavy periods? Here's the pill.
PCOS? Oh, you definitely need the pill.
Acne? Easy, take the pill.
Don't get a period? Great, we will give you a pill that will also make it, so you don't get a real period, but it looks like you do.
The issue with this is that HBC doesn't fix any of these issues. It is a bandaid, and when it is removed, all of your symptoms come back, plus MORE unwanted symptoms.
You have to get to the ROOT of what is causing these symptoms, which is often a sluggish metabolism/thyroid. But test, don’t guess! Discover the inner workings of your metabolism—and how to build a personalized hormone-healing protocol—with my Master Your Minerals course, in which we take you step-by-step through your own HTMA results.
Hormonal birth control or HBC is any form of birth control that uses synthetic hormones to prevent pregnancy. This is typically referring to tablets, patches, and injections.
Since the Mirena IUD doesn't completely suppress ovulation, it's the best hormonal birth control option for many. However, it has been linked to depression (3) and may reduce your ability to handle stress (5). One thing that concerns many with this IUD is that they no longer get a period, but remember the period you get on the pill is what is known as a "pill bleed" and is not an actual period. You may not get a period with the Mirena or Skyla IUD, but about 80% of the time you are still ovulating and moving through your female cycle, which is the important part.
Now that you know more about HBC and its impacts on the body, let's go through some pros and cons and when you should take it.
Ultimately, HBC covers up your monthly report card and way of being in tune with your body and your needs. It doesn't solve any problems; it just covers them up. And honestly, it is only effective for as long as you take it--as soon as you get off symptoms will return and often with a vengeance.
This makes you wonder:
Period Repair Manual by Lara Briden, ND
Sweetening The Pill by Holly Grigg-Spall
Beyond the Pill by Dr. Jolene Brighten
(1) Holly Grigg-Spall, Sweetening The Pill, p. 25
(2) Lara Briden, ND, Period Repair Manual, p. 7
(4) Skovlund CW, Morch LS, Kessling LV, Ligegaard O. Association of Hormonal Contraception With Depression. JAMA Psychiatry. 2016 Nov 1;73(11):1154-1162. PubMed PMID: 27680324
(5) Aleknaviciute J, Tulen JHM, De Rijke YB, Bouwkamp CG, van der Kroeg M, Timmermans M, et al. The levonorgestrel-releasing intrauterine device potentiates stress reactivity. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2017 June;80:39-45. PubMed PMID: 28315609