How Birth Control Switches Off Hormones and Why That Matters

the pill switches off hormonesThe pill was an important step in our struggle to legalize contraception. I celebrate that, of course.  Hormonal birth control can also be medicine for debilitating conditions such as severe endometriosis and very heavy periods. I celebrate that.

What I don’t celebrate is the distorted message that hormonal birth control is the only birth control. And I don’t celebrate its widespread prescription as “hormone balance” for any hormonal symptom that might arise in women and teenage girls. 

Hormonal birth control cannot balance hormones

To prescribe birth control for “hormone balance” is simply nonsensical. Birth control does not balance hormones; it switches them off.

Birth control switches off ovulation and so switches off estrogen and progesterone. It induces a kind of “chemical menopause” and then replaces back contraceptive drugs as a substandard type of “hormone replacement.”

Which might be okay if contraceptive drugs were as beneficial as our hormones. But they’re not. Contraceptive drugs are not even hormones.

Contraceptive drugs are not hormones

Real hormones are estradiol and progesterone. Contraceptive drugs are molecules like ethinylestradiol, levonorgestrel, and drospirenone.

Contraceptive drugs do not have the same molecular structure as real hormones and do not provide the same benefits. Here are a couple of examples.

  • Estradiol improves insulin sensitivity. Its drug equivalent ethinylestradiol potentially causes insulin resistance. That insulin problem with ethinylestradiol makes the pill a particularly inappropriate treatment for PCOS, which can be driven by insulin resistance.
  • Progesterone promotes hair growth. Its drug equivalent, levonorgestrel, causes hair loss. Levonorgestrel and other progestins can also cause depression, headaches, acne, and other side effects. Read The crucial difference between progesterone and progestins.

Of course, contraceptive drugs can have benefits. As I acknowledged in the opening paragraph, they can sometimes suppress pain and heavy bleeding (but sometimes not help at all). And they can sometimes improve acne (only have it return with a vengeance when the drug is stopped). Read How to prevent and treat post-pill acne.

Contraceptive drugs can never “regulate periods” because pill-bleeds are drug-withdrawal bleeds, not real cycles. Watch Why birth control can never fix hormones.

Contraceptive drugs can also prevent pregnancy, but they’re not the only way to prevent pregnancy.

Contraceptive drugs are not the only birth control

It’s not unusual for me to have a conversation with a patient that goes something like this:

Me: “What do you do for birth control?”

My patient: “I don’t use birth control. I use condoms.”

The message seems to be: “Hormonal birth control or nothing.”

Yet there are plenty of other methods including condoms and the copper IUD. Read The 5 best types of natural birth control.

Would men put up with hormonal birth control?

Imagine a world where we routinely switch off the hormones of teenage boys and men.

“We will switch off your testosterone,” we would tell them, “And replace it with a synthetic pseudo-testosterone. It’s going to cause weight gain, depression, and loss of libido—but don’t worry! All the other boys take it.”

This is the world in which we currently live for teenage girls and women. It is time for a serious rethink.

If you need help coming off birth control, read my blog post How to come off hormonal birth control and my book Period Repair Manual: Natural Treatment for Better Hormones and Better Periods.

And share your story!

57 thoughts on “How Birth Control Switches Off Hormones and Why That Matters”

  1. Dear Dr. Briden,

    In 3 days I am stopping the pill!

    I have been on the pill on and off since as early as 13 (originally for acne) but for the last 8 years have been on it non-stop.

    I am on a brand called Minesse which contains ethinylestradiol and gestodene.

    Recently I have lost my withdrawal bleed, and at most I get one day of spotting (brown blood).

    I now have a very supportive female doctor. I have decided to come off the pill to give my body time to get back to ‘normal.

    I have no idea what my real period will be like, and if I will see a return of my teen acne, I am hoping that my hormones have changed significantly since then 🙂

    I have done quite a bit of prep for the transition to make it as smooth as possible:

    I have started Magnesium Glycinate, 200mg at night, I take Zinc Picolinate (150mg) with a vit-b complex and I also take 1000mg vit c per day (have been for years).

    Only other medication I am on is Fluoxetine (in hindsight my mental health wobble might have been related to the pill all along) but I plan on coming off it by the end of the year.

    I also have started with seed cycling but that is really difficult on the pill so I think I will wait until my real period appears.

    I had an internal scan done a week ago which shows normal ovaries with a normal amount of follicles, as well as a healthy uterus with a VERY thin lining. My blood tests revealed a bit of a magnesium deficiency (i know the blood test is not accurate), I have a partial Vitamin D Deficiency and my Vitamin B12 is borderline.

