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Ah, the pill. Liberation for women for almost 50 years now.

Hormonal birth control – including the pill, the patch, the ring, and depo provera – is the most popular form of birth control. On the surface, it seems perfect: conveniently pop, apply, insert, or inject whatever form you choose and then relax. Your chances of pregnancy are less than 1 percent (with some, you apply and forget. with the pill, daily and timely compliance is required).

But concerns about side effects have plagued hormonal birth control, mainly the pill, for the past 30 years. Recently, concerns about the patch and Depo Provera have surfaced, prompting warnings about stroke and blood clots. More studies have been done on the pill than any other medicine in history, according to FDA. And for good reason: there is still disagreement about whether hormonal birth control contributes to breast cancer, high blood pressure, blood clots, and stroke.

Do you struggle with irregular periods, heavy bleeding, cramping, or endometriosis? Your doctor or gyno will probably prescribe the pill to treat these conditions. But hormonal birth control does not address the underlying cause of the imbalance that is leading to the problem! Did you know that the foods you eat, your environment, your stress level, and your lifestyle can all affect your menstrual cycle? Too many pollutants, too many hormones and pesticides in your food, and too much stress can cause your body to have too much estrogen and not enough progesterone. Too little progesterone can actually be the cause of difficult periods and female reproductive problems.

Recommended Reading: Natural Hormonal Balance for Women, by Uzzi Reiss

Although the pill does help lighten and regulate periods and allegedly protect against ovarian cancer, it is a powerful endocrine (hormonal system) disruptor. Because the pill is synthetic estrogen different from what your body produces, the liver is slow to metabolize it, and estrogens build up in your blood, causing estrogen dominance over time. Estrogen dominance has been blamed for PMS, infertility, bloating, fibrocystic breasts, endometriosis, cervical dysplasia, uterine fibroids, dysmennorhea (heavy periods with severe cramping), and even breast cancer. Once you stop taking the pill, it often takes years to correct these imbalances.

Hormonal birth control also has various side effects that may prove disruptive on a physiological or even a psychological level. The hormonal disruption may result in mood swings, lower libido, insufficient vaginal lubrication during intercourse, and possibly weight gain. They may increase the risk of blood clots, stroke and heart attack, and this risk increases with age and lifestyle. (i.e. smoking).

Look, as a woman who is very concerned about reproductive rights in this country, I would never discourage a woman from taking the pill or using any type of hormonal birth control. I took the pill for nearly 10 years and it affected me so dramatically that it’s an important issue to me, and I want to report the facts, because I feel that every woman should be informed and make the best decisions for her body. Hormonal birth control does offer the safest protection from pregnancy, but it comes with a price.

Aside from the previous undesirable side effects, hormonal birth control can deplete the body of certain minerals such as zinc and magnesium, and vitamins such a B vitamins, crucial for mood and stress regulation and heart health. Hormonal birth control also creates increased inflammation in the body and can interfere with liver, pancreas, digestive system, ovaries, immune and vascular systems.

Believe me, I understand the lack of effective alternatives. I worked at Planned Parenthood many many years ago doing birth control, STD, and abortion counseling. Condoms are only something like 87 percent effective; the sponge is no good and nearly obsolete now; the diaphragm works pretty well but is somewhat high maintenance; and the IUD – well, not a bad choice really. Maybe worth looking into the copper IUD? Avoid the ones that release hormones! Then there’s the rhythm method if your cycles are regular, but of course that’s not fool proof.

Oh, and let’s not forget the male birth control pill that has been waiting in the wings for years now. Would you trust your partner with the responsibility of keeping you safe from pregnancy? In studies, many men balked at taking a pill that would cut their fertility and others couldn’t follow through with taking it daily. Something’s just not right with this picture.