Birth control pills or BCPs can artificially control your menstrual cycle. They seem to be an effective, ideal, reversible, and inexpensive birth control method. These come in attractive pink little packs and are given to teenage girls, so these must be safe. Well, this isn’t true! You must be aware of the health risks associated with these birth control pills.
Dr. Marina Johnson emphasizes on the need to know the potential risks of using these pills.
Artificially Controlling Your Hormones Is Risky
The pituitary gland is almost the size of a pea and is situated at base of the brain. This gland is responsible for regulating hormone production in the body. Most of the birth control pills, vaginal rings, patches, and implants contain a combination of artificial derivatives of progesterone and estrogen. It is actually shocking to know that the amount of hormones in these pills are around 10 times higher than the natural hormones given to a women post menopause. Now, you have to understand that the hormones actually give signals to the body organs. When the pituitary gland assesses that these hormones are higher than the normal levels, it generally perceives that the body is in “over-dose” situation. This will cause pituitary to signal the ovaries to halt ovulation, which is the main source of estrogen production. If there is no ovulation, you cannot get pregnant. This is the main goal of birth control pills.
Besides playing an important role in reproduction, estrogen has around 400 actions on various tissues in the body. Women on birth control pills have zero detectable natural estrogen in their bodies. These significantly low levels of estrogen can cause various health issues. Some women do not feel or have any adverse effects but some might develop headaches, gain abdominal weight or experience sexual dysfunction. Young women might find it awkward to ask their doctors about the side-effects or may never realize all these side-effects are due to birth control pills. Read on to know more about potential health risks due to birth control pills.
Documented Risks of Birth Control Pills
Hormonal birth control pills contain synthetic progestin and estrogen. There are various well-documents risk of these pills including heart attack, stroke, breast cancer and blood clot. Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) further increases these risks as oral estrogen pills are given along with synthetic progestin. These risks increase with both increasing the dosage of the hormones and also with taking these pills for extended durations. If these birth control pills are taken for a year or two before starting a family, these might not cause problems, but few young girls take them for twenty years or so, starting at the age of thirteen or fourteen.
For the convenience and ease, you are increasing the risk for the below mentioned health conditions.
- Life-threatening Blood Clots: All the birth control pills can increase your risk of having blood clots and eventually stroke. If your prescription birth control pill contains desogestrel, your risk of having fatal blood clots almost doubles.
- Cancer: Women who consume birth control pills are at higher risk of developing various types of cancer including breast cancer , cervical cancer and liver cancer.
- Cardiovascular Diseases: Long-term use of birth control pills can increase plague buildup in your arteries. This plague buildup can lead to various cardiovascular diseases.
- Low Bone Mineral Density: Women who use oral contraceptives have low bone mineral density (BMD) than women who have never used any birth control pills.
- Decreased Memory and Cognition: Prolonged use of oral contraceptives might lead to reduced memory and cognitive ability.
- Impaired Muscle Gains: According to a recent study, use of oral contraceptives can lead to impaired muscle gains from resistance exercises.
- Migraine Headaches: Use of birth control pills can lead to migraine headaches, that are both excruciating and mildly disabling.
- Sexual Dysfunction: Birth control pills might interfere with proteins involved in keeping testosterone unavailable. This might lead to lack of sexual arousal and desire causing long-term sexual dysfunction.
- Yeast Infection: Prolonged use of birth control pills can lead to yeast infection or yeast overgrowth.
- Weight Gain and Mood Swings: Use of oral contraceptives lead to weight gain around the waist and abdominal area along with sudden changes in mood and increased irritability.
New Hormonal Birth Control Techniques Might Be Even More Harmful
Some new hormonal birth control techniques such as hormone releasing vaginal rings might be even more dangerous than the classic conventional control pills.
Hormone releasing vaginal ring needs to be replaced every month. It releases desogestrel and estradiol. Desogestrel is a third-generation progestin and is associated with various health conditions including doubling the risk of blood clot as compared to the previous generations of progestin.
Various other types of birth control methods such as implants also contain desogestrel. The most common side-effects of vaginal ring are gallbladder diseases, blood clots, stroke, and heart attack.
Natural Birth Control Methods
Considering various side-effects of using birth control pills, women must use natural birth control methods. These methods are easy, natural and do not have any side-effects. These include:
1. Barrier Methods: These methods help in preventing any unwanted pregnancy with great efficiency. Barrier Methods include:
- Male Condoms: Condoms have around 98% efficiency in preventing pregnancy, if used correctly. You can also use a water-based lubricant to increase its effectiveness. An oil-based lubricant can damage the condom as they break the latex.
- Female Condoms: These are soft and thin polyurethane pouches that can be fitted in the vagina just before sex. Female condoms are around 95% effective and they are less likely to tear than a male condom.
- Cervical Cap: This is thick rubber cap that fits against the cervix and can be left there for the next 48 hours. A doctor needs to fit it properly, this ensures the effectiveness as high as 91%.
- Diaphragm: A diaphragm is a silicone dome or a soft latex that can be inserted in the vagina before sex. It must be fitted by a doctor and can work effectively when used along with spermicide jellies. This can be up to 98% effective.
- Cervical Sponges: These sponges are made up of polyurethane foam. This foam is moistened in water and then can be inserted in the vagina just before sex. It works as a barrier between cervix and sperms, simultaneously absorbing sperms and releasing spermicide to kill them. These sponges are around 91% effective and can be left up to 24 hours each time.
2. Tracking Ovulation: Tracking your ovulation and avoiding sex during that time can work as a natural contraceptive method.
- Calendar Method: You must avoid sex during the week you are ovulating. This technique can work effectively for women who have a regular menstrual cycle. This procedure is only 75% effective. You can increase its effectiveness by combining it with methods described below.
- Mucus Method: This technique involves observing the amount and thickness of your vaginal discharge. After your periods, you will not have any significant amount of discharge. You will experience a cloudy and tacky mucus as estrogen begins to rise in your body. This mucus will gradually become clear and stringy, you must know ovulation is near. A return of cloudy, stringy mucus means that ovulation has passed now.
- Basal Body Temperature Method: This method involves checking your basal body temperature after waking up each morning. You can notice the rise in temperature after your ovulation. This method works well for women who have regular menstrual cycles. Along with the mucus method, this method can have a high efficiency as high as 98%.
Dr. Marina Johnson explains that women take oral contraceptive pills because it is a convenient way to avoid pregnancy, but she cautions women to weigh up the benefits and risk of using them. A bit of planning and wisdom can help you in preventing various serious health conditions associated with use of birth control pills.