Gut Health

Oral Contraceptive Pill: are you (or your loved one) still taking it? Please read this.

Oral Contraceptive Pill

Oral Contraceptive Pill: are you (or your loved one) still taking it? Please read this.

Oral Contraceptive Pill

Update: this post went absolutely viral yesterday on Facebook and while I’m glad it got the oral contraceptive pill (OCP), conversation started for many of you, it also generated a lot of negativity, personal attack and profanity. This sort of behaviour has never, and will never be tolerated at TNN, and I have deleted and banned those who chose to comment in such a way. I welcome opinions that differ to mine, but if you wish your voice to be heard, please make an educated and constructive comment and leave your profanity at home. I do ask though – before you comment, please consider the following: Have you done your research? Are you believing what your industry tells you, or what you have been led to believe? Is there a vested interest you may need to consider?

Don’t get me wrong, I am all for science, but please also understand the unfortunate reality of selective journal publishing, vested interest funding and the influence of Big Pharma on the medical profession.

And lastly, there is never ever a one size fits all approach. Please just open your mind, expand your knowledge base and make an informed decision, knowing now that there is potentially another way.

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I’ve been penning this article for some time. It’s a sensitive issue, but one that needs to be discussed. Grab a cuppa, take a deep breath and please take your time to digest the information you are about to read.

I’m seeing an increased frequency of female clients who are still taking the OCP unaware of the damage they are creating. And no, it’s not healthy to skip your period so this can’t be your reason for taking pharmaceutical drugs day-in and day-out.

Before we dive in, let me please clarify that contraception is a separate issue and one I suggest you discuss with your Nutritionist, Naturopath, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioner or family planning clinic, but please know this: the OCP does not treat the root cause of the problem. It is a band-aid that suppresses your symptoms and makes you sick.

Here’s why you don’t need the OCP:

  1. The Pill is hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Long term, this can be a risk factor for blood clots, stroke and breast cancer.
  2. The Pill can act as antibiotics do and destroys your entire gut flora. This has disastrous effects on your gut health, immune system, mood, hormone production, nutrient absorption and overall health.
  3. Research shows that nutrient absorption is compromised as deficiencies in the following are common: vitamins B6, B12, C, E, magnesium, zinc, selenium and tyrosine.
  4. As I mentioned, you’re masking the problem. PMS, painful periods, heavy periods, acne, hot flushes – these are not normal. These are signs that your body is imbalanced. Correct the imbalance and your symptoms will resolve. Ignore it and you will drive the imbalance deeper. Common contributing factors include stress, inflammation, adrenal disruption, toxicity, poor liver function and high insulin levels.
  5. You’re risking infertility. While on the Pill, your ovaries become controlled by synthetic hormones so that you can’t fall pregnant. The terrible irony here is that it disrupts your cycle and can take months or even years to correct. New research has shown that it can take twice as long for women who have used the pill to conceive, when compared to those who had used condoms. And the longer you’re on the Pill, the longer it takes.
  6. Increased headaches.
  7. Low libido.
  8. Depression.

Please note: please refer to the references below to begin, and if you require more information, here is where you can continue your education.

Here’s what you can do:

  1. Take your time to make the decision if you need, but by working with a Nutritionist/Naturopath/TCM practitioner you can get to the root cause of your problems. If you have been taking the OCP to address PMS, acne, painful or heavy periods, a strategy can be put in place to address this immediately.
  2. Have your practitioner run a full blood panel to check for any deficiencies and address appropriately.
  3. Start rebuilding your gut health. More here.
  4. Be patient. Your body can take 3-6 months and in some cases, a year to re-balance. As the Pill is HRT, the bleed you have been experiencing each month is not actually your period, but your withdrawal from the hormones (while on the sugar pills). It will take time for your menstrual cycle to come back to how it should be.
  5. Start menstrual charting. This is a simple thermometer under the tongue upon waking each morning. A rise of more than half a degree Celsius is indicative of ovulation. And no, it’s not necessarily day 14. It is not possible that every women on the planet ovulates on the same day of her cycle.
  6. Stop using generic smart phone applications that chart ovulation at day 14. If this is your family planning strategy you are playing Russian roulette by running with this assumption.
  7. Once you have a good understanding of your menstrual cycle, please speak with your practitioner about your family planning strategy.
  8. Eat real food, control your stress, sleep well and love deeply.

Please note: if you are taking an alternative form of contraception that still involves HRT, then this also applies to you.

For more information, the guru of female health is Dr Sherrill Sellman. Find out more here.

