The Effects of Hormonal Birth Control

If drinking a glass of water everyday had these risks and symptoms, would you still drink it?

Headaches, vaginitis (inflammation of the vagina); weight gain; acne; breast pain; viral infection such as sore throat or flu-like symptoms; stomach pain; painful periods; mood swings; nervousness or depressed mood; back pain; nausea; dizziness; pain.

Pain in your lower leg that does not go away; severe chest pain or heaviness in the chest; sudden shortness of breath, sharp chest pain, or coughing blood; symptoms of a sever allergic reaction, such as swollen face, tongue or throat, trouble breathing or swallowing; sudden severe headaches unlike usual headaches; weakness or numbness in your arm, leg, or trouble speaking; sudden partial or complete blindness; yellowing of your skin or whites of your eyes, especially with fever, tiredness, loss of appetite, dark-colored urine, or light-colored bowel movements; severe pain, swelling, or tenderness in the lower stomach (abdomen); lump in your breast; problems sleeping, lack of energy, tiredness, or you feel very sad; or heavy menstrual bleeding.

These side effects were taken directly off of an advertisement that popped up on my Facebook page for an etonolgestrel implant, aka BIRTH CONTROL.  

Oh, and this…

“The use of [the etonogestrel implant] may also increase your chance of serious blood clots, especially if you have other risk factors… Some examples of blood clots are deep vein thrombosis (legs), pulmonary embolism (lungs), retinal thrombosis (eyes), stroke (brain), and heart attack (heart).  It is possible to die from a problem caused by blood clots, such as a heart attack or stroke… 

Cysts may develop on the ovaries and usually go away without treatment, but sometimes surgery is needed to remove them”.

According to the CDC, about 62% of women between 15-44 are taking some method of birth control; while the reasons for why they are using it are not given, it doesn’t change the fact that women are not very educated when being prescribed it.  Pills, rings, patches, and implants, are the most common form of hormonal contraceptives that are used.

They all influence hormone levels and prevent women from ovulating, stops fertilization.  Ovulation is a crucial part of a woman’s cycle that helps keeps us balanced in many other ways than just reproduction.

pink round medication pill
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The first birth control pill was approved by the FDA in 1960 and in 1968, the first IUD was put on the market.  After trials for infections and documented deaths submerged over time, the evolvement of methods continued, giving us more options and easier access to them.

 

 

Here’s my disclaimer.  This post is not directed towards women’s choices of family planning; many experiences I hear are about how birth control was prescribed to help with gynecological symptoms, not pregnancy prevention.  There are options for natural family planning – check out this site for more information.

I am not trying to influence choices of anyone, rather pass along knowledge and information that I wish I was presented with when I was younger.  The more awareness around any topic can help make more informed decisions.  The pill is often prescribed for endometriosis, fibroids, cysts, etc., although those are also symptoms of underlying imbalances that are only covered up by birth control.  Other options are available – the more you know, the better.

I can still remember my first visit to the gynecologist… to make things even more uncomfortable (and what now provides me what great laughter), is towards the end of the check-up, my doctor (who both of my sisters also went to) peaked her head over the thin blue paper covering my lap and commented about how much I looked like my sisters.  BAD TIMING!  Although she then referred to our smiles as being similar, I couldn’t help but hold onto that moment as I turned bright red throughout my face.

Anyway, back to the point of this post.

Since I had experienced cramps, low back pain, and short cycles, I was prescribed a low-dose of a hormonal birth control pill.  To be honest, I never experienced weight gain, acne, or other side-effects that can come with it; it wasn’t until I got off the pill (5-6 years later) that I noticed changes.

So what do the pill/other contraceptives actually do to us besides preventing pregnancy? Let’s talk about some Chinese Medicine Theory.

A few things:

  • when there is obstructed or stopped flow, there is stagnation or stasis which causes pain
  • the pill (along with almost all medications) is energetically cold, which can cause congealed blood (clots) and slow down the flow of blood and energy in the body
  • the liver stores, cleanses, and moves the blood and the spleen helps make the blood from our food and liquid intake

Pre-ovulation (day 1-14) is a time when our body is cooler and estrogen-dominant.  During days 14-28, progesterone is boosted and our temperatures start to rise.  In an ideal cycle, ovulation occurs about halfway through, as the egg is released.  Since hormonal birth control ceases ovulation (stopping the egg from being fertilized), the body’s ability to naturally ebb-and-flow is hindered.

In Chinese Medicine, this is referred to as stagnation, or lack of flow.  The liver cannot do it’s job of keeping things flowing freely, so it becomes sluggish and cold.  This in turn create less blood (hence the lighter periods), more dampness from the obstructed flow and lack of nourishment, and a separation of communication of the upper body to the lower (due to stagnation and cold in the uterus).

Cold and stagnation in the liver can present as:

  • headaches/ migraines
  • blood clots
  • dizziness
  • low back pain, cramps, leg pain
    adult alone anxious black and white
  • poor digestion, bloating
  • cold hands and feet
  • low immunity
  • irritability
  • constipation
  • breast pain/swelling
  • clumsiness
  • pain along the ribs
  • depression
  • fatigue
  • poor sleep, poor memory

Thant’s a lot, right?  Kind of resembles the side effects listed at the top of this page… and that’s just from one pattern of imbalance!  Typically, the longer that pattern stands, the more likely it is that it will transform into other symptoms (and patterns) since there is a lack of nourishment in one area.  When one link of the chain is off, the whole thing can become crooked.

While birth control can help to stimulate hormone function when needed, it is only treating a symptom, not a cause.  Not only does it limit the amount of muscle mass that can be built (increased estrogen is not favorable for lean mass), it also can be a barrier to getting to an ideal weight.  If there is excess cold in the body, it will hold onto fat longer to stay warm.  As a pattern of excess dampness, this would present as body aches, heaviness, joint pain, fogginess, exhaustion, more mucus, loose stools, and lack of motivation.

Many women I speak to are either nervous to come off of brith control because their doctor has told them the negatives of getting off it (ahem, what about the negatives with starting it?! I know I was never told that) or they are nervous all of their old symptoms will return.  There is truth in both, but out body is MADE TO HEAL.  It wants us to be well!  And there are resources besides pills that will help.

Whether you are currently on birth control, just coming off it, or are still experiencing menstrual irregularities, there are answers to help correct your pattern.  I would suggest tracking your basal body temperature (BBT); this will show if your hormones are playing nice throughout your cycle, when/if you are fertile, and if you need more warming or cooling foods.  Using a BBT was one of the best things I did to see what my body was doing!  With proper lifestyle, diet, and routines, you can correct any imbalance.

bunch of heart shaped assorted color tablets
Photo by Emily Ranquist on Pexels.com

The trigger to write this post was due to a fancy advertisement Facebook provided me.  It was plastered with candy hearts, flowers, and satisfying moving GIFs.  An advertisement for a substance that is covering up my awareness of my own body.  A substance that can be handed out for free or minimal cost.  A substance that kicks my body out of its natural cycle, hiding the underlying issues.  As a lifelong student to a medicine that is devoted to understanding the mechanisms of how the body interacts, I have learned that the best way to heal is to sit, seek further, and listen without blockages.

Peel back the layers and keep distractions (even if they’re colorful candy hearts) to the side.  Sometimes the simple fixes are doing more harm than we can see.  You have control over the choices you make and what you want to be done with your body.  Value yourself!

With love,

Caroline

 

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