The oral contraceptive pill (birth control pill) was originally introduced to the public in the 1960’s as a way to prevent female fertility. Since that time, the amount of women using the birth control pill has significantly increased to an estimated 100 million around the world.
The menstrual cycle naturally occurs by fluctuations in estrogen and progesterone. Estrogen levels rise in the first half of a woman’s cycle to prepare ovarian follicles to release an egg and to thicken the uterine lining. High levels of estrogen prevent the release of another hormone called luteinizing hormone (LH). Mid-cycle, when the egg is matured, estrogen levels rise even higher reversing its inhibitory effect causing LH to be produced in large amounts. This LH surge is responsible for the release of the egg, known as ovulation. The second half of the cycle is then marked by rises in progesterone, which helps to create a uterine environment suitable for implantation. If fertilization and implantation, as in pregnancy, do not occur, estrogen and progesterone levels decline and menstruation occurs.
Birth Control Pill
Birth control pills work by keeping estrogen levels at a sufficiently high amount to prevent the surge of LH and thus ovulation. If ovulation is prevented, a mature egg is not released and pregnancy cannot occur. The pill also prevents pregnancy by making the uterine lining inhospitable to a fertilized egg, limiting the sperm’s ability to fertilize the egg and thickening the cervical mucus to hinder sperm movement.
Misconceptions About “the Pill”
The Pill Balances Your Hormones
The birth control pill/patch is often prescribed for hormonal issues; however, it does not balance hormones. Other factors are the cause of hormonal imbalance and they must be investigated. Birth control pill/patch use promotes a continually high level of estrogen. Some pills are designed to allow a period only 4 times a year or to be taken continually, which eliminates the period for years at a time, without a break from the estrogen blast.
When the body is under estrogen dominance, as seen when estrogen levels remain high without being balanced by progesterone, the following effects are seen:
- Breast tenderness
- Irregular bleeding or spotting
- Fertility concerns
- Weight gain
- Mood changes
- Increased risk of breast cancer
- Increased risk of blood clotting, heart attack and stroke
- Increased blood pressure
- Gall bladder disease
- Benign liver tumors
The Pill Makes Your Period Return
Some women experience a cessation in their period for various reasons and the pill is prescribed to “regulate” it. Taking the pill only appears to regulate the menstrual cycle. Withdrawal bleeding occurs during the week break from the active pills or sugar pills, simulating the average period (28 days). The only reason one bleeds during this break is due to the drastic decrease in estrogen levels, causing the uterine lining to shed. Birth control pills suppress the normal cycle. The hormonal events while taking the pill are significantly different compared to the natural ovulatory cycle, as ovulation does not actually occur.
There are no Long-Term Effects from Taking the Pill
In addition to the risk factors caused by estrogen dominance as listed above, taking the birth control pill depletes several nutrients. Oral contraceptive pills deplete all B-vitamins, magnesium, selenium, zinc, tyrosine and coenzyme Q10. Without these nutrients, ailments such as depression, low libido, lack of energy, focus/concentration and insomnia can result. It is recommend that women who are taking oral contraceptives also take a high-potency multi-vitamin as well as additional B-vitamins to prevent nutrient deficiencies and promote optimal health.
It is important to understand how oral contraceptive pills function in the body. Being aware of the nutrient deficiencies can aid in preventing the effects of long-term oral contraceptive use. Understanding the effects and taking a proactive approach can help you be healthier and feel better.