women's health

The hormonal birth control pill madness!

Ooooh, it has been a while since I wanted to write about this subject! For the few guys reading my blog (I wish!), you might not want to dismiss this article so fast :-), chances are, you have some women in your life you care about.

Quick disclaimer before you continue reading – this article is for educational purposes only, it does NOT constitute medical advice. Any concerns or questions you may have about your needs should be discussed with your primary healthcare practitioner.

Note : In this article, when referring to “the pill”, this will apply to any form of hormonal birth control methods.

Now that we are clear on that, let’s get into the good stuff!

Did you know that 11 millions of women in the US alone are taking the hormonal birth control pill? That’s a pretty big number, especially when 58% of these women are taking it for reasons that are not to prevent an unwanted pregnancy. Fifty-eight percent! More than half! The birth control pill proudly holds the title of the largest medical study ever made… Which isn’t a good thing!

One of the reasons for this insanely huge number is because most teenage girls are being prescribed the pill to manage their menstrual cycle. Yes, being a woman can suck, especially if you’re in the fucked up mindset that your body is working against you. Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is not the funniest thing to deal with, we’ve all been there (to some degree): acne, mood swings, cramps, tender breasts, craving, migraines,… Agreed, this isn’t fun! So when these symptoms become too much of a discomfort, the easiest way to get rid of them (without having to deal with the real issue), is to get on the pill. It puts a band aid over them, keeping them quiet until the day you want to get off it – you might then discover some pretty nasty things. It’s like putting a tape over a light that went off in your car, months (years) later, when you lift the hood, it will be pretty smoky! 

When a teenage girl starts having her first periods, there is a whole new communication system starting up between her brain, and her ovaries. It may take some time before that communication gets really clear (aka, regular cycles). Sadly, we live in the “Amazon Prime Era”, where everything needs to be functioning right now. Getting on the pill “solves” that issue, at the price of shutting down this precious communication that was in its premises. Putting a stop to this system means that it will resume once we get off the pills, in most cases, years or decades later (when the brain of a 20-30 something woman will resume a communication that should have been established during puberty). No need to go to medical school to understand that this is up to no good. 

A little bit of irregularity at the beginning is normal, and some mild symptoms are normal (after all, our body is literally shedding an organ, it is normal to feel it!). However, after a certain time, if cycles are still irregular and PMS are unbearable, there is a message that can’t be ignored… A symptom is always the body’s way of talking to us. Hormonal imbalances need to be addressed and corrected in order to be heathy (menstrual cycle have been added to the list of vital signs, along with heart rate, body temperature and respiratory rate and blood pressure), have a better cycle, less PMS and especially, be/stay fertile for the days you want to be able to conceive (currently 25% of couples has trouble conceiving without medical help, and this number keeps on going up as you read. This is 1 out of 4 couples! Read-this-again!). 

Hormonal imbalances are relatively easy to address with food, stress management, and regular exercise. It’s worth spending some time seeking a doctor that would be willing to explore lifestyle changes first. 

As you now understand, addressing these symptoms with the pill will only mask and hide them, but won’t treat the hormonal imbalance or underlying issue. These can be pretty mild and not affect fertility, or it could be more serious like PCOS or endometriosis. Conditions that could have been prevented and/or managed if only the pill wouldn’t have hidden the messages that the body was trying to communicate…

Furthermore, if you’re in a relationship, you may be thinking that you can have all the bedroom action you’d like, since there is no risk of unwanted pregnancy. However, the pill will most likely alter your sex drive (you’ll still have an appetite for food if that’s any consolation)… It depletes you from the little testosterone you naturally produce and your libido will tank. You are more likely to experience vaginal dryness, painful sex, and less orgasms (what a fun life). Not cool for you, not cool for your partner, not cool for society (no one likes to be around a frustrated chick). 

On another note, the pill depletes the body of essential nutrients, and antioxidants, such as the B vitamins (especially vitamin B6 that has a very important role in the body detoxification, pretty big deal!), zinc, enzyme CodQ10, folate, magnesium, vitamin C, potassium, to only name a few and you have a greater risk to experience a stroke (especially if you have the MTHFR mutation which is pretty common among women, about 30-40%!). It’s far from being over: it increases blood pressure, therefore, that’s one of the factors to test before getting on the pill as you may be more likely to experience arrhythmia (due to the lack of potassium). If that wasn’t enough, the pill increases inflammation (if you read this blog frequently, you already know why this is such a bad thing), top that with the depletion of antioxidants and you’re getting a dangerous cocktail. It will also messes with your gut microbiome, which once again, if you read this blog frequently, you know the importance of!

Another factor that you want to be aware of if you are on the pill: it will make you more insulin resistant. And no matter if you are a teenager, or a grown-ass woman, weight management is something that most women struggle with. No need to make it more challenging! Being more insulin resistant can also worsen a pre-exiting condition like PCOS. PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome), is a conditions that affects about 6-12% girls/women, and that is linked to insulin resistance – imagine getting on the pill to get regular cycles, but the reasons for these irregular cycles was PCOS in the first place, congratulations, you just made it worse!

