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:

  1. It prevents ovulation in women.
  2. It causes a woman’s cervical or uterine wall to get thickened and try to prevent sperm from passing over to fertilize an egg.
  3. 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. 

Sources

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.

comments-iconI would like to hear from you? What are your thoughts on using birth control for hormonal imbalance? Please share in the comment box below

 

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29 thoughts on “Why You Shouldn’t Use Birth Control For Hormonal Imbalance and Acne

  1. Effie says:

    Hi Belle! I came across this website in my search to find a natural cure for hormonal imbalance. I suffer from moderate to severe acne and was recently prescribed a birth control pill by my doctor. I have read so many reviews about the consequences once I decide to go off the pill and honestly, I am terrified. I haven’t taken the pills yet and am currently debating on whether to do so. I found this website by chance and was delighted and grateful that I have finally found someone who verbalises my thoughts on hormonal imbalance. I do believe in trying to find a natural approach to balancing out my hormones before resorting to bc pills. Thank you for this beautiful website!

    • Belle says:

      Hi Effie, thank you for your comment. I completely understand your dilemma as I was there. It’s not an easy decision but I applaud you for doing your research. Managing acne the natural way is a lifestyle. It takes discipline, patience and some trial and error to understand what your body needs. Good luck and keep us updated.

    • Brittany says:

      Birth control does have slight risks but they are very small. They do actually lower the risk of ovarian cancer, for women who have BRCA1 and BRCA2. As well they help mange PCOS by reducing acne and regulating your cycle many women benfit from taking oral contraceptives.All medications used to treat PCOS are Hormonal related. the pill is just one of serveral hormonal options. PCOS has no cure right now and only current methods can treat and help mange the issue. I work as a pharmacist and the pill is not as bad as some would make it seem. It has a lot of scientific research behind it, like all medications the pill has side effects most women have mild symptoms that go away after 4 months.The pill is not for everyone and this type of article is opionon based not scientific as the pill does not suppress or not treat PCOS. In clinical trails the combination pill was one of the best treatments for helping women deal with PCOS. Only qualified health care professional can know the right treatment for an individual.

      • Belle says:

        You are entitled to your opinion but that doesn’t change mine. If you read the article carefully you will see where I state that birth control is not necessarily bad. My issue isn’t with birth control it is how often they are carelessly prescribed by many physicians especially to young women. I am also speaking from MY personal experience and there are others who share similar concerns about long term use of commercial drugs. You speak of scientific research, what about the many research that has shown the side effects of birth control pills from long term use. It always amuses me how people are quick to point to research when it comes to pharmaceutical drugs. The research does not necessarily guarantee safety, do you know how many people die each year from prescription drugs with so called scientific studies? If you do your research you will find out that health care is a business, there are economic interest in people staying sick but then again you should know since you’re in that field. I am not discounting birth control, my goal is to provide information about other choices and options available. It is up to the reader to chose and find what works for them.

  2. Luna1986 says:

    Hi I have been on birth control pill for over 8 years I wish I read this article before getting on the pill :(I am 29 and I just want to go off the pill it has done absolutely nothing to help with my high testosterone levels nor my cystic acne on the chin I have tried different pills and they haven’t helped at all the only thing bcp did was help with period cramps. I had experience awful mood swings and many horrible stuff will be getting off after I finish this pack. I am now also taking Spironolactone and has helped me with the problem.

    • Belle says:

      Hi Luna, your story like mine is far too common. I’m so sorry to hear of your struggles. What’s done is done, so all we can do now is focus on moving forward and educating the next woman so she doesn’t fall into the trap of the pill. And it’s never too late to take charge of your health. Keep me updated on your story and hopefully you find something that works for you.

