When birth control pills were first marketed, contraception was illegal, so manufacturers had to come up with an alternate marketing strategy *enter period regulation.* The claim of “period regulation” was a cover story that stuck and is still around some 50 years later.
Yes, if you are on birth control you will bleed around the same time very month. However, this “pill period” as I call it, is actually a withdrawal bleed. Your pill period is a symptom of withdrawal from the synthetic hormones in your birth control.
The hormones produced by the ovaries are estrogen and progesterone. These sex hormones are responsible for many different things in the body including but not limited to: mood, brain function & growth, bone health, muscle growth & formation, and many more! The birth control pill works by releasing pseudo-hormones that suppress ovulation & keep the cervical mucus thick. The hormones in hormonal contraceptives are not the same hormones that are naturally occurring in a woman’s body. The progesterone-like hormone, levonorgestrel, that is common in birth control is linked with depression and anxiety, whereas the naturally occurring progesterone hormone improves brain health & cognition.
The “period pills” at the end of the birth control pack are essentially sugar pills, meaning they don’t release the progesterone-like hormones that keep the uterine lining thick and intact. The sudden withdrawal of this hormone is what causes the uterine lining to shed during menstruation. The reason that this is not a real period is because the hormones keeping the uterine lining thick and intact are not naturally occurring in our body, and the shedding is simply caused by withdrawing these pseudo-hormones. If you were to start taking the hormone releasing pills again, your period would stop.
There are many side effects from taking hormonal contraceptives, many of which have become a majority rather than the exception. Increased risk of anxiety and depression is one that is basically a given side effect. This goes back to the progesterone-like hormone that is used in many hormonal birth controls.
A diminished sex drive is another one of the side effects of hormonal contraceptives. Studies have shown that women can experience a lower libido for up to a year after they stop hormonal birth control. A diminished sex drive is caused by having higher levels of sex hormone-binding globulin, which suppressed testosterone – the sex desire in men and women. The study showed women on the pill have 7 times the level of sex hormone-binding globulin that women who had never taken the pill, and had twice the amount a year after they stopped taking the pill.
When we look at the business side of hormonal contraceptives, we can easily see why they are pushed for a multitude of reasons, many of which have nothing to do with stopping unwanted pregnancies. Hormonal contraception is a multi-billion dollar industry with almost $1.7 billion in sales just from the United States. The Inspector General’s office released a study stating that 7 out of 10 advertisements for the pill were “misleading or unbalanced.” Contraceptives are the most “deceptively advertised” category of prescription drugs, antibiotics are in second place.
An informed decision is the best decision, and many times the benefits of the hormonal birth control pill outweigh the side effects. However, it is important to know your options and the effects those options can have on your body. Other forms of birth control include:
- Fertility Awareness Method
- Male Condoms
- Female Condoms
- Copper IUD
- Hormonal IUD
There are a number of different birth control options not mentioned, but these are the most effective alternatives.
It’s a little hard to wrap my head around the fact that we shut down women’s hormone systems to prevent pregnancy, when there are many other options. Fertility is a sign of health, not something that should be treated like a disease with a drug. I encourage you to educate yourself and your loved ones and make an informed decision.