I watch a bit of television now and again, and repeatedly see a commercial for a birth control pill. It looks quite glamorous to be taking it. Granted, at the tail end of the commercial it states many of the bad things contraceptive pills are widely recognized to cause. But the real impact of what birth control pills do to female bodies is never discussed and what is discussed is completely glossed over.
The true nature and impact of birth control pills is very concerning and prevents me from prescribing them in good conscience. All women should come to grips with the sad reality that this rampantly prescribed group of drugs can be harmful, and therefore unacceptable.
Are Birth Control Pills Hormones?
So, let’s get to the nitty gritty of what the heck are birth control pills, what are their real impact on a woman’s body, and why you might want to avoid them, if possible? I know you’ve heard them referred to as hormonal contraception, but the reality is that there’s not a drop of natural hormones found in any brand of birth control pill. Not even one drop!
Rather than containing natural hormones, they’re synthetic versions of endogenous estradiol and progesterone, and Mother Nature has never seen these at any time in human evolution. In a sense, these synthetic hormones are endocrine disruptors -chemicals that can be thought of as pseudo-hormones. They can do a few of the same things that hormones do, attaching to their receptors, like a key fitting into a lock. But they don’t necessarily open the door or open it fully. The end result is a different outcome! It’s like substituting diesel fuel for gasoline in a car. It may pour into the tank but it’s clearly going to deliver a different outcome when the gas pedal is pressed.
What Are Hormones and How do Birth Control Pills Affect Them?
Hormones are chemical messengers, traveling throughout the body, delivering critical information to cells - enabling them to do what is needed to keep the body healthy and functioning properly. Hormones can also be produced within organs for use on site. Once they have done their job in target cells to activate estrogen and progesterone receptors, hormones need to be removed from the body and new hormones made. All of these functions can be immensely altered by synthetic hormones used in birth control pills, with great negative consequences.
Birth control pills interfere with a woman’s key function —her ability to have natural hormonal production — stealing her inherent and necessary rhythms, and making her infertile, by substituting manufactured chemical mimics for her real hormones.
Birth Control “Hormones” Are Not Hormones, They Are Endocrine Disruptors
If you went to the toxicology site at the US National Institutes of Health, you would find the ingredients of birth control pills listed as endocrine disruptors. You can look at environmental medicine research to see the impact of these birth control chemicals on wildlife. In the articles, these chemicals are always labelled as endocrine disruptors, not hormones. The fact that they are marketed widely around the world as contraceptives and are called hormones by most doesn’t make them natural hormones. You can call a piece of glass a diamond but it’s still just glass and doesn’t have the beneficial properties of diamonds.
Something like 6 decades ago, research was underway on the use of these synthetic hormones, at a time when natural female hormones were barely understood. The health implications were not comprehended. Only the fact that pregnancy could be averted was acknowledged, and heralded. Fast forward to today — though we know so much more of the negatives of disrupting natural hormones and rhythms, it’s all brushed under the rug, and the anti-fertility impacts are applauded for good reason, but at what cost to a woman’s health?
The pharmaceutical industry over the past decades has created other endocrine disruptors which were prescribed to women, such as diethylstilbestrol (DES). This powerful endocrine disruptor was given to pregnant women with horrendous effects on female offspring, who are at increased risk of developing a fatal vaginal cancer and horrendous structural abnormalities of the reproductive organs. DES was ultimately removed from the market, but essential lessons have not been learned. Unlike DES, the consequences of taking birth control pills can be very subtle and take years to manifest. The long time span between starting to use the birth control pill and the appearance of their negative effects makes the recognition of “cause and effect” less obvious.
Adverse Effects of the Birth Control Pill
The consequences of the Pill can be very grave. Some women on birth control pills quickly develop life threatening blood clots. Some soon become depressed or even suicidal. Some rapidly become hypertensive. But some potential effects can take years to manifest, including irritable bowel syndrome, autoimmune diseases, osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, atherosclerosis, heart disease, diabetes and insulin resistance, kidney disease, poor vaginal health, and even dementia. It’s quite simple — loss of essential natural hormones (estradiol, progesterone, and testosterone) caused by long-term use of contraceptive synthetic hormones can mean loss of health itself.
Published studies show birth control pills can hinder the development of strong bones, negatively impact gut and immune health, damage vaginal and bladder health, and impact normal brain function. Tissues throughout the body have estrogen and progesterone receptors and there is a robust amount of data showing that these hormones are involved in a multitude of functions, all critical for health. As birth control pills do not contain even a speck of natural hormones and shut down their synthesis, all of the estrogen and progesterone-mediated functions in the body are heavily impacted.
Let’s focus first on estrogen. Think of estrogen as the master female hormone - regulating energy production and brain function, as well as bone, joint, muscle, gut, and immune health. Substitution of estradiol, the natural and most potent estrogen in the body, with the false chemical mimic, ethinyl estradiol, creates havoc for all of these functions. The damage occurs slowly but inexorably.
What Does It Mean for Women?
It’s painful to have to reject what has come to be seen as the ticket to female freedom and independence from unwanted pregnancies. Birth control pills were a hard-fought female victory at the time, needed to achieve parity with males.
But the truth must be told, no matter how painful it is at first to hear. To be vibrant, healthy women we can no longer be chained to the technology and drugs designed decades ago at a time when the hormonal functions of women were not understood. Women are amazing rhythmic creatures and require the beautiful dance of their hormones to be healthy. No woman should have a baby she doesn’t want. But knowingly putting synthetic hormones that disrupt the endocrine system into her body, destroying that rhythm and destroying fertility by removing hormones and replacing them with toxins, is simply not a reasonable option. Sadly, fertility and the health of females (and males) are one and the same thing. We must accept reality and then work to design effective contraceptives, or more natural ways to prevent unwanted pregnancies, which do not slowly destroy the female body by replacing vital hormones and rhythms with chemical endocrine disruptors. Effective contraceptives are surely needed, but sacrificing female health is not an option - not now AND not ever!