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The Pill – is it for you?

The oral contraceptive pill (OCP) is the most used pharmaceutical, world wide. Most women have taken it at some stage during their life, Many young women are being prescribed the pill to ‘sort out’ a wide variety of health issues including acne, endometreosis and poly cystic ovarian syndrome. The truth is, the pill isn’t the solution to these problems. It acts as a band aid to ‘cover up’ the true issue and whilst some women think they are ok taking it, it isn’t until the stop they realise just how awful they felt whist they were on it.

The pill interferes with fertility – because it is designed to do so. This isn’t a side effect, it is it’s main reason for existing – to stop you from falling pregnant.

I’ve been wanting to write about the pill for a long time now. My reservations were not in giving my opinion but more in the realisation that it is such a mutifaceted issue. I wanted to write about the pill to explain and educate – providing enough information for women to make their own conclusion. As a practitioner I certainly don’t judge women who take the pill, however I do like to make them aware just how many of their complaints may be easily alleviated without taking the pill. To do this accuratly I’ve decided to write a series of posts to ensure that I can deliver all the information I can.

The number one problem with the pill is that when it is prescribed very little information about what the pill does is evergiven to a patient. I will never forget asking around my mothers group as to who wasn’t on the mini pill. I was totally shocked to find out that I was the only woman there not taking it. When I asked why they were taking it – most of them could only say they did it because their doctor told them they needed to. I understand just as much as the next person that falling pregnant again soon after having a child is more than likely on the bottom of the to do list – in fact for most it’s on top of the DO NOT list. But understanding when you are fertile and when you are not would be far more useful than handing a woman a pill packet, as if the buck stopped there and she didn’t have to worry about it any longer. Was there any mention of mood swings, constant spotting or bleeding and just not feeling quite right? And would most women simply put this down to normal post-partum happenings, especially if it was their first time? For a breast feeding woman hormones taken in via the pill will be passed onto the child via the breast milk – contributing to a host of issues including behavioural problems, increased allergies, diabetes and learning issues.

When I talk about the pill, I refer to all synthetic hormone contraceptives including the mini pill, the combined pill, implants such as mirena (TM), Inter Uterine Devices (IUD’s), vaginal rings, and patches. When the pill was initially introduced manufacturers told women and practitioners it was safe. They soon realised it was far from the truth and the source of a long list of nasty side effects, including deaths from blood clotting, strokes, amputations and permanent damage. What was done about it? Warnings were put on the packaging and doses were altered. However, the current generation oral contraceptive pills still come with the same warnings and have considerable side effects as well as cause substational nutritional inbalances which lead to a host of other issues (and when I say host – I mean a MASSIVE list).

Fact: Women who take the pill are nearly ten times the risk of dying from pulmonary embolism (a blood clot reaching the heart) than those who aren’t taking it. (1)

After post pill infertility and migraines, the most common complaint I see in the clinic is low libido of women taking the pill. Scientists have discovered that the chemicals produced in the body as a result of the pill to stop ovulation continue to suppress testosterone levels – central to sexual desire in both men and women. This can continue for up to four years once a woman stops taking it. I find this quite ironic because in theory, you can’t get pregnant whilst on the pill – but if you don’t want sex whilst on the pill, then you can’t get pregnant anyway! Don’t think it stops there – lets add to that mood swings, weight gain, brittle bones and migraines. These are just four more of the most commonly seen side effects of the pill. Time and time again I hear women report (especially those who haven’t been on the pill but need to take it as part of IVF treatment) how they feel ‘psycho’ on the pill, as if they could murder somebody or cry for no reason. This is what incorrect levels of hormones do! If they are doing that to our moods, think about what that is doing to our insides. The fact remains that the hormones in the pill aim to mimic hormones in your body however they are not identical to your natural hormones. This is also because a normal dose of the pill is four times the amount of oestrogen normally present in the body. Pills are a “one size fits all”, however if no two bodies are the same, it be comes easy to recognise why so many women experince negative side effects.

