Did you know that women use birth control pills for more than preventing pregnancy? In fact, your gynecologists also often prescribe “the pill” for acne, irregular menstrual cycles, and PMS. Sure, the pharmaceutical companies market them as safe and easy to use – so much so that they’re extremely common among women.
Here’s how it happens. After a quick check-up, your OB-GYN will hand you a prescription for birth control pills, possibly along with a small pamphlet about safe sex and reproductive health. And the rest is history.
But should it be this way?
Probably not. The problem lies in the side effects of birth control pills that are not commonly discussed.
Birth control pills are made up of synthetic estrogen and progestogen, which are synthetic hormones that override the body’s natural hormonal rhythm. Before deciding to take birth control pills, make sure you have all the information in front of you. It’s important to understand the downsides and side effects of birth control pills.
5 Facts about Birth Control Pills (BCPs) You Should Know
1. BCPs Don’t Address the Root Cause of Symptoms
Birth control pills help to suppress symptoms, which sounds great, but really, symptoms are your body’s way of telling you when somethings up. An irregular cycle could mean that your health and nutrition are suffering, as the body naturally produces lower progesterone at times of malnutrition and stress.
2. BCPs May Increase Breast Cancer Risk
According to the Susan G. Komen Foundation, “A pooled analysis of data from more than 50 studies found that while women were taking birth control pills (and shortly thereafter), they had a 10 to 30 percent higher risk of breast cancer than women who had never used the pill. Once women stopped taking the pill, their risk began to decrease and after about 10 years, returned to that of women who have never taken the pill.”
3. BCPs May Cause Nutrient Deficiencies
Here’s another “Did you know?” Oral contraceptives can result in many nutrient deficiencies, including zinc, magnesium, selenium, Vitamin C, Vitamins B2, B3, B6, B12 and folate. The liver uses more of these nutrients to metabolize the estrogen from birth control pills and flush it out of the body.
4. BCPs May Increase the Risk of Cardiovascular Disease
Synthetic estrogen has been shown to create cardiovascular risks in some women, including increased potential for life-threatening blood clots, as well as a higher risk of stroke and heart disease, because of the substance’s negative effect on the body’s clotting system.
5. BCPs Have Added Side Effects
So what side effects do we know about? Well, there’s weight gain, bloating, breast tenderness, moodiness, and decreased libido. Those are the side effects often listed on the package insert. Unfortunately, plenty of other side effects aren’t listed. In fact, can we just call them all “effects”? “The pill” can cause headaches, migraines, and fluid retention, and it may even worsen emotional disorders such as depression.
Deciding whether or not to use oral contraceptives is a personal choice. Being informed is an important part of making the right decision for your health and your body. And remember that birth control pills do not protect against sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.
Yes, you need a prescription to get oral contraceptives, but remembering to take the pills is the only way to ensure efficient (but not entirely foolproof) pregnancy prevention. In fact, of 100 women who use birth control pills this year, around nine may get pregnant.