There’s something I hear time and time again, and it's something along the lines of:
“I have to take hormonal birth control to have a regular period."
“My doctor wants me to get back on the pill to regulate my cycle."
And I’m here to let you in on a secret that definitely shouldn’t even be a secret:
Hormonal birth control does not regulate your menstrual cycle.
Think of it this way, instead of “regulating” your hormones it replaces them with synthetic hormones.
That “period" you think you’re getting, on the dot, every 28 days is actually a withdrawal bleed, not your real menstrual period.
The withdrawal bleed was actually a marketing tool created back in the day to help society accept the pill as more “natural”. Because if you’re bleeding once a month, it has to be natural right? And there are hormonal options that make women just not have a period at all.
The pill works by messing with our endocrine system, which controls everything hormonal in our bodies. I first started recognizing the important role of our endocrine system when I read the book “WomanCode” by Alisa Vitti.
Regular cycles, with ovulation and periods (which you don’t have on the pill) have been shown to play an important role in heart, bone and breast health. Which isn’t surprising since the pill alters 150 different bodily functions.
You can’t tell me that something that impacts that many things in our bodies isn’t messing something up.
The pill packs a punch of around four times the corresponding synthetic estrogen and progesterone that naturally occurs in our body. This is a level that is actually quite lower than the first hormonal birth controls marketed to women, but what on earth are we doing putting that much in our bodies? Even the “lower dose” hormonal birth control options are still much more than our bodies create normally.
Here’s another one for you, hormonal contraceptives are ranked by the WHO as a class one carcinogen, putting it right up there with tobacco and asbestos, which most of us try pretty hard to avoid as it is.
Yes, I know a lot of people out there in the world smoke, but they are well aware of the danger of what they are doing. I guarantee there are countless women out there right now taking hormonal birth control unaware of the potential negatives because it is seen as just another thing women do, like shaving our legs.
There is so much good that comes from having a natural cycle, and understanding that cycle.
Being on the pill masks health issues or hormonal imbalances, which in turn makes it harder for the practitioner to figure out what’s really going on. It’s like putting a bandaid over a festering wound and then saying “whelp, that’s fixed now I can just ignore it."
A few other great books that talk about the dark side of hormonal birth control that I love are “The Pill: Are You Sure It’s For You?” and “Sweetening the Pill”.
And a book I love that talks about a benefit of knowing your cycle (completely unrelated to birth control or the physical side effects of hormonal birth control) is “The Optimized Woman” which goes over the four phases of our cycle and our strengths and weaknesses in each of those phases, and how to make the most out of each phase.
My point here today is that hormonal birth control isn’t the “cure all” it’s touted to be. And I think knowing all the information makes for a more well informed group of people making decisions that really do impact their bodies and minds.