The pill also impact mood. Girls are also more likely to get depressed, and if you ever took the pill at some point in your life, you are more at risk for depression, even if you already stopped (which means, the majority of women! Yepa – guys already have fun mentioning that we’re hormonal and unpredictable, the pill upgraded us from “hormonal b…” to “depressed hormonal b…” B-e-a-u-t-i-f-u-l). Here are some numbers to put this in perspective:

  • women on the pill (combination of estrogen and progestin) are 23% more likely to be prescribed antidepressants;
  • teens are 80% more likely to develop depression;
  • young women who use the pill have three times the risks of suicide.

That’s only some numbers! If you are interested in researching this further, this study done in Denmark is pretty interesting. According to the study, “among 15 to 19 year-old females, those taking oral combination birth control pills were diagnosed with depression at a 70 percent higher rate than non-users. The patch and vaginal rings posed a particular risk to young women, tripling the rate of depression.”

But if all this wasn’t enough, the pill also alters your choice when it comes to choosing your partner! It will silent the little we have left of instinct and intuition. Heterosexual women that aren’t on the pill are attracted to men as genetically different as possible from their genetic make up. This ensures a good variety of genes and good offspring (who doesn’t want cool kids?), nature is well done! Without the pill, we’re looking for the alpha male, the one with the best genes, the one that our guts tells us to jump on. But, when a woman is on the pill, this “sense” is altered, and she’s more likely to choose someone genetically similar to her (mmmh, hey cousin!). It’s also been shown that we’re not looking for the alpha male anymore, but the criteria have changed; “the fittest male” in the 21st century makes money, has an education, has a steady job, is smart,… Attraction 2.0! Check out the t-shirt study that will explain this better than ever I could. And this goes both ways. Even if men don’t consciously know it, they pick up cues when we’re ovulating. All these cues are important for a couple to be a good match. But under the pill, we’re not ovulating, and therefore cutting any Mother Nature’s signs to find the perfect Queen for your little swimmers…

There is still a lot we don’t know yet, simply because there are not enough studies. Studying women is expensive and unfortunately, not something that generates a lot of interest (nor profit). When it comes to pain and mood disorders, women are often dismissed (a lot of women do not get diagnosed with heart attacks each year for example, just because “they’re exaggerating”). On some level, it may be our fault as well. We are compliant with not feeling our best, and justify not feeling our best because “it’s the way it is!“. Let’s put this in perspective, if a doctor was to tell a man:

“This pill will prevent pregnancy and allow you to have all the sex you’d like, but here are the down part :

  • higher risks of strokes and heart attacks;
  • mood swings;
  • likely to get depressed;
  • no more connection between your brain and your testes;
  • low testosterone;
  • low sex drive;
  • erectile dysfunction;
  • migraines/headaches;
  • weight gain;
  • loss of muscle mass;
  • ect,…”

Any man in his right mind would tell you to go F yourself with your magic pill. So how come, us women, we jump on it like it’s our woman’s right to have it?! Birth control is a woman’s right, education and information are women’s rights. Being miserable and unhealthy is far from being a woman’s right, or anyone’s right for that matter!

Now, having said all of this, I am no one to tell you what you should, or should not do. The pill is still among the most effective ways to prevent an unwanted pregnancy . I guess if you have to get a few take away from this article these would be the ones: 

  • If you are under any hormonal birth control, and the primary goal is to prevent pregnancy, you just need to be aware of all the risks and discuss with your doctor which birth control method is the safest for you. Do your research and see for yourself if the risks are worth it. There are other birth control methods that do not alter your health. If you’d like to hear about them, feel free to comment below and I’d be happy to share some more information with you! If despite all these risks, you still want to be on the pill, at least you are making a well informed decision, in good conscience, and no one is making it for you! Make sure to talk to your practitioner about supplements, especially the B vitamins, but also other nutrients you may be lacking, in order to support your body the best way possible.
  • If you are under any hormonal birth control for symptom management, and you’re reading this with a morbid face because this is brain new information, it may be time to speak with your doctor. What symptoms were you trying to solve when you first got on the pill? Are these symptoms still there? How is your diet; your sleep; your stress level; and your daily exercise routine? If your doctor dismisses you, find another one that would be willing to help you address the root cause(s) of these symptoms so you can get your health back on track and have a menstrual cycle to work with instead of a menstrual cycle to work against. Most women have no idea how much power they can harness once they start to understand their cycle and make the most of it any day of the month. Being a woman does not have to suck!

I hope this article was helpful and may have opened your eyes about the pill (or any hormonal birth control methods). As I always encourage everyone to do, don’t trust anyone! Not even this article, but do your research so you can decide for yourself what is the best for you! The resources below will help you get started, and there are many amazing doctors out there, I hope you’ll find one that inspires you, educates you, and helps you understand your body!

If you liked this article, please feel free to share or comment below :-).

Bisous, bye, bye!

Some resources that might come in handy:

Books :

  • “Beyond the Pill” – Jolene Brighten
  • “Roar” – Stacy Sims
  • “The Woman Code” – Alisa Vitti
  • “In the FLO” – Alisa Vitti
  • “The hormone Cure” – Sara Gottfried
  • “The Female Brain” – Louann Brizendine

Podcasts:

  • “Better!” – Stephanie Estima
  • “Pursuing Health” – Julie Foucher
  • “Ben Greenfield Fitness” – Ben Greenfield
  • “The Model Health Show” – Shawn Stevenson
  • “Almost 30”
  • “Kwik Brain” – Jim Kwik
  • “TJRE” – Joe Rogan

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