Important Things I Wish I Knew, Before Taking The Birth Control Pill...
My period had vanished, my face was covered in cystic acne and my hair was falling out.
I was prescribed the pill to 'fix' my hormones, but things got 10x worse....
Have you had a similar experience to me?
The pill has been used for decades as the 'holy grail' for women trying to treat acne, 'regulate' their cycle, prevent pregnancy and manage extreme PMS symptoms.
However for a lot of women, myself included, the pill was a big mistake.
Although my time on birth control was relatively short (2 years) compared to many of the women who I work with, who have been on it for decades, I still experienced a lot of it's negative effects.
I could write 10 lonnngggg blog posts on this subject, as I am so passionate about hormones, however in this post I am just going to be sharing the KEY points I wish I knew, before starting the pill at age 18.
#1. The pill doesn't 'regulate' your cycle.
If you go on the pill because your periods are unpredictable, painful or have disappeared completely, I'm sorry to tell you, but the pill isn't 'fixing' the issue.
Your brain to ovary communication is actually shut down by hormonal birth control and instead your body is controlled by synthetic hormones in the pill.
This is why it can take years in some cases to regain your menstrual cycle and fertility after you stop taking it, as the communication signals need to re-learn how to work again.
This process is made even more difficult in a nutrient depleted state (see #3)
#2. The 'period' you have on the pill isn't real
The bleed you get each month when you take your sugar pills is actually a withdrawal bleed, induced by medication.
This is why some pills are designed as being continuous and don't require you to have a break.
Even though there is some benefit in having the monthly withdrawal bleed (it may provide benefit against some hormone dependant cancers) it was actually designed by researchers to allow women to feel 'safe' and 'at ease' when taking the birth control pill!
Women intuitively know that their menstrual cycle is an indicator of health, therefore when the pill was being developed, they introduced the sugar pills and 'bleed week' as a way to mimic the natural cycle.
#3. It depletes many crucial nutrients needed for healthy hormones
Isn't it ironic that the exact nutrients that the birth control pill depletes, are the same nutrients needed for hormone balance and fertility.
All B vitamins, zinc, magnesium, selenium and vitamin C can be depleted by the pill, which is one of the reasons it can negatively affect so many different systems throughout the body, leading to a wide range of symptoms including hair loss, muscle pain, fatigue and low libido.
If you are experiencing difficulties conceiving and have taken the pill within the past 5 years, it is important to look at how nutrient deficiencies can be affecting your fertility. Preconception multivitamins can help, but only if your diet is good, the supplement is high quality/bio-available and your gut is healthy! (see #4)
A woman who falls pregnant whilst on the pill or shortly after coming off, is often in a serious state of nutrient depletion. This not only affects her pregnancy and post-partum health, but also her baby's development.
#4. It negatively affects digestion and mental health
It is believed that the pill acts similarly to a low dose antibiotic in how it negatively affects gut health! Our microbiome (gut bacteria) has many beneficial functions within the body, including immune regulation, nutrient and energy production and the creation of neurotransmitters (brain signals such as serotonin).
Stomach acid and digestive enzyme production may be impaired, due to the depletion of nutrients (especially zinc and B1). This can lead to inadequate digestion and absorption of proteins and minerals, which can lead to brittle hair, splitting nails, dry skin and even osteoporosis. Undigested food that lingers in the intestine, due to poor digestion, can also lead to overgrowths of bacteria and yeast.
This effect from the gut obviously impacts mental health, because the gut/brain connection is so strong! Anxiety and depression are common symptoms women struggle with when taking the pill, however many don't realise it was the problem until they stop.
I frequently hear the words, "I feel like myself again", when women come off the pill.
#5. Underlying hormone imbalances can been addressed through nutrition and lifestyle changes
If only I had known about the power of nutrition, lifestyle and supplements at the time of my diagnosis...
Maybe I could have prevented my PCOS and hormone imbalances developing in the first place?...Who knows.
We have the power to control our genes.
I may have had a predisposition to PCOS, however it was my lifestyle and environment that ultimately allowed those genes to 'express'.
The good thing is, that we also have the ability to turn them off again, eliminate our symptoms and put health conditions into remission.
This is why I am so passionate about my job, as I love helping women recognise the power that they have over their health, and the impact of what is on the end of their fork.
(...Not forgetting lifestyle, movement, stress management, emotional health, sleep etc...)
I totally respect you if your decision is to start or remain on the pill after reading this blog post. What I don't agree with, is the fact that the majority of women are never told the harmful effects of this medication, before it's prescribed to them.
If you are fully aware of the potential short and long term risks you may face when taking the pill, however due to personal circumstances you feel it's the best choice for you at this moment in time, then I fully support you!
Have you been thinking about stopping the pill but you're terrified that all of your horrible symptoms will come straight back?
This is a common concern, and sadly this can happen, especially if you haven't yet dealt with your underlying hormone imbalances or made any changes to your nutrition and lifestyle.
"But I don't want to get pregnant!"....
There are other effective and reliable ways to prevent pregnancy, without having to shut down your endocrine system and flood your body with synthetic hormones.
I am going to write a whole blog post on this exact topic soon, however I recommended barrier methods including condoms, the Fertility Awareness Method (FAM), using clever device such as Daysy or basal body temperature (BBT) charting, and for some women the non-hormonal, copper IUD (Mirena, Skyla, Paraguard) works well, however it may lead to heavier periods, pelvic pain and copper toxicity, so it isn't my first choice.
Want help identifying and addressing the root causes of your symptoms or support when transitioning off hormonal birth control?...
You can work with me from anywhere in the world, by clicking here! I love helping women restore their hormones and end their suffering with symptoms such as cystic acne, period problems, hair loss and weight gain.