Birth Control— What Your Doctor Didn’t Tell You
Are you aware that most women, at some point in their life, have been recommended the birth control pill by their doctor? The CDC estimates 10.6 million women use oral contraception in the U.S. alone.
Doctors often offer up the pill in response to common complaints, such as acne, heavy menses, PMS symptoms, or irregular periods. And yes, the pill can help with all of those symptoms for some women, but this approach certainly doesn’t address the underlying cause.
What most doctors don’t share with women is that the birth control pill has its own share of side effects, some of which are irreversible.
Birth control pills can disrupt normal flora and create an environment that allows for the overgrowth of harmful bacteria and yeast. Our gut bacteria influence our mood, breast milk production, and are the first inhabitants of our child’s sterile gut during vaginal birth. They play a pivotal role in our health as women and mothers, a role that research is only beginning to understand.
A healthy gut is needed to remove excess estrogen and other waste from the body. When gut function is inhibited, the body is unable to remove estrogen, which contributes to a state of estrogen dominance. Symptoms of estrogen dominance include ovarian cysts, fibrocystic breasts, weight gain, irregular or heavy menses, and irritability.
Increased Risk of Cancer
The risk of certain cancers are increased with the use of birth control pills. Breast, ovarian, cervical, liver, and uterine cancer risk is higher in women taking oral contraceptives.
Lowers Thyroid and Testosterone Levels
Birth control pills increase the proteins Sex Hormone Binding Globulin (SHBG) and Thyroxine Binding Globulins, which bind free hormones, making them unavailable for use by the body.
Low thyroid hormone causes multiple symptoms including inability to lose weight, depression, cold intolerance, constipation, memory and cognitive issues, dry skin, hair loss and many other symptoms. Women with insufficient levels of thyroid hormone have an increased risk of infertility and miscarriage. You can listen to me share more about thyroid hormone in fertility and pregnancy on my latest podcast interview.
Women need testosterone to maintain muscle mass and a healthy libido. It is part of the intricate symphony of optimal hormonal health.
Elevated levels of these proteins can remain after a woman discontinues the pill and result in long standing hormonal issues, including estrogen dominance.
Increased Risk of Stroke and Blood Clots
That daily dose of estrogen isn’t free from risks. The pill has long been known to increase the risk of blood clots, stroke, and pulmonary embolism (a clot that is lodged in the lungs). It also raises the risk of heart attacks.
The pill increases oxidative stress in the body and raises inflammation, as seen by the elevation of the blood marker C-reactive protein (CRP). Inflammation is involved in the development of depression, autoimmune disease, cancer, and chronic pain.
During pregnancy and while breastfeeding, the your body’s nutrient requirements are the highest they’ll probably ever be in your lifetime. Unfortunately, many women find themselves nutrient depleted when they become pregnant, which is only exacerbated by the demands of motherhood.
The birth control pill depletes the body of vitamins and minerals that are essential to both mother’s and baby’s health. Antioxidants, B vitamins, and important minerals such as selenium and zinc are depleted when a women is taking an oral contraceptive. These nutrients are critical for a creating calm-inducing neurotransmitters, balancing hormones, liver detoxification, thyroid hormone synthesis, immune system regulation and tissue repair.
For women wishing to become pregnant, the pill can create a nutrient deficit, which can impact the health of your pregnancy and the health of your baby. For a mother wishing to conceive again, the pill can rob them of the nutrients they need to recover from their previous pregnancy and diminish the essential vitamins and minerals needed for fetal development.
Alternatives to oral contraception
If you or someone you love are using oral contraceptives as a means of preventing pregnancy — I urge you to consider alternatives.
Oral contraceptives used to treat symptoms of hormonal imbalances are doing nothing more than masking symptoms and offering temporary relief at the cost of your health.
In my clinic, I recommend women begin with personalized lab testing to understand the underlying cause of their symptoms. Together, we partner in creating hormonal health, free from dependency on pharmaceutical sex hormones.
Sounds pretty great, right? And it is totally possible too!
Work with me and my team by scheduling a complimentary 10-minute phone call. We’d love to help you heal!
This article was originally published in the July/ August 2015 issue of Natural Mother Magazine as “The Truth About the Birth Control Pill”.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. Jolene Brighten
Dr. Jolene Brighten is a licensed Naturopathic Doctor, wife, mother, and entrepreneur located in the San Francisco Bay Area. Dr. Brighten specializes in women’s health, from fertility to postpartum care, adrenal and thyroid support, autoimmune conditions, and digestive disorders. In her family-oriented practice, Dr. Brighten thrives on navigating the space between conventional and alternative medicine, all while working with patients to help them achieve optimum balance, health, and happiness.