The debate against using birth control for hormonal imbalance or other non contraceptive problems is one that I have felt rather strongly about for a while now and finally decided it is time to voice an opinion over it.
Before delving into the subject, I think it’s fair to disclaim that I not a medical practitioner, nor do I consider myself an expert in this field. I do believe my personal experience gives me the plausibility to voice an opinion on the issue of birth control for managing hormonal imbalance.
I also do not believe that birth control pills are inherently bad and I do sincerely believe that there women who will benefit by going on the pill if used for the right reasons. The core theme of this post is against using birth control pills as the first course treatment for hormonal issues especially in young, unknowing women.
My belief is that birth control pills should be the last resort for the management of non-contraceptive and non-serious hormone related problems after all other lifestyle and treatment options have been exhausted. These options include diet, exercise and other natural remedies. It should be preceded with full blood and saliva testing for hormonal levels and most importantly combined with education. The seriousness of the decision to take birth control pills should not be undermined and women need to understand the potential long term implications that could arise. Yes the chances we are told are minute, but there is still a chance. For non contraceptive problems, the greater issue is that birth control simply mask the problem, it is not a cure and generally needs to be taken over a long period of time.
On this site, I have shared my experiences regarding my journey with hormonal issues since my teen years. In the article I did titled Female Hormonal Acne Almost Ruined My Life & How I Cure It Naturally, I talked about my battle with cystic acne and discussed my doctors visit for horrible cramps I was having during my menstrual cycle. During the visit her course of treatment was to prescribe birth control pills as a way to manage my symptoms which was unofficially diagnosed as signs of hormonal imbalance and PCOS.
Looking back to my teenage years, I can’t help but get a bit angry thinking about the doctor visits and how they were so quick to write off a prescription after a 10 minute consult. I was never given a test for hormonal levels, never educated on my symptoms and the importance of proper lifestyle habits were glossed over. I simply received a shiny pamphlet with healthy food illustrations that ended up in the trash hours later.
My journey with birth control
I was 16 years when I was awaken in the middle of night by a gnawing pain in my abdomen. It felt like a thousands knives piercing repeatedly into my stomach. I hurled and screamed in pain and was immediately rushed to the hospital by my mother. When I met with the doctor, after a few questions and the normal routine check of temperature and blood pressure, she pulled her chair in front of me and then went on to tell me how she suspects my symptoms to be that of PCOS.
I remember hearing those words as a sixteen year old and thinking that my life would never be the same. I was terrified of the strange named disorder and I immediately felt like an oddity. She went on to point to my cystic acne and growing chin stubble as signs proving her diagnosis and gave me a brochure condensed with medical descriptions of PCOS and images of smiling young women.
Then she turned to my mother and stated that we should start a birth control regimen right away to manage symptoms and that would help me with all my issues. I suddenly felt a huge relief at those words. I remember seeing the TV ads about Ortho Tricyclen and hearing the pitch about its ability to treat acne in women. I could not contain my excitement. The thought that I would finally be able to clear up the horrible pimple and lose the chin hair were like striking gold to me. These were my biggest insecurities as a high school student.
I couldn’t wait to start taking this pill that would be the end all of all my problems. My mother on the hand, felt very strongly against it. Being a traditional African woman who doesn’t believe in taking unnecessary medications, she expressed her concerns over me taking medications at such a young age. She was mostly concerned with how it would affect my fertility and she described how she went through similar issues as a young woman and turned out fine.
But her voice and words drowned in my excitement. The doctor sensing that my eagerness to start, turned to me and stated that I should think about it the pill and come see her if I was ready to proceed.
That is how it all began with me. Now years later, I wish I’d listened to my mothers wise words. During my research to find natural treatments to manage my symptoms, I’ve come across many stories from women who went through a similar experiences and its an insight into the areas of opportunities present in conventional medicine.
A lot of medical practitioners will refer to the pill as generally harmless, and that’s why they are so quick to write the prescription. Frankly, I believe that any conventional medication that alters the body especially the way birth control does should be given some major consideration. At the end of it all, the side effects will only directly affect the user and not the one who writes the prescription.
Let’s explore the pill and learn how it works.
How birth control works by tricking your body to think it’s pregnant
Any medical practitioner will agree with me on this, birth control pills are not a cure for hormonal issues. It does not address the underlying issue of the imbalance. It is simply a way to manage the symptoms. Simple as that.
Therefore, unless there are short term pregnancy plans, it will need to be incorporated into your daily lifestyle for a significant amount of time. This is where we put our body at risk. Taking these pills long term increases our chances of complications.
The pill, apart from being a contraceptive to prevent pregnancy alters the body chemistry of a woman. Every month our menstrual cycle functions to prepare our body for childbirth. That is the basic biology of a woman. Birth control works by tricking our bodies into thinking it’s constantly pregnant through the following ways:
- It prevents ovulation in women.