References:

  1. Akinloye O, Adebayo TO, Oguntibeju OO, Oparinde DP, Ogunyemi EO. Effects of contraceptives on serum trace elements, calcium and phosphorus levels. West Indian Medical Journal, 2011 Jun;60(3):308-15.
  2. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Use of hormonal contraception in women with coexisting medical conditions. ACOG Practice Bulletin. 2006;107:1453-1472.
  3. Archer JS, Archer DF. Oral contraceptive efficacy and antibiotic interaction: a myth debunked. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 2002;46:917-923.
  4. Blumenthal PD, Edelman A. Hormonal contraception. Obstetrics & Gynecology, 2008;112:670-684.
  5. Dickinson BD, Altman RD, Nielsen NH, Sterling ML. Drug interactions between oral contraceptives and antibiotics. Obstetrics & Gynecology, 2001;98:853-860.
  6. National Prescribing Service Newsletter. Hormonal contraceptives: tailoring for the individual. Available from: http://www.nps.org.au/resources/NPS_News/news54/news54.pdf. Accessed January 2015.
  7. Oinonen KA, Mazmanian D. To what extent do oral contraceptives influence mood and affect? Journal of Affective Disorders. 2002 Aug;70(3):229-40.
  8. Zal F, Mostafavi-Pour Z, Amini F, Heidari A. Effect of vitamin E and C supplements on lipid peroxidation and GSH-dependent antioxidant enzyme status in the blood of women consuming oral contraceptives. Contraception. 2012 Jul;86(1):62-6.

Have you quit the Pill? What has worked for you?

Please share your story below.

Image credit here.



24 thoughts on “Oral Contraceptive Pill: are you (or your loved one) still taking it? Please read this.

  1. what about the mirena? is this also the case? i had a lot of trouble on the pill and my body is slowly starting to get back to normal after only taking it for 3 months. looking for another form of contraception other than condoms.

  2. i nave a bit different view on that problem
    I don’t have periods for two years now. I am only 35 and did all possible tests with GP, gyno and endocrinologist. I am no menopausal , neither have any physiological problems with my body. They could not detect a problem . All three prescribed a pill to replace hormones to avoid dangers of low eastogen(or actually almost absence of it in my body).
    I went to naturopath and have been doing herbs for 6 months . Still nothing. And the. Strops th can’t find the reason either .
    So what should I do???? Now I see ,I’ve the pill is the only waybtombalance the body:(((

  3. Well done, Steph, I am also passionate about synthetic hormones and the changes made to the natural hormone balance in the body. Research on links between synthetic oestrogen and breast cancer has been surfacing for some time, as well as ovarian cysts and the disruption made to the endocrine system as a whole.
    I congratulate you on your new logo and website!

  4. I have been trying to tell people this for ages its not natural to be taking a contraceptive like the pill everyone’s body is different and like you said there’s not a blanket answer to contraception. I stopped the pill after 2 months as I noticed things weren’t right but its great that someone is finally getting the word out to everyone

  5. I 100% believe in this! I was put on the pill as soon as my cycle started at age 11! Due to heavy bleeding and acne, both of which was never truly helped by the pill, I was on a high strong pill to stop my bleeding and after 6 years being on it I was told the chance of me falling pregnant were slim to none and if I did fall pregnant the pregnancy wouldn’t go past the first trimester. I was devasted at finding out at 17 I couldn’t have child naturally.
    However I changed my pill even though I wanted to have the coil or some other form, and soon fell pregnant whilst on this other pill, at 20 I had my son, a blessing as being told I couldn’t have children to then have one blew my mind! Some say I might be young but I never once planned pregnancy although I’m absolutely over the moon!
    I think doctors should tell you all facts side affects and issues that the pill can cause, I was only 11 and basically forced to take it which lead me to be devasted at such a young age. More information and knowledge should be given without a thought! But this article/forum is bang on and people should read more into things.

  6. Just a note on the smart phone apps, I’ve been using a free one called ‘clue’ which is actually quite good. It allows you to input all your data (period, body temp, mood, fluid, sex) and tracks your cycle including potential ovulation date. It also adjusts the longer you use it, responding to the data you input and bases it on an average of your cycles.

    I was manually charting and thus was able to input 6 months of data and it’s been pretty accurate when compared to my manual estimations.

    Just thought I’d share my personal experience in case it helps others! Oh and I have no ties or interests in this app.

    1. Thanks for sharing Renee! I’ve just gone off the pill and have been wondering which period tracking app I should use because there are so many!!

  7. I have took OCP from 16 as thats what the doc advised for the heavy painful and irregular periods. As a medical prefessional you trust them. When I was 20 my doctor advised the Implanon implant that lasts 3 years and it may stop my periods, which as a young girl still suffering, it sounded like heaven. After 3yrs I had it changed for a new one then 2yrs on I had it taken out as me and my partner wanted to try for a baby, luckily I fell pregnant quite soon and we went on to have a beautiful healthy baby boy. Well seen as the implant worked so well before I had it put back in again. 2yrs on I had it taken out again as we wanted to try for baby No2, I waited and waitedan waited and no periods, and 4 years later I have now been told I can no longer have children naturally as my body no longer produces enough oestrogen and we cannot afford IUI or IVF as I have had degenerative discs since I was 18 and had to give up work at 24. Also I now have to have regular bone scans and take supplements as I am at risk of Osteoporosis. I trusted my doc and I was given poor misleading advice and a result of that is we can never have the baby girl we always wanted to complete our family and it is devestating. I urge young women to firstly, listen to your doc, then back it up with all the research you can on the contraception you want, the internt is at your fingertips, because hindsight is a wonderful thing.

