For a decade I popped birth control pills. Confession: during that time I had no idea how the pill actually worked! I knew that it kept me from getting pregnant and it helped the pain I was having with my period.
Doctors are quick to hand it out at any sign of menstrual distress – pain, heavy bleeding, irregular cycles, PCOS, and endometriosis. The pill is even prescribed for acne. Seriously.
I’ve met many women who were prescribed the pill at a young age, shortly after they started menstruating, even though their hormones were still in development. Rather than address the root cause of the issues, the pill masks the symptoms.
I never thought to inquire about how it worked. I was a strong, independent woman. Of course I took it. Who didn’t? We are sold on the convenience of the pill to prevent pregnancy.
I don’t think I was alone in this lack of knowledge on how the pill works. If you have taken it, are taking it, or consider taking it, I wanted to share with you how things should go and how the pill manipulates things.
What Happens in a Normal Menstrual Cycle?
Let’s take a look at how things should go in a normal menstrual cycle, without hormonal contraception…
The first part of your cycle, following menstruation is your luteal phase. During this time your pituitary gland releases follicle stimulating hormone (FSH). This travels through your blood stream and communicates with your ovaries.
FSH stimulates follicles on your ovaries, producing ripe eggs for fertilization.
A surge of estrogen levels near mid-cycle causes your pituitary gland to release luteinizing hormone (LH), which triggers ovulation. During ovulation, a mature ovarian follicle is released and able to get fertilized by sperm.
Following ovulation, into your luteal phase, progesterone levels rise and your uterine lining thickens, preparing itself for implantation of the egg. If implantation of a fertilized egg does not happen, then progesterone and estrogen levels drop and hello Aunt Flow.
What Happens When You Take Birth Control?
High levels of estrogen in the birth control pill stimulates your pituitary gland to produce a hormone called prolactin. Prolactin prevents the release of gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) from your hypothalamus in your brain.
This blocks the signal to your pituitary gland to produce FSH and LH. Without these hormones, follicles do not mature or release. Without LH, the egg does not mature and ovulation does not occur. Your ovaries become relatively dormant.
The steady levels of synthetic hormones in birth control pills fools your pituitary gland into thinking you are pregnant. This explains many of the side effects you may experience from taking it such as nausea, fatigue, dizziness, mood swings.
But you don’t ovulate, so there’s no chance for pregnancy.
As the birth control pill manipulates your brain to shut down FSH and LH, the pill continues to supply your body with artificial hormones.
The estrogen in the pill is a chemical imitator, or xenoestrogen. These are foreign components in your body, not easily released via your liver, meaning fake, endo-feeding estrogen gathers in your cells.
The progesterone in birth control pills creates a thick cervical mucus, making it difficult for the sperm to reach your uterus. It also causes cellular changes in your endometrium, impeding an egg from attaching there.
With long term synthetic progestin use, the lining of your uterus thins out. This becomes an issue if you want to get pregnant once coming off of it.
Birth Control Messes With Your Brain
I didn’t stop to question how the pill worked or what it was doing to my body until years after I finally got off of it. And I didn’t realize until recently that the pill and other birth control methods literally mess with your head.
Maybe that’s why I never stopped to consider how it worked. My mind was numb.
The long term effects of birth control pills and human psychology has been vastly under researched until recently, and what’s being uncovered is disturbing. What are the long term effects of this manipulation in your head?
Birth control pills impact your hypothalamus and pituitary gland in your brain. Let’s take a look at the important role of these two.
Your hypothalamus and homeostasis
Your hypothalamus produces hormones that control the production of hormones in your pituitary gland. These two parts of your body work together to release the hormonal symphony in your body.
Your hypothalamus function is directly related to your overall health. If it’s damaged overall hormonal health is impacted.
For the love of your pituitary gland
Your pituitary gland is a master gland. It is a tiny organ, the size of a pea, found at the base of your brain. It produces hormones that control many functions of other endocrine glands.
Your pituitary gland releases:
#1.) Growth Hormone – responsible for cell growth and regeneration. It plays a major role in maintaining the health of your tissues.
#2.) Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) – stimulates your adrenals to produce cortisol.
#3.) FSH + LH – communicate to your ovaries to produce estrogen and a ripe egg for fertilization.
#4.) Prolactin – stimulates milk production in your breasts.
#5.) Vasopressin – regulates the amount of water excreted by your kidneys, maintaining water balance in your body.
The pill messes with your pituitary gland. I have to wonder what the long term impacts of that are?
I did notice many studies show a correlation with higher prolactin levels in ladies with endometriosis, especially those struggling with infertility. This could very well be a side effect of the treatment options given, including birth control pills.
Effects of Birth Control on Psychological Well-Being
As a result of birth control usage, researchers have documented negative impacts on mood and psychological well-being. Women taking it have shown symptoms of borderline personality disorder exhibiting issues with impulse control, interpersonal relationships and self image.
Hormonal contraceptive users describe higher rates of depression than normally cycling woman. Users have a lower sex drive and may lack interest at all.
Birth control stops the natural flow of your body’s pheromones, which is what attracts a mate. Since getting off the pill, I noticed a significant difference with this interplay with my hubby. I swear he can tell when I’m fertile, Lol 🙂
Studies have shown that women taking birth control pills have lowered cortisol responses to stressors. Therefore, birth control appears to interfere with the communication in your hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) axis, influencing the amount of cortisol in your body.
Low cortisol causes a cascading effect in your body, including most noticeably fatigue. Chronic fatigue. Cortisol also plays a key role in blood sugar balance, if levels are low, then blood sugar is low too.
On the Positive Side?
The good news is there’s another natural way to prevent pregnancy, or achieve it, if that’s your goal. It’s called the Fertility Awareness Method (FAM) and it’s super simple to do.
Gaining awareness of your cycle is powerful. See the benefits of using FAM:
- See where you are in your cycle and the corresponding patterns of your emotional and physical symptoms. I have definite patterns through my cycle!
- Detect if you are ovulating or not and when. Detecting ovulation helps give you an idea of when your period will arrive. This is always handy if you plan things around your period.
- Get a heads up the day your period will start. If you’re not reminded otherwise 🙂
- Know when you are pregnant – no guessing or stress.
- Help alternative practitioners or savvy gynecologists detect where your cycle needs support.
WANT TO LEARN HOW TO UTILIZE FAM?
I’ve put together a video series called Tune Into Your Cycle, in which I will give you an overview on you how to implement the fertility awareness method.
I hope that this information has given you some insights into the true impacts of taking those little pills, or a shot into your veins, or foreign objects into your uterus. These choices impact your head. It’s good to be aware of this. Is it worth the long term effects?
Do you take birth control pills or other hormonal contraception? What impacts have those had on you? Do you chart your cycle via FAM?
I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.