In my practice, a high percentage of my female clients were prescribed birth control pills (BCP’s) during their teenage years to help control menstruation symptoms or simply for contraception. While BCP’s undoubtedly help alleviated some of the uncomfortable symptoms teenage girls experience and prevent unwanted pregnancies evidence indicates that they have some long-term health consequences. In this blog, I outline the main advantages and disadvantages of taking a BCP.
Advantages of Birth Control Pills
Effective Contraception of 99% if used correctly and taken daily.
Lowers Testosterone. By doing so BCP’s reduce acne, but the pill may lower libido by the same process and may cause painful intercourse.
Cancer reduction. If taken more than one year, taking a birth control pill may reduce your risk of developing ovarian cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, five years of BCP use is associated with a 90 percent reduction in future ovarian cancer.
Disadvantages of BCP’s
Does not help PMS, and may make it worse (exceptions are BCP’s that contain drospirenone, a synthetic progesterone, but these are linked to an increased risk of developing blood clots).
More blood clots. According to the National Blood Clot Alliance, BCP’s triple the risk of developing a blood clot.
Lowers Thyroid Hormones. BCP’s increases thyroglobulin, the binding protein that carries thyroid hormone in the blood. Too much binding protein will reduce the amount of thyroid hormones getting to the cells.
Lowers Testosterone. BCP’s increase sex hormone binding protein, a protein that carries testosterone in the blood and makes it biologically inert.
Cause Vitamin B Deficiencies. You need adequate vitamin B vitamins to ensure your hormonal system is working properly. BCP’s lower B vitamins in the body including folic acid and B12.
Delayed conception. For women who stop BCP’s to become pregnant, the return of ovulation is often delayed by months or even years.
May cause weight gain. BCP’s may cause weight gain in some women.
Increased risk of breast cancer. A review of 54 studies in 1996 found that women have a slightly higher chance of breast cancer while they’re using birth control pills that comprise both estrogen and progesterone and during the ten years after they stop taking the pills. Progesterone-only pills also heighten risk, but not as much.
Cause anxiety and depression. Synthetic hormones can have a negative impact on the balance of your feel good neurotransmitters such as GABA and serotonin. You are more at risk if you have a personal or family history of anxiety and depression.
IBS symptoms. BCP’s have been shown to cause constipation and diarrhoea.
If you have made up your mind to take birth control pills, then add a Vitamin B complex to your supplement regime. If you have PMS, consider having your hormones tested for low progesterone. While BCP’s may lower your risk of ovarian cancer they do increase your chance of breast cancer, so take care if you have a family history.