      • Rubie Montejo says:

        Hi there. I came across your website after reading tons of research as to whether BCP is worth a try for my hormonal problems. I’d like to thank you for creating awareness on the downsides of using BCP. I was also prescribed of it (YAZ specifically) but did not dare to try it without any research. And now that I stumbled into your blog, I’d like to say that my mind is made up and I’m not taking the pill. Thank you once again and I hope you continue to do what you do to help out other PCOS patients like me. 🙂

        • Belle says:

          Hi Rubie, it wasn’t an easy decision to share such an intimate struggle with the world. When I read comment like yours it reminds why it is necessary. Thank you so much for your comment, I appreciate it 🙂

  3. lisa says:

    Hi Belle,

    I was prescribed BC last year because my doc assumed I was being reckless with my sexual health. Despite my doubts, I took these pils for 3 months and stopped since there was no need for me to take them. Since I have stopped, I have put on 20lbs even though I eat right and exercize everyday. I have the worst mood swings and cramps ever. My IBS is 10x worse. I am at my wits end and dont know what to do at this point. Any advice?

    • Belle says:

      Hi Lisa,

      I am sorry to hear about your struggles with the weight gain and mood swings. Going on the pill even for as short of a time period as you did can create an environment of imbalance in the body. It might just take some time for your system to return to normal. I would suggest you speak with your physician to rule out any serious issues. Thanks!

  4. Rachel Rodgers says:

    Hi,
    What a pleasure it was to read this article. I’m a nurse and I fully agree with it. My partner’s 11 year old niece has been put on the pill at the request of her mum due to mood swings due to hormones. She is over weight already, doesn’t exercise and most certainly doesn’t eat the correct food. GP suggested counselling. Mum was very negative about it and pushed and pushed GP who prescribed the pill. No investigations have been done. No diagnosis of hormonal imbalance. My assessment pulls me towards teenager behavioural issues.,When I was a teenager that treatment of the pill was unheard of. My mum managed my behaviour with communication and boundaries. People want instant cures. A lot of the time the true problem is swept under the carpet. I feel counselling would’ve helped, not only with behaviour but also exercise and diet. I fully explained all the side effects of the pill but still no one will listen.

  5. Joy says:

    I’m so relieved I’m not alone searching this. My OB just gave me the mini pill, I am breastfeeding and worried about risks from estrogen. But I’m still reluctant. I never had acne as a teen, but battle adult acne. Mostly around jawline. Older I get, more teeny tiny hairs. I’m beyond frustrated at this point. I’ve always felt my hormones are just off. Acne, moodiness, just a general feeling of out of balance and no one seems to get it. My family doctor and 2 obgyn’s, all don’t take my feelings seriously. After reading this, I’d really like to find out more info and do more research. And oh how I would love a week without a blemish for once! Thanks for this article!

  6. Rose says:

    Hi Belle.
    I’m 23 years old. Have been diagnosed with PCOS and have experienced the same thing u mentioned above . I was handed a pamphlet by the gynac and put on birth control for 3 months . These tabs have given me odd cravings that I never felt before. And I would feel hungry every hour. If I’d eat, I wouldn’t feel full. Recently I’ve stopped the tab and am experiencing terrible hair fall .

    • Belle says:

      Hi Rose, it is not uncommon for women to experience things like increased appetite and hair loss after getting off birth control. Your body is getting adjusted to not having the artificial hormones from the pill. It’s best to give your body some time and it may get back to normal. If the issue persist then it’s something you want to address. A good detox may help to flush old hormones from the system and give your body a fresh start.

  7. cherry says:

    hi there, i started taking BCP again after stopping for 7 yrs, i have two kids now and since i give birth my menstrual is not normal, i get them once every two months and its really painful before my period comes, the first month that i missed is thats when i get the breast pain and abdominal pain, bloating, the next month that im getting my period is really heavy that im always anemic, i had to take iron pills all the time, so i told my doctor and she prescribes me BCP, my period now is normal, and no more abdominal severe pain, only my breast, but i notice that my bones are in pain since i started bcp, my legs, arms, and hands are in pain, and i get migraines too, i suspect that its because of my bcp.

