When asked to give women one single piece of hormonal advice, I say: Do NOT take the Pill.
Why? Because hormonal birth control profoundly disrupts hormone balance. It causes weight gain, depression, bladder infections, and abnormal PAP tests. The Pill suppresses the body’s own hormones and kills libido. To state it plainly, the Pill is chemical castration.
And yet the idea that the Pill can be used to balance hormones is entrenched with many patients and doctors. The Pill’s hormone-like drugs are not the same as the body’s own hormones.
The synthetic chemicals in the Pill are molecularly similar to human hormones, but they are not identical. To an exquisitely fine-tuned hormone receptor, similar is not good enough. Even the tiniest discrepancy in hormone structure can make a big difference in the body’s response.
Think of it this way. The right hormone is like the right key for a lock. In order to get a smooth response, the fit needs to be exact. With enough force, the wrong key can be jammed into a lock, and it may even elicit a distorted response. Such a response is like the hormonal effect of the Pill. It may be enough to rattle the lock, or even break the lock, but it does not do what the proper key for the lock could do. That’s the difference between the body’s own proper hormones and the pseudo-drug-hormones in the Pill.
My patients tell me that they take the Pill to “regulate their periods” or to “clear up acne”. Yes, the Pill does mask those hormonal symptoms, but it does nothing to address the imbalance that underlies them. Taking the Pill for hormonal imbalance is like fixing the engine light on your car dashboard by covering it over with a piece of black tape. Out of sight—out of mind.
Can the Pill regulate periods?
The drug-induced bleeds that occur with the Pill are not real periods. They are bleeds that are arbitrarily coordinated into a 28 day cycle for the sole purpose of reassuring women that their bodies are doing something natural. The bleeds could just as easily be coordinated to 35 days or 43 days or any number of days that the drug company chooses. Because the underlying cause of the irregular periods is never addressed by the Pill, the periods will revert to irregularity as soon as the Pill is stopped. In fact, the periods may then be more irregular thanks to the hormonal disruption by the Pill. Some women can take up to 2 years to resume a normal cycle after stopping the Pill. This is particularly true for sufferers of polycystic ovarian syndrome or PCOS. The Pill aggravates the insulin imbalance that underlies PCOS, and thereby promotes the condition that it is supposed to treat.
Teenagers are particularly at risk. If a young woman starts the Pill before her own periods have found their rhythm, she could struggle with irregular periods for the rest of her life. It is NORMAL for teenagers to have somewhat irregular periods. It is not a reason to put a 15 year old on the Pill.
Why does the Pill fix acne?
The Pill may clear up acne, but that does not therefore mean that the acne was a symptom of hormone deficiency or Pill-deficiency. More likely, the acne was a symptom of dairy sensitivity or sugar consumption or zinc deficiency or stress hormones. (See my latest Acne post.) The synthetic estrogen in the Pill steamrolls over any such underlying hormonal or nutritional imbalance, and as soon as the Pill is stopped, the acne will return with a vengeance. That is because the hormone receptors in the skin become addicted to the high levels of synthetic estrogen, and they do not adjust easily to normal, human levels of estrogen when the Pill is stopped. It can take months to adjust, and by that time many women return to the Pill, thinking: “my skin must need it”. But the post-Pill skin needs more synthetic estrogen like an addict needs more heroin. It may feel good temporarily, but it’s not a good choice.
Is the Pill ever justified? Some medical conditions such as endometriosis, migraines and ovarian cysts may justify temporary use of the Pill. Even then, I think that there are better long-term options.
What about contraception?
In my view, the best contraceptive methods are condoms, IUD and fertility awareness method. Fertility awareness requires some planning, but when done properly, it can be as effective as the Pill at preventing pregnancy.
My other more recent posts about hormonal birth control:
- The Pill is Bad Medicine
- How the Pill Switches Off Hormones and Why That Matters
- Why Hormonal Birth Control Can Never Regulate Periods [animation]
Yours in Health,