Because the pill is toxic, it directly affects the liver. The liver in chinese medicine is responsible for moving energy around the body (in the form of blood and nutrients). The pill very often stagnates this energy meaning that the body isn’t nourished adequately. This is why so many women experience migraines, headaches and even weight whilst taking the OCP. It affects the normal rhythm of the body. Migraines are found to be 40% more common amongst pill users than those who don’t take it. For women who are already having migraines, taking the pill can seriously exacerbate these problems. Often GP’s will try various pills to see if that makes a difference to the patient. Fact remains they are all a variation of the next and in most instances the headaches remain. It’s can be a dangerous combination – the increased oestrogen in the body of migraine sufferers isn’t a good thing. (2)

The most outstanding piece of information I have ever read about the pill is how it alters our attraction to the opposite sex. A recent study found that women on the pill see the world more platonically. They were shown images of naked women and men. Those on the pill reported a much more neutral view as opposed to those who didn’t take the pill who were easily able to imagine sexual scenes from viewing the pictures. It was also noted that those who were on the pill were far less charmed at seeing pictures of babies – hinting that the pill’s influence on reproductive interest. 3. And here is the best bit. Certain volatile fatty acids – named ‘couplins’ (not kidding, that is truly the real name) are secreted in the vagina and stimulate male sexual interest and behaviour. Women on the pill do not secrete couplins. I’m sure there are dozens more of these little impacts the pill has on our bodies that we aren’t aware of – and again, this is the reason why many women feel so different when coming off the pill. (3)

Of the most importance of those taking the pill is its effectiveness and it’s ability to prevent pregnancy. But the thing is – it isn’t all it is cracked up to be. In America alone some 6 million pregnancies occur in woman taking the pill. This isn’t necessarily because they weren’t taking it correctly. So many factors affect its ability to work. An Australian study of women ages eighteen to 39 on the pill who weighed 70 kilos or more found that they were 60 percent more likely to have their pill fail than women who weighed less. The average women in Australia weighs 66.6 kilos. Professor Dr Victoria Holt says because women who weigh more have a higher metabolic rate, they need higher levels of hormones to prevent pregnancy – demonstrating again, it isn’t a one size fits all kinda situation. It’s also thought that because the pill is toxic and our bodies trap toxins in our fat stores, the pill may also be less effective in overweight women as it isn’t where it needs to be to work – in the blood stream. (4)

Knowing your body and reading it’s signs is the absolute best way of knowing when you are fertile and when you aren’t. If you aren’t able to distinguish ovulation signs or you don’t have a regular cycle, it’s sure time you found out why. Seeking out a Natural Fertility Specialist is your next point of call. What’s more if you have stopped taking the pill in preparation to have a baby, a minimum of 6 months is essential to have the body back on track. You are vulnerable to a host of issues as the pill alters how your body metabolises nutrients, robbing it of essential vitamins and minerals. If pregnancy occurs immediately after stopping the pill it is detrimental to ensure you are on the best quality multi vitamin and fish oil money can buy. Zinc is one of the major essentials severely drawn out via the pill. Guess what happens to a zinc deficient woman? They have less elastic skin, they have perineums that don’t stretch but tear in labour, have cracked nipples and prolonged labours. Zinc is essential to maintain good copper/zinc ratio in the body – vital, since high levels of copper have been linked to depression. Zinc deficient babies (as passed on by the mother) are more jittery and more likely to cry a lot. It certainly isn’t a winning combo – a Zinc deficient, depressed breast feeding mother coupled with a zinc deficient upset baby. Simply taking a multi vitamin alone may not be the saving grace – it will certainly help but if you have come off the pill and things aren’t feeling right or going back to ‘normal’ (with your menstrual cycle) seek help as soon as possible – it can be easily treated with natural methods including chinese medicine (being one of the best and most effective forms). (5)

I want to go on specifically to talk about several related topics over the next month to include:

  • How the pill affects fertility & pregnancy (including birth defects and child hood illness)
  • PCOS and Endometrosis – the alternatives and why they are 100000 better!
  • If not the pill, then what? Understanding ovulation and fertile times.