  8. Kirsty Davidson says:

    I totally agree with you in terms of how the pill is overly prescribed. However, whilst I agree that the pill just treats the symptoms of hormonal imbalance, there is NO cure for PCOS or a way to effectively ‘treat’ the disease. The only thing you can do is take the pill. Diet and excercise: for a good year of my life i was running 6kms 5days a week and eating clean. Im 175cm weighing 55 kilos so my weight isnt an issue. Still had cystic acne. I guess I understand your concerns as a medical student – and the increased risk of various cancers is surely concerning- but the pill is irrefutably the only effective medication for PCOS in a large part of the popularion. Sure, some people may respond to ‘clean eating and excercise’ but not everybody. Furthermore, the hormonal imbalance associated with PCOS makes it pretty damn hard to lose weight no matter how much you excercise and eat clean.
    Taking the pill is a big decision that shouldn’t be made lightly but conditions like PCOS and endometriosis etc make it pretty hard to say no.

  9. Christabelle says:

    Hello Belle,

    I am 22 and I just started taking up pills last year, I was advised to take it for 3 months then stop and wait for my period to be normal. After taking it for 3 months I waited for it to be normal but it didn’t happen 🙁 After 3 months of waiting, my period is still not normal. 🙁 I don’t have acne outbreaks, or gain weight. I think I have “amenorrhea” – Lack of periods (“amenorrhea”) from low weight, stress, excessive exercise, or damage to the ovaries from radiation or chemotherapy. The doctor said to me that if its still not normal Pills is the only way. Is it really safe for me to take pills? I am also having a problem on my stress levels since my work makes me stress, it cannot be avoided. 🙁

  10. Kristen Musto says:

    Hi Belle,

    Thank you for this excellent article! I had taken the pill in my 20’s and went back on it recently for a hormonal imbalance and to help shrink an ovarian cyst (I am in my 40s). I was so excited to have nice, short periods again, but then I started feeling lousy. I was tired a lot, I had exercise fatigue, and started to gain weight; especially around my middle. I had my hormone levels tested and found out that I had virtually no testosterone. So, I started treating myself with a female testosterone cream. I started to feel better for a bit, but then my symptoms returned, along with depression. A friend of mine who is a scientist mentioned that taking OCs can increase production of sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG); a protein produced by the liver that balances our hormones. They bind to sex hormones such as estrogen and testosterone. When we take synthetic hormones, they suppress the production of our own natural hormones while signaling to the liver to make more SHBGs. Hormones like testosterone and estradiol, bind to the protein, decreasing their bioavailability and not allowing them to do the jobs they’re supposed to do. Even after stopping the pill, these SHBGs remain elevated for quite a while (at least a year for some). I am stopping the pill and will be taking supplements that lower SHBG levels such as boron, magnesium, vitamin D, and fish oil. Just one more thing to consider before starting the pill!

  11. Jillian says:

    Great article. I wanted to find out what type of doctor tests your hormones? Is it an endocrinologist. I have bad acne, irregular periods, bad cramps & moods at times. I used to be on the pill for years (low dose estrogen one).

  12. Christina says:

    Who is the best type of Doctor to see to get all of the tests done for a possible hormonal imbalance? I have cystic facial acne but I also have scalp folliculitis that gets out of control if I’m not taking antibiotics. I thought hormonal birth control would help because it has controlled it without antibiotics in the past. I got off of the pill years ago because I had hair loss, and had other more personal (gynecological issues) that I don’t have anymore since I’ve been off of it. I want to get off of my antibiotic because I have intestinal issues, and I believe being on extended release minocycline for 3+ years ish is making it worse. I don’t know what to do because I can’t deal with all of these side effects but I also can’t deal with my scalp folliculitis and acne. It’s not just ugly, it’s also very painful when it’s bad. Sorry for the long comment, I just have no idea what’s wrong with me and how to figure it out. My dermatologist never did blood work or any lab work to test the infected skin. I doubt I have PCOS because I have no other problems except the acne but maybe there is a hormonal imbalance if birth control controls my breakouts and being pregnant, does as well. I was pregnant one time over a year ago but had a miscarriage very early on. My skin was completely clear while pregnant but almost immediately got the worst it has ever been when I miscarried. I’ll also add that I’m 28, and still dealing with all of these skin issues.

