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  • Writer's pictureBritt Joannides

10 Truths About What The Pill Really Does

Updated: Mar 15

By Britt Joannides, a FAM (Fertility Awareness Method) educator, menstrual cycle enthusiast and chiropractor.

While The Pill, or Hormonal Birth Control, offers significant success in preventing pregnancy, it is crucial to acknowledge and understand the potential negative side effects it may bring to ensure that you can fully take charge of your fertility and overall well-being.

My hormonal story started back in 2018. I was on the pill for 7 years and after reading my first hormone educational book, “Womancode” by Alisa Vitti, I was hooked! I came off the pill that month and started tracking my cycle using an app called MyFlo. After a few months, I started with abnormal symptoms related to my menstrual cycle which included bloating, gas, horrible acne, low back pain, painful peeing and pooping when on my period, blood in my stool when on my period, cramps, painful sex and terrible mood swings. These are symptoms of endometriosis, which I was officially diagnosed with in 2022. I have also been diagnosed with PMDD (Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder) which is a mental health problem similar to PMS but much more severe.

I made it my mission to heal myself naturally. I worked with numerous professionals along the way – a naturopath, a homeopath, a functional medicine doctor, several gynaecologists, chiropractors, abdominal massage therapists, psychologists, and on and on the list goes. I fixed my gut, cleaned up my personal care products, healed my acne, adjusted my diet, gave myself more grace and self-love, started living in sync with my cycle, and continued learning!

I then completed a teacher training to teach the Fertility Awareness Method (FAM) which is what I use to accurately track my cycle now. And I’ve just started another course in February 2024 with Cycle Coach School, after which I’ll be a certified Menstrual Cycle Coach.

So yes, I am slightly obsessed. But this is my life’s calling and I am so driven to educate the masses about all there is to know about our menstrual cycles! Here’s what we weren’t told while sitting across the desk with our trusted medical professional before being offered HBC:

1. It cannot balance hormones

It actually shuts down the communication between the brain and the ovaries and stops ovulation. This stops the production of oestrogen and progesterone and leaves you in a state of temporary chemical menopause. Read that again. HBC puts your body into temporary chemical menopause. This causes you to lose the natural flow of your cycle and you lose touch with who you are. The synthetic hormones in HBC are not the same molecular structures as our natural hormones and therefore do not provide the same benefits, which means you lose the vast benefits of ovulation.

2. It alters your stress response

It does this by mimicking chronic stress, increasing your levels of cortisol, and altering the HPA (hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal) axis. This increases your overall stress, leading to all that comes with a chronically stressed body.

3. It alters your microbiome

It basically acts in the gut the same way that antibiotics act – which is to destroy the delicate balance between good and bad gut microbes. Signs of gut dysbiosis (imbalanced gut) can be a side effect of HBC which includes constipation, bloating, IBS, nausea, acne, eczema, and headaches. This can have long-term repercussions for your overall health.

4. Hormonal birth control can potentially influence a woman's ability to choose a mate

This happens through various mechanisms, including altered attraction preferences and masking of fertility cues. Studies suggest that women on HBC may be attracted to different types of partners than those who are not, potentially impacting mate choice. Additionally, HBC’s suppression of the natural hormonal fluctuations could obscure fertility cues, affecting a woman's ability to assess a potential mate's genetic compatibility or suitability. Moral of the story – try choose your partner while off HBC!

5. It depletes your body of nutrients

Certain vitamins and minerals, such as B vitamins, magnesium, and zinc, can be depleted by HBC use. These nutrient deficiencies can have various negative health effects, including fatigue, mood disturbances, and impaired immune function. It also puts you at a greater risk of developing autoimmune diseases such as MS, Lupus, and interstitial cystitis.

6. It is associated with depression, anxiety, and mood swings

It does this by messing with the balance of your feel-good neurotransmitters (serotonin, dopamine, GABA). There is evidence to suggest that the pill can cause depression in some women. I have seen this a lot in women who have been prescribed antidepressants after being on the pill.

7. You do not have a true menstrual bleed

When you take your sugar pills each month, you are not actually having a true period. Instead, you're having a withdrawal bleed. These are not the same thing. The truth is that a TRUE menstrual period can only happen after ovulation. And because HBC stops ovulation, you do not have a true bleed.

8. It can interfere with your sexual desire

Some people report a decrease in libido while taking HBC. This can cause intimacy issues and cause distress for people in relationships, potentially impacting your overall quality of life.

9. It masks underlying health issues

Hormonal birth control can mask underlying hormonal imbalances or gynaecological conditions, such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) or endometriosis. Delayed diagnosis of these conditions can lead to prolonged suffering and may impact fertility in the long term.

10. It is NOT the only way to prevent pregnancy

Despite what your GP or gynaecologist (or anyone for that matter) tells you! There are many non-hormonal options for preventing a pregnancy. I will list a few of them below:

  • FAMs (Fertility Awareness Methods) – This is my favourite natural way to prevent pregnancy! FAM is a natural family planning technique that involves tracking your menstrual cycle to identify your fertile window and using that information for contraception (or conception). By tracking your cervical mucus and basal body temperature (BBT), FAM helps you understand your fertile window where you would avoid sex/use a barrier method during this time. But it's not just about avoiding pregnancy - FAM can also give you insights into your overall health and help you develop a more profound connection with your body.

  • Condoms – When used properly, they are 98% effective at preventing pregnancy which is very similar to HBC’s 99% effective when used PERFECTLY. (And we can all admit that we don’t take the pill at EXACTLY the same time every day!)

  • Diaphragm/Cervical Cap – It is a small, flexible cup that’s inserted into the vagina acting as a barrier method.

  • Copper IUD – This is similar to the Mirena but with no hormones. It works by causing an inflammatory response in the uterus which prevents sperm reaching an egg and interferes with implantation. This also allows you to still ovulate, so it’s a wonderful option.

I believe in informed consent, and not one person I have spoken to has said their medical professional ever spoke about the above nasties before prescribing HBC. It’s important to also take your health into your own hands and empower yourself with knowledge when navigating birth control. I hope this helps you in being 100% confident with your chosen method of managing your fertility.

For more advice, information and inspiration follow @cycle_centric on Instagram

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