In our last Teen Journey article, we addressed the problem of periods that are heavy, irregular, and painful. That there are solutions to this problem, but they take a different perspective. However, there’s another solution that seems far easier to most: birth control. Just turn the period and everything that comes with it off, right? How much more of a quick fix could you ask for?

The problem comes in when you really look at what taking birth control means. What it does in and to your body, and why it’s not a good way to address this issue.

Why is Birth Control recommended?

Birth control is what is called an endocrine disruptor. The NIH defines endocrine disruptors as follows:

Many chemicals, both natural and man-made, may mimic or interfere with the body’s hormones, known as the endocrine system. Called endocrine disruptors, these chemicals are linked with developmental, reproductive, brain, immune, and other problems.

Birth control is recommended as a fix to hard, irregular, and painful periods because it disrupts the hormones that keep the fertility cycle going. Periods are a part of this fertility cycle, and, therefore, birth control seems to do the trick.

What you don’t hear alongside this recommendation, though, is that birth control isn’t a good or healthy choice. The body works like a Swiss watch; every gear impacts the others. When one is made to stop functioning, either the entire watch grinds to a halt, or tries to keep working regardless, damaging the other gears in the process. A damaged watch doesn’t work as it should, and neither does a body that’s out of homeostasis. This causes long-term problems. Let’s look at how and why.

Birth Control Manipulates All Your Hormones

Women take birth control to stop or manipulate their reproductive hormones, and it does, but those aren’t the only hormones birth control interrupts.

Thyroid hormones

Cleveland Clinic puts it this way:

Birth control pills (oral contraceptives) containing estrogen or both estrogen and progesterone can alter that delicate balance of free and bound thyroid hormone in your body.

The estrogen in birth control pills increases the amount of thyroid binding proteins available to bind to thyroid hormone. What does this mean for you? If you have more thyroid hormone bound to proteins, you’ll have less free T4 in your body that’s able to do its job.

So, if you’re on birth control and you need medication for hypothyroidism, you might need a higher dose of thyroid medication to get to your normal thyroid levels. But if you stop taking the estrogen-containing pills, you may need a lower dose of thyroid medication.

Dr. Mikhael says that starting birth control can affect your thyroid if you have an underlying thyroid disorder. She adds that TBG starts to increase around two weeks after starting oral contraceptives.

The thyroid is a complicated organ. We don’t know the full scope of how its hormones interact around the body–manipulating them isn’t wise, to say the least.

Long-term infertility and cancer

There are a lot of women who struggle with infertility, and a lot of women taking birth control. According to the CDC, the numbers are as follows:

Infertility:

  • Percent of women aged 15-49 with impaired fecundity, by parity:

    • 0 births: 13.8%
    • 1 or more births: 13.1%
  • Percent of married women aged 15-49 with impaired fecundity, by parity:

    • 0 births: 26.0%
    • 1 or more births: 14.1%
  • Percent of married women aged 15-49 that are infertile, by parity:

    • 0 births: 19.4%
    • 1 or more births: 6.0%
  • Percent of women aged 15-49 who have ever used infertility services: 12.2%

Birth control use:

  • Percent of women aged 15-49 currently using the pill: 14.0%

  • Percent of women aged 15-49 currently using long-acting reversible contraception (Intrauterine device or contraceptive implant) 10.4%

The problem is, when you start taking birth control, your goal is to stop your fertility cycle; to stop your period and ability to conceive. But the way it impacts your reproductive hormones means the infertility doesn’t necessarily stop when the pills do. Endocrine disruptors, while manipulating hormones, train the body to make the amount of hormone they force it to while taking the drug. If they force the body to make a small amount, it doesn’t mean the body bounces back to a larger amount after the disruptors leave. This hormone imbalance can result in long-term fertility problems. It can also lead to breast and endometrial cancer, if not addressed by a doctor who knows how to help restore the hormones back to homeostasis.

Insulin resistance

Insulin is a hormone that determines how your body handles sugar–if it absorbs it and how well it does so. Resistance to insulin is something birth control can trigger, meaning you need more insulin for your body to be able to handle sugar.

Birth control increases your risk of cardiovascular events

The NIH has this to say about the connection between birth control and cardiovascular events:

The use of combined oral contraceptives (COCs) is associated with approximately 2-fold and over 4-fold increased relative risks of arterial and venous thromboembolic events, respectively.

Heart problems are the leading cause of death among women, and if birth control is connected to heart problems, why do we risk taking it when there’s a simple way to ease hard, painful, and irregular periods without this risk? Birth control isn’t the only answer, and it’s not the best one.

Birth control doesn’t help guard against disease; it welcomes it.

Birth control doesn’t guard against sexually-transmitted diseases; it just makes it so the body is unable to conceive or carry a baby. It doesn’t fix the hard, irregular, and painful periods–it just stops them. Birth control doesn’t do anything other than manipulate your hormones, which, as we’ve seen, can harm your body.

Birth control increases inflammation

In an NIH‘s study, they came to the conclusion that:

The results showed that the homocysteine (13.268±3.475 vs. 7.288±2.621 µmol/L) and CRP (5863.0±1349.5 vs. 1138.3±691.12 ng/ml) levels were significantly higher in women receiving OCP in comparison with the control group (p=0.027 and p<0.001, respectively).

What does this mean? CRP is a marker for inflammation–the more of it you have, the more inflammation there is. The results of this study show that the levels of CRP were significantly higher in women taking OCP–oral contraceptives–than those in the control group who weren’t. The difference of 27 to less than 1.

Why does this matter?

Inflammation is the leading cause of just about every physical ailment we as experience. As the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior puts it:

“All told, inflammation is involved in at least 8 of the top 10 leading causes of death in the United States today,” writes Dr. Slavich.

If the marker for inflammation increases that much when you take birth control, the chances of getting sick increase, as well.

Birth control may seem the easy answer, but it’s not the best, healthiest solution, nor does it solve the problem. In the moment, the fast, simple way may seem the most enticing. The problem is, it doesn’t fix anything–it simply masks the symptoms and piles on the side effects. If you have already started taking birth control and now want to get off and help your body get back to homeostasis, read this article on how to detox from it, and contact a Wellness Way clinic today. If you’re thinking of starting birth control, stop and consider a better, healthier way to deal with heavy, irregular, and painful periods. Contact a Wellness Way clinic today to figure out how to bring your body back to homeostasis and get started on the road back to wellness.