Be encouraged to ask questions. Please do not miss-understand that there are some instances that the pill has provided an excellent short term treatment to women. Fact remains however that for most, it isn’t a long term solution without nasty side effects – and so educating women to make decisions based on what their body is reporting to them provides a much more empowering experience than any little pill packet can ever deliver.

Hormones affect how we think and feel and how we think and feel affects our hormones. (6)

1. Bennett, J & Pope, A. ‘The Pill’. Alex and Irwin. 2008.
2. Karen Aegidius et al., ‘Oral contraceptives and increased headache prevalence’, Neurology, 66: 349-53. 2006
3. Michael Richard et al., ‘Volatile fatty acids, “couplins”, in human vaginal secretions’ , Psychoneuroendocrinology, 1:153 – 63.
4. A Hobson and R. Grumman, ‘Contraception secrets your doctor hasn’t told you’, Cosmopolitan, december 2003.
5. ‘Women, contraception and unplanned pregnancy’, study commissioned by Marie Stopes International, January 2008
6. Bennett, J & Pope, A. ‘The Pill’. Alex and Irwin. 2008.

Leave a Comment

17 Responses to “The Pill – is it for you?”

  1. Natalie

    Loved this artile Nat. Confirms what I felt about the pill. I haven’t been on it for over 5 years and plan never to go on it again. I track my fertiity signs and have had no accidents. All pregnancies have been planned and I am confident I can continue with this method.

    Reply
  2. Amelia {Weddings, Babies... Everything}

    Terrific post Nat and I applaude you for putting the truth out there!

    I stopped taking the Pill years ago. I went on it when I was 19 and found I had every bad symptom you mentioned. It made me feel terrible, angry, fat and had NO sex drive. I was advised to take a different brand and the same thing happened. I went off it straight away and have never looked back. It does such unnatural things to your body. I will definitely be advising my daughter against it when she is older.

    Reply
  3. lou

    Hi Nat – really interesting article – I have been on the pill for PCOS treatment but after a long batch of accupncture and no alcohol I fell pregnant unknowingly – (I found out at 28 weeks and am now 35) I am taking a pregnancy vitamin and raspberry leaf since i found out but should I be taking anything more, I was on zinc previosuly? My concern is not having known for ao long bub has gone through the ringer!

    Reply
    • NatKringoudis

      Hi Lou,

      Wow – what a shock that must have been for you – congrats!

      Get the best quality multi Vitamin you can get your hands on (ours are practitioner grande and 100 times better than the leading marketed brands). It should contain the perfect amount of zinc for you. I strongly suggest some pre-labour treatment to get the cervix and pelvis ready.

      Eat as well as you can, get as much rest as you can and keep stress on the low down. A fish oil is also great to add to the mix.

      I hope that helps!

      nat

      Reply
  4. Jo

    Another eye opening blog Nat! I was encouraged by my gp at my 6am check up to not go on the mini pill (not that I was considering it!) which I thought was a rare thing now days & your blog confirmed that!

    Reply
  5. hayley blease

    this post rocks… clearly shows why I have my sex drive! I was considering it as you know, but no way am I messing with this new found libido! Let me know when you do a post on finding an awesome man to go with the drive! x

    Reply
  6. Jessi

    Very interesting. I am on numerous medications and have started and weaned of some unfortunately at the same time as stopping the pill. I say unfortunately, as I haven’t known if my feeling better and losing weight was attributed to starting new meds or ceasing the pill. From your post, I think it could have a lot to do with ceasing the pill!

    I will keep reading as you post away!

    Reply
  7. Laura

    Brilliant article, Nat!

    I have been on the pill since I was a teenager but I have taken breaks. I don’t notice too much of a difference between when I am off it and on it but I am very concerned about the longterm side effects.

    You’re right when you say that doctors do not give women ANY information about the pill. I remember asking my doctor for it when I was 16 and he just handed me a prescription (probably too embarrassed to ask questions!) I went back a few months later feeling awful with bad skin and realised that he had just given me the cheapest pill on the market, assuming it was all I could afford because I was young. I think doctors have to learn to allow their patients to take control of their own health, and make their own informed decisions.