    Can i add a high potency vitamin D supplement (5000IU) to what I am already taking, and also are the following amounts of Vitamin B’s safe for daily intake:

    Vit B1 – 120mg
    Vit B6 – 225mg
    Vit B12 – 225 ug

    Slightly nervous about the change and terrified about PBCS, but mostly worried about a negative effect, if any, it might have on my mental health. But excited about the transition and getting to know my period.

    Reply
  2. Hi, I wasn’t adviced well and presently use Nexplanon. Because of mood swings etc. I’m considering to have it removed. – will a progesterone creme help my imbalance until I do (my progresterone numbers are non-existent) or will it collide with the progestin? And when removed, could the cream help me get my hormonal balance back to normal? Cheers!

    Reply
  3. Great interesting reads here. Thanks. What I have to say is that I am at my wits end with endometriosis which was diagnosed in 2010. I now have deep infiltrating endometriosis, An MRI last year has suggested I have rectovaginal and rectocervical endometriosis , it’s in my bladder, blood is now found in all my urine tests, it’s causing havoc in my bowel resulting in never going to toilet and the use of laxative for years.
    I am exhausted, I’ve had numerous surgeries , even life saving ones and copious procedures. I seem to be getting worse and now even recently it’s getting to the point day by day my life is a struggle. Not only does the endometriosis cause me to collapse in pain with periods, I have severe and I don’t say this lightly I have severe fatigue. I now experience light heads every day. I sleep by 10 pm every night , I could sleep around the clock and never seem to feel energised ,
    I am a busy self employed mum running a beauty and massage business , I have 3 blessing beautiful daughters, I have led a very healthy pescatarian diet for 15 years, I don’t smoke, I use chemical free cosmetics and exercise daily.
    I just don’t know what else I can do to try change things for the best. I am currently sitting here in my bed at 9.30pm with a castor oil pack on my abdomen to shift scar tissue from all the surgeries. I have every single vitamin and probiotic that you can describe in my kitchen .
    So yesterday I made a huge decision to give the pill a go after 10 years.
    I am at a loss with what lies ahead in terms of prognosis as my options are hysterectomy, and more than likely I’ve been advised that a significant risk to bowel during my surgeries in future leaving me with a stoma.

    Reply
  4. Hi, I was on dienogest for 2 months following a doubtful diagnose of Endometriosis (laparoscopy surgery was performed but they didn’t do a biopsy). Doctor reccommended to stop the pill when I told him I wanted to get pregnant. My AMH levels were came 0,337. I was tested for FSH, Estradiol and Progesterone right after my first period once I stopped the pill. FSH was 33.5 mUI/ml and Estradiol 17.8 Pg/ml could Dienogest have affected these results? Or am I definitely entering menopause at the age of 38?

    Reply
  5. So happy that I found your blog. I just ordered your book and am intrigued on your article on fibrocystic breast disease and molecular iodine. I look forward to learning more about endometriosis and seeing if I can help mine. Thank you!

    Reply
  6. Hi dr Lara! I’ve been off the pill/birth control for 4 years, yay! That said, i think I have some long term, perhaps permanent issues as a result of taking hormonal birth control from 14 years old until I was 27. Despite my best efforts in diet, my hair is half, possibly even worse, as thick as it was in my early 20s, it became noticeably thin at 26. Another thing I think is related is that at 21 my dentist was shocked that I was already experiencing gum recession. I still am despite being pretty healthy and never been a smoker, or a drinker for that matter. Apparently hormonal manipulation can affect our gums, from what I read online anyway. Do you think there’s a correlation or anything I can do now at 32 to heal my gums or hair growth? I have normal, regular periods. I take DIM and femenessemce maca Thanks!

    Reply
  7. Love all that I’m reading and learning in your blog. Would love to read your views on the relationship between hormones, the pill and candida yeast infections

    Reply
  8. Yes, the pill destroyed my fertility. No periods, hyperprolactinemia…battling anovulatory cycle for 5-years now. Hormonal assay shows wacky hormones. I wish i never started on the pill (levongesterol) even only for a short time.

    Reply
  9. Hi Laua,
    I have recently been diagnosed with PCOS, after reading lots online I think it may be pill-induced.
    I was on the implant from age 14 till 17, then had a new one as they run out every 3 years, and i had this one in for just under a year. I got this removed as I started to panic as i was feeling increasingly depressed, mood swings, loss of libido, didnt want to go out with friends ect.
    I had regular periods before the implant, but the whole time whilst on the implant I had no periods, and they still havent returned (almost 3 years).
    The gynecologist tested my hormones and womb but both seem normal to her, apart from my thick womb lining from having no periods. – When taking 1 cycle of the pill I had a bleed, so she has recommended I go back on the Pill and has booked me an appointment for next Tuesday to find the right one despite explaining the issues I had before.
    I’m so confused as I’m being fed so much different information. I have requested print outs of my hormones so that I can work to find the right treatment.
    I exercise regularly, I am a healthy weight, I do not eat refined sugar daily – perhaps in food when I’m out for a meal? I make sure I get in lots of good fats and my diet is high in protein.
    Can you give me any advice, please!! I am only 21 and scared I wont ever be able to have children.

