The Long-term Risks + Effects Of Birth Control
Women have taken huge strides in gaining reproductive rights over the last hundred years and birth control has been a huge part of this movement. Having the independence and rights to control our bodies as women is a big deal. Many women jumped on the opportunity to take these forms of birth control as soon as they became available. Unfortunately, there are many side effects and long-term risks associated with hormonal birth control, and there are many viable and healthy alternatives to them as well - so it’s worth learning all sides of the story and making the best decision for you and your body.
When in a state of optimal health, our bodies naturally do a miraculous job of keeping things in balance. It should not be surprising that adding synthetic hormones into the body will impact the balance of all systems, not simply our reproductive system.
Birth control typically contains one or more synthetic hormones which alter the reproductive cycle of women to prevent pregnancy. This usually happens by preventing ovulation from taking place, and the birth control often contains a form of estrogen and/or a form of progesterone. Depending on the type of hormones and the dosage, some women will get their period monthly, while others will get it a few times a year or not at all.
Many women use hormonal birth control to prevent pregnancy, however, some individuals use it to manage other health concerns such as acne or to reduce heavy periods and menstrual pain. If you suffer from hormonal acne, heavy periods, menstrual pain, or any other condition that has you taking birth control for something other than pregnancy prevention, it may be worth exploring natural options of treating these conditions rather than relying on hormonal birth control. Reach out to a holistic practitioner for support.
Types of Hormonal Birth Control
Birth control pill (“the pill”)
Birth control patches
Birth control injections
Vaginal contraceptive rings
Hormonal intrauterine devices (IUDs)
Common Side Effects of Hormonal Birth Control
Long-term Risks of Hormonal Birth Control
Many of the long-term risks associated with hormonal birth control have to do with long-term elevated estrogen levels. In today’s society, many women already have very high estrogen levels in their bodies due to increased exposure to hormones in conventional meat and dairy, along with dangerous xenoestrogens from chemicals, environmental toxins, and plastics.
The long-term use of hormonal birth control can lead to an increased risk of:
o Breast cancer
o Blood clots
o Heart attacks/strokes
o Weight gain
o Altered mood
o Nutrient deficiencies
o Fertility challenges
In addition to the above risks, the long-term use of hormonal birth control increases the risk of gallstones, systemic candidiasis, and depression due to its effects on neurotransmitters and its depletion of vitamin C, the B vitamins, zinc, and calcium in the body.
Minimizing Risks if You Are Taking Hormonal Birth Control
If you choose to take hormonal birth control, there are some steps you can take to help minimize your risks:
Support your hormone detoxification - support your body’s detoxification systems such as the bowels, liver, kidneys, skin, and airways in order to help detoxify excess estrogen from the body.
Try: taking supportive herbs for the liver such as nettle and dandelion, dry skin brushing, enjoying infrared saunas, taking hot-cold showers, and doing physical activity that involves sweating.
Remove xenoestrogens from your lifestyle - work to remove major sources of xenoestrogens from your lifestyle. Reducing your exposure will reduce the amount of excess estrogen that gets built up in your body.
Try: heating up your food in glass containers instead of plastic, drinking from reusable (non-plastic) water bottles, and using all-natural skincare products.
Replace conventional meat and dairy - work to replace all conventional meat and dairy in your diet with organic alternatives. Organic animal products involve stricter regulations regarding what can and cannot be injected or fed to the animals, which directly impacts your body when you consume the food.
Try: Reducing or eliminating your consumption of non-organic animal products & replacing with organic meat and dairy.
Birth Control Alternatives to Traditional Hormonal Birth Control
*see our comprehensive piece on holistic birth control methods
Basal body temperature tracking
Calendar tracking and moon cycling
Supplements for Hormonal Balance
Multivitamin + extra B vitamins - a daily multivitamin can be helpful in balancing the vitamins and minerals in the body, and supporting overall health and balance. B vitamins in particular are useful in the body’s energy systems and in reducing the stress response in the body.
Note: Taking birth control pills for more than 3 consecutive months significantly depletes vitamin B6.
Try: taking a high-quality daily multivitamin and/or a B-complex supplement.
Probiotics - the health of our gut impacts our hormonal balance. Serotonin, which is largely found in the gut, is important in regulating hormonal levels and mood balance.
Try: a daily probiotic supplement of 10 billion CFU.
Omega-3s - healthy fats support healthy hormone levels as they are the building blocks of our hormones.
Try: supplementing with 1,200 mg of combined EPA and DHA daily.
Fiber - helps bind and remove toxins, including excess estrogen, from the body, which is supportive of overall hormonal balance.
Try: supplementing with 1 tbsp of either ground flaxseed or psyllium husk daily. Also try drinking 2-3 liters of water daily.
Herbs for Hormonal Balance
Chaste tree berry (vitex) - is an excellent herb for balancing hormones in the body.
Try: in tincture or capsule form. *best to consult a practitioner prior to taking.
Stinging nettle leaf - A mineral-rich herb that's especially helpful post menstruation to replenish the body
Try: drinking nettle leaf tea daily for the week after your period.
Milk thistle - is a wonderful herb which supports liver detoxification, helping to eliminate excess estrogen from the body to balance hormones.
Try: tincture form 1-3x per day
Dandelion - is another good herb for supporting liver function and proper detoxification of excess estrogen.
Try: sipping on dandelion tea daily the week before your menstrual cycle.
Red raspberry leaf - contains B vitamins and plenty of antioxidants, which are helpful in combating stress in the body. Its soothing properties can also help to reduce inflammation and support adequate adrenal function, which is essential for hormonal balance.
Try: a soothing cup of red raspberry leaf tea - 1-2x per day just before and going into your menstrual cycle.