Whenever the topic of birth control risks is brought up on a statewide or national level, the discussion usually centers on women’s rights and religious persuasion. Although both of these topics are significant and valid, the focus has completely shifted away from whether or not “the pill” is safe or dangerous to use. The risks of taking birth control pills have become a pretty touchy subject, and far too many people avoid talking about the issue altogether.
Up-To-Date Research on Birth Control Risks
To add fuel to the fire, women in today’s society are brought up to believe that it’s completely safe to take the pill, and many women are given a prescription by their medical doctor to regulate menstrual cycles, balance hormone levels, and treat acne. More than 300 million women worldwide take the pill every day, and according to a 2011 survey, 14% of women use it for reasons other than for pregnancy prevention. Just think about it:
Does a healthy woman require pharmaceutical intervention to maintain hormone balance and menstrual regularity? No! That’s the point!
Many women are in dire need of a natural health care provider that will evaluate them holistically, and help manage the root cause of their issue; not just push birth control on them! Any woman “requiring” drugs to assist her body with normal physiological function is not healthy at all.
The risks of taking birth control pills are actually quite harmful and the dangers outweigh any benefits that can be experienced by taking it.
This past August, an article published in the journal, Cancer Research, swept through mainstream media, leaving behind some pretty hefty waves in its wake because it linked breast cancer to taking the pill. Thankfully, I’m not the only doctor shouting from the rooftops warning women to think twice before taking oral birth control. Hopefully, people will now start to take this issue seriously and forget about the political or religious debate and refocus their efforts on women’s public health!
Before this study was published, any potential link between breast cancer and oral contraception was centered on self-reported use and case studies. Being the first of its kind, researchers from Seattle took a closer look at this connection and conducted a strong case-control study of over 23,000 women between the ages of 20 – 49. When they assessed the 1,102 women that were diagnosed with invasive breast cancer from 1990 to 2009, they cross-referenced oral contraceptive use via electronic pharmacy records and determined that a definite association existed between taking the pill and developing breast cancer. According to the study,
- “Recent oral contraceptive use (within the prior year) was associated with an increased breast cancer risk.”
- “The association was stronger for estrogen receptor-positive than estrogen receptor-negative,” which suggests that the type of contraception women take makes a huge difference in their risk.
- High-dose estrogen compared to other pills was “associated with particularly elevated risks, whereas other types, including low-dose estrogen oral contraceptives, were not.”
This is not to say that low-dose estrogen is safe for you. It’s just saying that the high-dose variety, ethynodioldiacetate, and triphasic dosing are especially harmful!
5 Risks of Taking Birth Control Pills
Over and above the new research on breast cancer, the pill has been connected to a wide variety of health concerns. The Top 5 problems that I have seen in my research are:
1. Candida / Yeast Infections
Oral contraception and hormone therapy put women at an increased risk of developing yeast overgrowth because they boost estrogen levels and contribute to elevated vaginal glycogen level. If this is something you struggle with, see how Mama Z tackles yeast infections naturally.
2. Risk of Cervical Cancer
Of the 478 scholarly articles (1) discussing the topic, an Iranian study published earlier this year clearly paints the picture that both breast and cervical cancers are significantly related with duration birth control use. Essentially, they discovered that the longer women are on the pill, the greater risk they put themselves in developing both cancers. They also uncovered that,
“No significant relationships were found between the two types of cancer and age at discontinuation of oral contraceptives, patterns of use, and intervals from the last use. The use of oral contraceptives may triple the incidence of cervical cancer and doubles the incidence of breast cancer.”
3. Weight Gain
According to an article published in the journal Neurology,
The most commonly reported adverse effects [of oral contraception] are weight gain, nausea, variations in menstrual flow, breast changes such as tenderness, discomfort, or swelling, depression or mood disturbances, decreased sexual desire or response, and acne.
However, researchers persist to publish articles disproving that the pill causes weight gain. This is one of those cases that I feel it’s imperative to let common sense be your guide. If women consistently experience that they gain weight after starting a series of oral contraceptives, then the research needs to be taken with a grain of salt. Sometimes the clinical environment and statistical analysis simply fail to reach the result that was intended.
4. Fertility Issues
It’s important for women to remember that the pill is NOT infallible and there is no guarantee that you will not get pregnant. Fact is, women regularly get pregnant while taking oral contraception. On a positive note, a study from Brunel University has uncovered that women who’ve taken the pill are able to conceive just as easily as non-users. In the words of David Plourd, M.D. (Assistant Professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Naval Medical Center in San Diego) (2):
“We know that if you miss one pill you can get pregnant. After the last pill is taken, levels of hormones drop immediately, allowing women to revert to their normal fertility levels right away—and with no effect on future fertility.”
This is encouraging for women who want children after taking the pill for several years, as well as for women who see the danger of taking this drug and want a more natural approach.
5. Mood Swings
A 1968 article published in the British Medical Journal outlined how the pill causes depressive mood changes and more than 1,000 peer-reviewed articles (3) have referenced the connection between the two. A recent article published this past year described how a 36-year-old woman with recurrent major depressive disorder developed a rapid relapse in depression once she started taking the pill (ethinyl estradiol 30 μg/chlormadinone acetate 2 mg). The authors of the study felt so strongly about the association that they concluded that the pill can “induce serious mood disturbances and should be administered with care, particularly in patients with affective disorders.”
In the final analysis, the research is undeniable: any benefits a woman might gain from taking the pill are definitely overshadowed by the risks of taking birth control. Please seek out and consider natural birth control options. Natural options are just as effective and you can take them without being concerned about the long list of side effects that come with taking oral contraceptives.
How about you? What natural birth control techniques do YOU find effective?
- Beaber EF, et al. Recent Oral Contraceptive Use by Formulation and Breast Cancer Risk among Women 20 to 49 Years of Age. Cancer Res August 1, 2014 74; 4078.
- Tzeses J. Can the Pill Boost Fertility? Internet. Available at: http://www.parenting.com/article/can-the-pill-boost-fertility.
- Brunner LR, et al. The role of body weight in oral contraceptive failure: results from the 1995 national survey of family growth. Ann Epidemiol. 2005 Aug;15(7):492-9
- Frye CA, et al. An overview of oral contraceptives: mechanism of action and clinical use. Neurology. 2006 Mar 28;66(6 Suppl 3):S29-36.
- Farrow A, et al. Prolonged use of oral contraception before a planned pregnancy is associated with a decreased risk of delayed conception. Hum Reprod. 2002 Oct;17(10):2754-61.
- Grant EC, et al. Effect of oral contraceptives on depressive mood changes and on endometrial monoamine oxidase and phosphatases. Br Med J. 1968 Sep 28;3(5621):777-80.
- Gahr M, et al. Rapid relapse in depression following initialization of oral contraception with ethinyl estradiol and chlormadinone acetate. Gen Hosp Psychiatry. 2014 Mar-Apr;36(2):230.
- Vaisy A, et al. Risk of Cancer with Combined Oral Contraceptive Use Among Iranian Women. Asian Pac J Cancer Prev. 2014;15(14):5517-22.