    Reply
  10. Hi,
    I’ve had issues with constant migraine, disabling pain in joints/muscles/tendons, weakness since having twins 5yrs ago. (Severe stiffness responds to steroids)
    Something flipped like a switch and I’ve been fighting for quality of life since then. Uphill
    Fight!
    What is the best way to reduce histamine Intolerace I’ve now been battling more for 3months? I can’t hardly eat anything without reacting. 34 years old-mom to 7; full hysterectomy 2015. Supposed ehlers danlos syndrome diagnosis amoung a ton of other “diagnoses”.
    Have natural progesterone, and implanted estrogen and testosterone. I think the high rate of absorption of estrogen has caused 1month of tachycardia. In 4 months lost 20+ lbs when I’ve been 137-140ish since teenager.
    And do you do consults?thanks so much!
    Elisa

    Reply
  11. What about women in early menopause? Everything I have read suggests that hrt is not great at peri stage as the fluctuations in what you naturally produce makes this problematically. Low dose pil ie zoely helps gaurd against heart diseases, osteo all the thing women under 45 face if they take nothing in this scenario?

    Reply
  12. not everyone has those side effects while on the pill. I experienced no hair loss, no weight gain, no depression, no change in libido, so it’s unfair to demonize the pill in this way, as for me it’s perfect. I do agree that knowledge of other forms of birth control should be more widespread though.

    Reply
    • Thanks so much for sharing your story. I’m actually doing an informal survey of women who did not lose their libido on birth control (and I’m hoping there are some out there). Do you mind sharing: At what age did you start the Pill?

      Reply
      • Same story here. I guess it’s because people don’t really have the need to share their experience if it was in fact very normal. Like, when you go to a restaurant, you are more likely to share your experience with the others if it was real bad, as a warning. When the restaurant is ok, it’s just… normal. No need to write lengthy reviews on that.
        Personally I’ve been taking the pill for some 7 years now (since I was 19) and never before I’ve felt better and more feminine. As much as that’s just an anecdotal evidence, none of my female friends had any serious issues as well. Sure, I put on some 1-2 kilos and there are occassional mild mood swings (nothing drastic tho, I guess they might be attributed to stressful work), but I’ve never experienced any of those symptoms women usually complain about on the internet – hair loss, acne, depression, loss of libido, etc. On the contrary, I used to have almost all of them when I wasn’t on the pill. Depression and acne were the worst, which resulted in low self-cofidence and literally zero interest in sex. Thus, especially that thing with drospirenone is intriguing to me. As is written in the article above, it causes depression, but somehow since I’m on the pill, I feel much more more positive and stable.

        Reply
        • Thanks so much for sharing your story. If and when you ever come off, could you also consider checking back and sharing that experience? Drospirenone-withdrawal symptoms can be a problem for some women.

          Reply
  13. THANK YOU FOR WRITING THIS!!! I am currently in the midst of a hormonal IUD nightmare and needed to hear this. I’m so glad there are other non-hormonal options out there. I can’t believe an OBGYN hasn’t ever explained the FA method to me…

    Reply
  14. Hi Lara,

    Thank you so much for this blog, and for your commitment to sharing the truth with women! Your work resonates with me so deeply.

    I went off birth control about 9 months ago (Ortho Tri Cylcen). I have been on and off two other times in the past (although it was a different generic brand of BCP, not Ortho Tri), but this is the first time I have experienced such a dramatic post-pill battle. Aggressive surge in oil/sebum production, hair thinning and hair loss (at least 20%) and overall change in hair texture, depression, PMS, and distressing episodes of zombie-like brain fog.

    Extensive bloodwork has ruled out thyroid problems, celiac disease, and any other underlying conditions. My progesterone, Vitamin D, and iron are “a little low”, but not alarmingly low by any means. They are within normal range, just on the lower end. I have been taking Vitex supplement every morning for the past three months, in addition to Vitamin D, biotin pills, and iron. According to both my naturopathic doctor and my regular internal medicine doc, I am very healthy and there are no serious deficiencies. However, no one has given me a good reason to rule out birth control as the central problem here, so I stand strong in that conviction–I am convinced that Ortho Tri, and especially the process of coming off of it, has spurred the dramatic changes I’ve seen. I have been given no good reason to blame it on anything else.

