The Dangers of Hormonal Contraception: Part 1: The Pill

April 10, 2012 at 15:28

Little Miss Sicky Poo

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A little over 50 years ago, the revolutionary oral contraception pill was introduced to women and quickly became the most popular and convenient way to “plan a family” and avoid unwanted pregnancies.  Today it is estimated that over 12 million American women use the birth control pill.   The pill certainly has merited success as an effective drug for the purposes that it was designed for, but over the last few decades much has been learned about the price that women truly pay for this convenience.

Ladies beware!  If you are looking for ultimate health, you won’t find it with the pill.  Although there are plenty of reassurances that the pill is completely safe, the fact remains that introducing synthetic chemicals to your body is sure to upset the delicate balance of your natural processes in some manner.  Taking synthetic progesterone and synthetic estrogen to suppress your monthly cycle and trick your body into believing that it is pregnant for a prolonged period of time is not advantageous to your overall or reproductive health.

Let’s look at some of the potential negative impacts of taking the pill:

Increased Risk for Certain Types of Cancer
It is well documented that taking the pill increases your risk for breast cancer.  In 1996, the Collaborative Group of Hormonal Factors in Breast Cancer did an analysis of over 50 worldwide studies on the increased risks of breast cancer in current and recent users of the pill. What they found was a 10%-30% increase of risk especially among younger women.  Thankfully they also found that the risk level goes back to normal 10 years or more after discontinuing oral contraceptive use.

While the risks of endometrial and ovarian cancer appear to be reduced with the use of oral contraceptives, the risks of breast, cervical, and liver cancer appear to be increased.  Naturally occurring estrogen and progesterone have been found to be the main culprit here.

Increased Risk for Blood Clots
Blood clots or venous thromboembolisms are pretty scary business.  They can form in any deep vein in the body. A blood clot in a deep vein can break off and travel through the bloodstream. It can travel to an artery in the lungs and block blood flow and ultimately cause death.  All birth control pills increase the risks for blood clots, but last year there was a study done of 330,000 Israeli women who were taking birth control pills with the hormone drospirenone.  This hormone is typically found in new brands of the pill such as Yaz and Yasmin.  What they found was that these pill users were even more likely than other pill users to develop blood clots.  The risk was 43% to 65% percent higher with drospirenone-containing pills, compared with older, so-called second- and third-generation pills.

Cardiovascular Risks
There are quite a few cardiovascular risks that go hand in hand with taking the pill.  These include an increase in blood pressure and risk of stroke in some women.  Perhaps the most alarming of the cardiovascular risks is the 20%-30% increase of plaques in key arteries for every ten years of pill use!  This risk can carry over to women that are no longer using the pill as well.

Bone Density
Women who use oral contraception during their reproductive years may also see a decrease in bone density which can lead to osteoporosis, hip and bone fractures later in life. Peak bone mass development occurs early in a woman’s reproductive years, typically under the age of 30.  Research has shown that estrogen plays an important role in the development and maintenance of bone mass and hormonal contraceptives alter the amount of estrogen a woman’s body naturally produces. It is estimated that the pill lowers bone density by about 5.9%.

Fertility After Going Off the Pill
There is a lesser known side effect to using the pill that is usually only noticed when a woman decides it’s time to have a baby and stops using it.  It is called amenorrhea, or lack of ovulation.  I’ve personally witnessed the fear and heartbreak of a few friends unsuccessfully trying to conceive after going off the pill.  In some cases, a woman may have to wait up to 2-3 years to become fertile again.  Prolonged use of the pill creates a dormant reproductive state after years of hormone suppression.  That suppression leads to a decline in fertility and in some cases early menopause, all of which decrease your chances for a baby when the time is right.

Additional Side Effects of the pill
Here are a few more potential side effects that you should be aware of:

  • Cycle irregularities
  • Miscarriages
  • Headaches & Migraines
  • Cramps, irregular bleeding
  • Bloating
  • Nausea
  • Breast tenderness
  • Vaginal infections
  • Yeast overgrowth
  • Aggravation of Chron’s Disease
  • Gall bladder disease
  • Depression/mood changes
  • Loss of sexual function
  • Impaired muscle gains
  • Depletion of vitamins:
    • Vitamin B2
    • Vitamin B6
    • Vitamin B12
    • Folic Acid
    • Vitamin C
    • Magnesium, Zinc

The number of risk factors from taking the pill is too great to fully detail in one post.  I encourage you to do some investigative work, especially if you are currently taking the pill.  Decide for yourself if the risks outweigh the convenience and know that there are other natural methods of birth control that are available to you that won’t harm you physically.

Stay tuned next week for the second part of this series on hormonal contraception that will focus on patches.

Resources

The Pill & Increased Breast Cancer Rates: http://ww5.komen.org/BreastCancer/CurrentorRecentUseofBirthControlPills.html
Increased Stroke Risk: http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2009-10/luhs-isr102609.php

Effects on Long Term Fertility:http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/3350809/Pill-can-delay-a-baby-far-longer-than-you-want.html
Blood Clots & The Pill: http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/11/07/us-birth-control-clots-idUSTRE7A66R320111107

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