  13. Jaditza says:

    Hi all!! I just run into web looking for answers. I being suffering of dizziness, lightheaded and feeling exhausted for 1 yr. at bigginning Dr said was allergies, but wasn’t, then they said is stress, but I refuse to take antidepressants, now 2 month ago they gave me blood pressure medication because my heart rate was faster than normal. My blood test are normal but I notice that symptoms are and get worse a week before my period and during my period. Dr wants me to start birth control pills but I refuse. Now I need desperately to do something so I can take care of my children, those weeks I’m even not able to drive my son to school just for the way I feel. And is very frustrated. If any suggestions I’ll really, really appreciate it.
    Thanks.

  14. VT says:

    My second child is now 20 months old and I strongly believe my hormones are still messed up as a result of the pregnancy and childbirth. My main concern is my mild to moderate acne which is nothing short of embarrassing seeing that I am almost 30 years old. I have researched and researched and tried this food and stayed away from this food. I’m taking Zinc, Cortisol and Candida supplements and every week I get a new blemish. It’s very hard to focus on a clean diet and consistently getting exercise with a stressful career, a husband and two small children. My Dr prescribed birth control pills to help and I don’t want to take them, but I can not doing trial and error hoping something will one day work. Why isn’t there a natural proven method for regulating hormones? I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired.

  15. Tammika says:

    Hello. I am 17 years old and i realised since i started taking the birth controls prescribed to me by the doctor i started having itching and around the area of my vagina and the walls of the vagina itself was sore. I went back to the doctor and he gave me another box including medicine to treat this infection which i believed to be a yeast infection.My period came three days after so i held up on taking the medicine (which included one to insert into the vagina antibiotics and a cream for the outside area) because my period would help clean out my body. Unfortunately however as my period finish the symptoms came back so i started back to take the treatment along with the one to insert. I haven’t taken the BC as yet because i was researching and i found this page. So i am scared but i was wondering what would happen if i stop took them?

  16. Priscilla says:

    Hello! I’m 19 and was prescribed BC in January by my family doctor due to “hormone imbalance” (I was tested and had higher levels of testosterone than normal). I was over having an irregular period and suffering from mind-numbingly painful cramps when I did have my menstrual cycle. At first, it worked for me, and I became “regular” and I thought it was amazing (it was only the first month, I can see now that it wasn’t the BC, it was just my body). Two months in and I was starting to get the side effects (weight gain, mood swings, nausea, etc). It was terrible. Eventually my prescription ran out (she gave me enough for 3 months) and I was over it. I never went back to follow-up (I should’ve). Fast forward to this past May, and I went back for my annual physical. I had gone back to irregularity, and I was over it. Doc asked if I wanted to go back on the pill; I said yes (even AFTER have gone through the pain before). I’ve been back on the pill for a little less than two months know and I’m suffering big time. Calling out from work due to “food poisoning” (which was really being extremely nauseous from my BC), fatigue, weight gain, etc. I’m not sure what to do. After reading this post, I think I’ll go get proper hormone re-testing done and see if there are other options. Thanks for sharing!!!

    • Belle says:

      Hi Priscilla thank you for sharing your story. It sounds very similar to the experiences I’ve had. The fact that you landed on that article tells me you’re already taking the right steps to taking charge of your health, which is doing necessary research to educate yourself on your body and options that are available to you.

  17. selam says:

    Hi, thank you for sharing i wish i had visted this website before i started taking the pill,i am 21 brown skinned and I’ve been taking the pill after i visted a doctor and asked how my friends treat there irregular period 6 month ago,i was always sad because my unbalanced hormones were not only giving me irregular period but i started experiencing an usual painful acnes that leave black marks on my face,when i see a doctor he told me that it was okay to get my period twice a month i was so disappointed that i started to seek solutions my own way,my friend told me that she take birth control pills and that it had no side effects so i went on the pill around may,it was like a magic every problem was gone i had no acne on my face my period was normal but right when i stoped taking the pill the problems start to begin again,after a month i went back on the pill again its been 2 month since i started but am afraid of whats gonna happen to me if i stop,and am scared this BCP might promote malesam since am brown skin sorry for the long comment,what do u think i should do?

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