    I am looking forward to the rest of your posts!

    Laura xx

    Reply
  8. Sarah

    Thank you for a great post, Natalie. I have been telling my friends for years that I can’t wait until modern medicine catches up with good old common sense. I do have one question for you, though: I was told by my doctor as well to start taking the pill when I was experiencing a severe hormonal imbalance, but I opted for acupuncture instead and it completely alleviated the problem. However, I did get the ParaGard IUD that is non-hormonal and made of copper, because I am completely against the artificial hormone stuff and I still wanted a backup form of birth control (aside from tracking my cycle). What do you think about copper IUDs? My doctor said it works by simply preventing the sperm from reaching the egg.

    Thanks so much :)

    Reply
  9. Kristy

    Loved this article so much! I have PCOS and have been on the pill for 7 years (im only 25), and I hate it!!!! I have horrible side effects including migraines. I can’t wait to read your article on PCOS alternatives :) any help on this matter is so greatly appreciated X

    Reply
  10. abbey

    Love this post, i can certainly relate to some of the things you have said, like feeling psycho and feeling not quite right. So glad i am no longer on the pill, but after 6 months still no periods.

    Reply
  11. Paula

    Great article! Succinctly states everything I’ve read and researched and also found to be true with by own body.

    I’d like to ask about ovarian cysts though. Not PCOS, but larger cysts that cause a lot of pain, especially if one ruptures. I have two friends that are experiencing this and they are on the pill in order to keep the cysts in check. They don’t like being on the pill but are fearful to take any risks like going off of it because they were told that developing more cysts and ruptured cysts will compromise fertility. The way I see it, the pill is only further compromising their fertility.

    I told them they need to be well informed, weigh the risks, and follow a treatment plan they believe in. I said: eat well, eat to support the reproductive system and to balance out hormones (I outlined what such a diet would look like). Exercise everyday – light to moderate. Manage stress – do yoga, meditate, breathe, take time to relax every day. Take appropriate supplements: a good multi, fish oil as well as herbal – vitex, black cohosh, and ashwagandha worked well for me.

    Can you shed any more light on this cyst issue? Any additional suggestions for treatment?

    Reply
  12. Nina

    Hi, this is a great discussion and something I’m definitely interested in looking into more. I’ve been on the pill since I was 18 (now 31) and I really want to come off it. I originally went on it to clear up hormonal acne especially on my back, arms and chest areas. However, I’ve tried taking various ‘breaks’ from it to see what my body’s reaction would be but the acne just comes right back again as if I were still a pimply 18 yr-old, so I go back on the pill again….What are my alternatives or any advice you have for this type of reaction when I come off the pill to manage my acne?

    Reply
  13. Cherise

    Hi Nat,

    Really great post and so pleased I came across by chance on Pinterest. I just saw my doctor over concerns that I feel my hormones are all over the place and she prescribed… The pill. Im not one to take a pill when I feel there are issues that need to be addressed.

    Can you point me in the right direction?

    Thank you sincerely,

    Cherise

    Reply
  14. Angie

    Great article, women (and men!) need to be educated that the pill in the long term isn’t great for a woman’s body. I took it for 10 years, stopped two years ago and I am dealing with low progesterone issues which I highly think was due to the pill.

    Reply
  15. Tanya

    Fantastic article ! So happy that someone has confirmed my concerns about the pill. Everytime I would bring up concerns with my doctor she would suggest I change pill or say that there is no harm in taking the pill…I just couldn’t take that as an answer.

    I recently went off the pill and have been having a terrible time. I think its because my hormones are completely out of wack. Ive suffered from spotting, terrible mood swings, and feeling very emotional, tired and generally not well.

    I am very interested in finding out how the pill effects fertility in more detail as well as effects the pill can have on unborn babies.

    Love love love this article , finally someone who makes sense !!

    Reply
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