After being diagnosed with Hashimoto's I was not ready to start a family due to my less than optimal health. An unplanned preganacy would wreak havoc on my health (not to mention life). At the same time I realized that taking artificial hormones in the form of birth control on a daily basis was contributing to my poor health.
14 Ways Birth Control Pills Rob Us Of Our Health...
1. Birth control pills are described as "Drug Muggers" by Suzy Cohen, RPh, America's Pharmacist. Birth control pills deplete selenium, zinc and the amino acid tyrosine from our bodies. These are all vitamins and minerals that are necessary for proper thyroid function! Thyroid conditions affect 1 in 5 women at some point in life and are responsible for weight gain, depression and heart disease.
2. The hormones in birth control pills suppress our own body's production of estrogen and progesterone through a negative feedback loop mechanism. Birth control pills flood our bodies with high doses of artificial estrogen and progesterone leading our own production of natural hormones to turn off, preventing ovulation and thinning the uterine lining. This can lead to a hormonal imbalances such as estrogen dominance.
3. Birth control pills increase the risk of blood clots and strokes. The risk greatly increases after age 35 and for women who smoke.
4. Birth control pills can thin our bones leading to osteoporosis.
5. Oral contraceptives, which stimulate pseudopregnancy simulate a shift from the Th1 to the Th2 Immune Branch. This can produce an imbalance of the immune system perpetuating autoimmune conditions.
6. Birth control pills can change our normal flora, allowing yeast and other pathogenic organisms to thrive.
7. Women who take birth control pills have an altered preference to mates.
8. Birth control pills increase the risk of breast, ovarian and liver cancers.
9. Birth control pills impair our ability to build muscle despite exercise.
10. Birth control pills can also decrease sexual desire by suppressing testosterone (Yes women produce small amounts of testosterone too).
11. High dose estrogen contained in birth control pills increases the activity of TBG (Thyroxine Binding Globulin). TGB binds thyroid hormone. More circulating TGB leads to lower levels of free thyroid hormone available for use by our body.
12. Many oral contraceptives contain lactose as an inactive filler. This may be an issue for many individuals with food intolerances and for women with Hashimoto's who often present with dairy and gluten intolerance issues.1
13. Birth control pills lower our DHEA production. DHEA has been described as an anti-aging hormone. Many conditions, including autoimmune conditions have been associated with low DHEA.
14. Birth control pills deplete our bodies of folic acid, B12 and B6 vitamins. A deficiency in any of these may result in anemia, birth defects, depression and other serious conditions....
So what's a girl to do?
With all of these things in mind, I knew that it was time to kick the birth control habit. But what were my alternatives? Condoms have a 14-15% failure rate...that seemed like too big of a risk to take. And I wasn't too crazy about implants or any of the other birth control methods out there.
I then learned about the Fertility Awareness Method.
This method utilizes knowledge of the female reproductive cycles to predict days a woman will be fertile, and days that she isn't. There are only 6 days a woman can get pregnant within every cycle.
With a typical menstrual cycles lasting 28 days (Count day one as the first day of the menstrual period), on average women ovulate somewhere in the middle. But not every woman has a 28 day cycle. Also, not every woman with a 28 days cycle ovulates right smack in the middle of the cycle. And many women may ovulate at different times each month depending on lifestyle factors.
Fertilization can occur 5 days before ovulation, or on the day of ovulation....Thus the beginning and end of a menstrual cycle a woman will typically be infertile, and fertile for 6 days somewhere in the middle after she ovulates.
A thermal shift in basal temperatures, cervical position, and cervical fluids help determine ovulation.
Our temperatures go up by 0.4-0.6 degrees Fahrenheit after ovulation, and this thermal shift can be measured by using a very sensitive basal thermometer right after waking up. The temperatures, along with the other fertility signs are recorded daily in a fertility chart that will help the woman analyze where she is in the fertility cycle.
As a bonus, measuring your basal temperatures can help with measuring progress in your Hashimoto's treatment. Your pre-ovulatory temperature (usually the he first 10-15 days of your cycle) is key to determining how well your thyroid and adrenals are performing.
A pre-ovulatory temperature is normally between 97.0-97.7 degrees Fahrenheit. Temps that are consistently lower than 97.3 degrees F may signal an under active thyroid,while temps that are consistently above 97.7 degrees F may signal an overactive thyroid. Also, temperatures that are low but inconsistent or all over the place may signal adrenal insufficiency. You can document your interventions on the same fertility chart where you document the daily temperatures and fertility signs.
I highly recommend the book Taking Charge of Your Fertility that gives an amazingly descriptive and thorough overview of the Fertility Awareness Method for pregnancy prevention and achievement. After reading this book cover to cover, I have purchased a copy for all of my girlfriends!
While the Fertility Awareness Method can be very effective, I was still worried about doing it on my own....This method can fail in 25% of "typical" users, and I was afraid that I would fall into that category with my busy lifestyle.
That's when I found the LADY-COMP fertility monitor! This is a mini computer/alarm system that comes with an ultra sensitive thermometer. This mini computer learns your own body's normal temperatures and does the analysis for you, letting you know which days you are fertile with easy to read displays (red light-fertile, yellow light-learning, green light-infertile). If you are super nerdy like me you can still make your own charts. I am currently running statistics on adrenal insufficiency temperatures and will share my templates soon.
I have been using the Lady Comp for over a year now, and it has been a really amazing tool that has taught me a great deal about my body. It has been an eye opener watching my temperatures change, as well as noticing that all of a sudden my husband smelled really really good after a jog around the time of my ovulation... (which is usually day 17 or 18 for me, not 14 as some would lead you to believe).
According to the manufacturer "Lady Comp is programmed with all natural family planning research data, it contains a database of more than 900 000 cycles and uses bio-mathematical forecasting calculations as well as the very latest computer techniques. It is a personal fertility monitor, which learns and adjusts to your individual cycle regardless of irregularities or cycle length. Lady- Comp is a one-time purchase without any recurring costs. Several clinical studies confirm its 99.3% accuracy."
While this mini-computer is costly, fertility monitors are covered under Flex Spending and Health Spending Accounts. Very good to know for those who use it or lose it at the end of the year, or want to plan for next year. It is also a one time purchase. One month of brand name birth control pills can cost an upward of $100, thus the monitor pays for itself within a few months! (I included this last sentence for those of you who have husbands who work in finance like mine does).
This monitor can also be used to plan a future pregnancy for when the time is right!
Of course if the benefit of the oral contraceptives outweighs the risks, such as for certain serious medical conditions, a woman may need to continue taking the pill. In that case, supplementing with probiotics, magnesium, zinc, B vitamins and Vitamin C is strongly recommended. Please note...all supplements are not created equally, and throwing them all in one pill often does not lead to good absorption. I will soon be blogging about two of my favorite topics, drug interactions and supplements soon.
PS. You can also download a free Thyroid Diet Guide, 10 Thyroid friendly recipes, and the Nutrient Depletions and Digestion chapter for free by going to www.thyroidpharmacist.com/gift . You will also receive occasional updates about new research, resources, giveaways and helpful information.
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Your Thyroid Pharmacist
Izabella Wentz, PharmD