  8. So much truth. I would never have known it but I was suffering low libido, terrible immunity, very low B12 levels, and now have a gut that is in somewhat bad shape, to say the least. Even though I eat well and get regular exercise, I was always tired and had headaches. Since coming off the pill, my symptoms are improving. I have to give my body some help with vitamins and my gut some love, but I’m on the mend. I’m fortunate that my cycle was back to normal almost immediately, but friends of mine in their mid-30s are not so lucky. Some of them are trying to fall pregnant but since they’ve come off the pill, haven’t had la period. Some for more than a year, which makes getting pregnant tricky.
    At the end of the day, it’s synthetic. Would you put plastic into your body and expect it to respond perfect after years of input?? Probably not. I’ve come to realise that our bodies and the intricate systems that run through us are so delicate and perfect down to the finest detail. It doesn’t take much to mess that up. It’s perfect as it is. Treat your body with care. Know what you’re putting into it.

  9. Hi Steph, it’s great to see somebody as passionate about health as I am, however I have – and I hope you welcome the scientific peer review- analysed your article and noticed some alarming chunks of information that are not providing your readers with the full picture about birth control pills. My review is here https://thescienceofwellbeing.wordpress.com/2015/02/02/how-women-are-being-misled-about-birth-control/ . Please don’t take this as an attack, and I hope you allow this post to be seen and responded to. As there are two sides to every story, I welcome your response 🙂

    1. Hi Jessica, thank for your response. Have you considered who is funding some of the studies you are referring to? I welcome your opinion but I feel you have cherry picked the data to suit, and are choosing to ignore the significant amount of anecdotal evidence, which surely you know as a researcher needs to be considered due to vested interest funding and journal biasing, as well as obvious relatively? Human physiology is both an art and a science Jessica.

      1. Thanks for your response Steph.
        I am aware of corporate-funded studies, in the same way that your references too are subject to industry funding (natural health has big profiting companies behind it too). it’s why I included predominantly studies that were funded by research institutes, hospitals or universities and were of high quality (RCTs/systematic reviews). The big problem with the anecdotal evidence is that it does not represent the majority of women, who DO take the pill and continue to do so because the benefits outweigh the cons. Besides, we can see what kind of evidence we truly trust when it comes to the serious things: if a person has stage three cancer, should they take a medication that has proven in good quality trials to save lives and regress the cancer? Or should they base their choice of treatment on some anecdotes they read, and ignore the larger body of research that says otherwise? My other question is for women who do stop the pill and do not want to use condoms (understandable while in a long term, intimate relationship)- what should they do to ensure they do not fall pregnant?

        1. Thanks Jessica, let’s not compare the OCP to cancer please. There is no danger in not taking the pill when education and responsibility is ensured. A natural family planning strategy involves understanding one’s menstrual cycle over the course of a number of months and becoming informed about the truth on fertility. There are 3-4 days per months when a women can conceive and this can obviously be extrapolated further for safety.

  10. I have actually just gone back on the pill, after being off it for a long (unbearable) time because i didn’t want to take HRP. I tried everything to have regular, manageable periods … I eat healthy, exercise regularly, am not over-wheight or diabetic or anything … I go for regular check ups, etc, and took vitamins and herbs specifically, and nothing helped, which is what made me decide to use HRP again.
    Is there anything else that you can suggest i do so that i don’t have to take HRP?

    1. Hi Jolene, thanks for your story. Have you tried acupuncture? I suggest working with an experienced practitioner as nutrition is particularly relative here.

  11. Thank you so much for this article Steph, I had read a few things but this one was the most helpful. I have been off it for 2 months now and am feeling so much better! Have lost weight, moods are better, not so drive and have more sex drive again. I can’t believe the change!
    I have swapped to the NuvaRing, which is half the hormones and is localised.
    Thank you!

  12. Hi Steph! Thank you for this information! I’m 34 years old and looking for an alternative to the pill. Naively, I initially just wanted to stop having to take a prescription (my only one) but I’m learning more and more about the dangers of the pill.
    My question is – what do you recommend for long term birth control?
    I’m married but child free and plan to stay that way so I’m looking for an long term alternative. I’m starting to read up on the ParaGard (copper IUD) as a long term solution that does not have synthetic hormones (I don’t believe).
    Thank you in advance!

    1. Hi Mel, this is a highly personalised decision and one I recommend you discuss with your practitioner once a full case history is taken into consideration.

  13. I’d very much like to do away with hormonal contraceptives altogether – but feeling very unsure about how to proceed and not wind up pregnant by mistake.

    I’ve had horrible emotional responses to various different pills, lack of libido with depo (although everything else was fine), and the current implant in my arm is causing unpredictable, continually on-and-off periods.

    I’m curious about how many 30-somethings out there have active sexual lifestyles without contraception at all and without accidents? It would be reassuring to hear from some, although I realise this topic very quickly veers into “TMI” territory! I just know what my Dr will say when I announce I want the implant taken out of my arm, and put nothing in its place.

    1. Thanks Bron, this is a highly personalised decision and one I recommend you discuss with your practitioner once a full case history is taken into consideration. The best place to start is to track your menstrual cycle and learn more about the follilular and luteal phases, ovulation and the fertile window. I hope that helps in some way.

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