- It causes a woman’s cervical or uterine wall to get thickened and try to prevent sperm from passing over to fertilize an egg.
- It thins the lining of the uterus so that implantation doesn’t occur
It makes biological sense, when a woman is pregnant, her body naturally inhibits her from getting pregnant again. Birth control pills are based on this principle and work by making the body to assume it is pregnant. There are two basic kinds of hormonal birth control:
(1) The combination pill: This is made from the combination of two artificial hormones (estrogen and progestin) and
(2) The progestin-only pill which is also known as the minipill.
With the combination pill, artificial estrogen is released into the body which suppresses our own natural estrogen and obstructs the ovaries from releasing an egg, preventing it from carrying out its usual body function. This means that there is no egg available for sperm to fertilize so she cannot get pregnant.
Birth control pills for hormone imbalance
It works by inhibiting the body’s own hormone production which can be beneficial if natural hormonal levels are out of balance. By tricking the body into thinking it’s pregnant, it promotes regular menstruation.
Birth control pill is commonly prescribed for these reasons, although there is a lot of controversy regarding the possible side effect of extended use.
Potential long term side effects of birth control pills
1. Perhaps the most controversial side effect of the pill, increased risk of breast cancer particularly in women over the age of 45. The longer the pill is used the higher the risk, especially if there’s a history of breast cancer in the family.
2. Another long term effect produced by the pill is that it can lead to hormonal imbalance, which interestingly is why some women go on the pill in the first place. And this is because artificial hormones are released into the system. There are different types of the birth control pills in the market with different levels of hormones but oftentimes they are prescribed haphazardly to women, usually on a trial and error basis.
For example, if a woman’s hormonal imbalance stems from excess estrogen and she’s prescribed a bp pill containing high levels of estrogen, it could be adding fuel to the fire. This is why I am a strong believer in never touching any medicines with artificial hormones without some kind of hormone test to pinpoint the imbalance.
3. The pill stifles the body’s natural hormones and can negatively impact stamina and libido.
4. Some other side effects are an increased risk of cervical cancer, blood clots, heart attack, stroke, and weight gain, high blood pressure, and gallbladder disease as well as migraine headaches.
5. Long-term use of oral contraceptives can as well make the body to be deficient in important nutrients like B2, B6 and B12.
The link between the pill and candida infection, yeast overgrowth
Balanced hormones play a great role in our daily lives. It can determine whether we are healthy, impact our mood and our appearance. Birth control pills inject artificial hormones into the body and can increase chances of certain problems like candida infection.
Candida infection occurs when there is a yeast overgrowth in the body and has become widespread for decades now and in the same manner birth control pill had been on the rise. Although there are other factors that contribute to the illness, there’s no denying the link between the use of the pill and candida infection.
When the body is infected by candida yeast overgrowth, it could lead to not so pleasant symptoms ranging from mild to very severe in nature. Some of the candida symptoms are listed below:
Symptoms that indicates that the body has become infected by candida yeast over growth
- Extreme tiredness, Foggy brain or difficulty concentrating.
- Irritability, anxiousness, depression and mood problems.
- Digestive issues.
- Skin problems like eczema, psoriasis, acne and rash.
- Weight problems.
- Cravings for high sugar or high starchy foods.
Natural alternatives to birth control for hormone imbalance
When tackling the issue of hormonal imbalance, the goal should be to understand the underlying cause of the issue. A vast majority of time, it has to do with carrying too much weight, poor nutrition and not enough physical exercise. In the article Balance Hormones Naturally Series- Types of Hormonal Imbalance and Symptoms, we outline the different types of hormonal imbalance. Having saliva and blood tests done can also help to identify where there is imbalance.
Once the source has been identified, a combination of foods, fitness and dietary supplements can be used to target the problem. For example, if you’re suffering from cystic acne, usually that indicates over production in androgen levels. In the article, Reduce Androgen Levels in Females Naturally, we outline some natural remedies to manage the overproduction of this hormone.
Although medical practitioners often prescribe birth control for hormonal imbalance to regulate menstrual periods, manage PCOS or clear up acne, the pill only handles the symptoms without addressing the hormonal imbalance that results to those symptoms.
Using the pill for hormonal imbalance is a superficial approach and does not provide a lasting solution to the problem.
Planned ParentHood. “Birth Control Pills – Birth Control Pill – The Pill.” Birth Control Pills – Birth Control Pill – The Pill. PlannedParentHood, n.d. Web. 02 Mar. 2015.
I would like to hear from you? What are your thoughts on using birth control for hormonal imbalance? Please share in the comment box below