    I have read your Period Repair book, and understand that hair loss is usually attributed to something that happened three months ago. However, I am now at the nine month mark, and my hair has remained thin, my acne is still bad (it is the first time in my life I have experienced such severe acne), my scalp is surging in oil production (waxy sebum coating my hair at all times), and i am dealing with severe depression and emotional volatility. I want to get back to my normal self, physically and emotionally, and want to resist the antidepressants that my doctor has recommended.

    With normal bloodwork, normal vitamin levels, and regular periods (on time, not painful, normal amount of flow, ovulating normally for 8 months), I am confused by why I am still experiencing such strong bodily reactions, or what seem to be withdrawal effects. Does my body just need a little more time to catch up?

    I have a million questions I wish I could ask, but if you can answer any its this–if my periods stay regular, and I patiently allow my body to continue producing my natural estrogen/progesterone, will my body eventually go back to normal? Can birth control use FUNDAMENTALLY and irreversibly alter one’s body, hormone balance, and homeostasis? My biggest fear is that the damage is done. It sure feels that way.

    I would appreciate any insights!

    Reply
    • As for the PMS symptoms, it’s about establishing some resiliency to the natural ups and downs of hormones. Did you see my PMS post?

      As for your hair, Post-Pill hair loss would have peaked about 3 months off the Pill, so you’ve been in recovery mode for about 6 months. Are you sure you have good zinc and iron status? You’re not low-carb, are you?

      Reply
  15. Hi Lara, thank you for such comprehensive information.
    I have severe endometriosis and have been on the pill to avoid the symptoms coming back.
    After reading about all of the negatives that the pill does to us, could you please recommend another method to me? I would rather not be on the pill

    Reply
  16. Hi lara. I am at a loss of what to do. I have hashimotos and hypothyroidism but my levels are within range right now. I had hormones tested
    Estradial is low at .5 pg/mL
    Progesterone is low at 32 pg/mL
    Testosterone is high at 58 pg/mL
    Dheas in range at 5.6 ng/mL
    Cortisol is high midday and in range at night.
    What are some ways to treat this imbalance? I just had a baby and this test was done 22 days after my first period postpartum (not breastfeeding) but then i started my period the next day and im also on spironolactone for 3 weeks. Any suggestions for me? I have acne and oily skin so i dont want to take anything to make that worse either!

    Reply
  17. Hi Lara! I would love to hear your thoughts on the new estradiol valerate/dienogest OCPs. I’m not the pill at all right now, but my endocrinologist suggested I try Natazia and I’d love your perspective on whether estradiol valerate is really any better than ethinyl estradiol.

    Reply
    • Estradiol valerate is (almost) bioidentical so in that sense it is better than ethinyl estradiol. But–and it’s a big “but”–the progestin dienogest is most definitely NOT bioidentical. Also, it still shuts down ovulation and production of real progesterone. So really, I don’t see that the new so-called “natural” Natazia or Qlaira are any better than any other hormonal birth control.

      Reply
  18. Unlike everyone else here, I’ve actually felt even better in my life than I ever have since taking hormonal contraception. I started with Alesse, and now I have a Mirena. I’ve made more improvements in my life in the free years I have been on hormonal contraception than I have in my whole life – simply because I feel so good so I want to do good things for myself. And also like levonorgestrel is so androgenic – I’ve experienced anything but hair loss. My hair grows like a weed, I can’t keep up with it. Just saying, for any negative story out there – there is a positive story out there as well. Not all pharmaceuticals are evil.

    Reply
  19. Lara my doctor talked my daughter into the depo shot ? that thing scares me! Is it worse then the pill or the same? I tried to get her the IUD but they don’t want to do it here because she hasn’t given birth
    Tamari

    Reply
    • Unfortunately, I do think depo-provera is worse than the pill. 🙁
      Here’s a recent quote from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists:
      “Women need to know that today’s IUDs are much improved from earlier versions, and complications are extremely rare. IUDs… are safe for the majority of women, including adolescents and women who have never had children.” Reference: https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/745108

      Another option for teenagers is condoms every time and then abstain during fertile time. That means learning Fertility Awareness Method, which teens can do. There are now Apps like Kindara to help.

      Reply
  20. Hi Lara,

    I’m Lizzy and I have two questions I was hoping you could answer about the effects of the pill. I put them at the bottom but I’ll provide some context first.

    So I’m Lizzy and I’m currently 22 years old. I quit the pill 2 years ago and had only been using it for 9 months. When I quit it, I had pretty severe withdrawal symptoms (hair loss, severe insomnia, depression, vitamin deficiency). Because the symptoms were so severe- and I blamed the hormones- I completely cut any hormonal/sexual activity out of my life.

    I recently had blood work done (2 years after quitting the pill). And in the blood work, my doctor said every system of mine is working in tip-top shape (except a low blood platelet count). But I definitely still can’t sleep, even 2 years later. In fact, I’d say the insomnia has become much worse. I take 100-200 mg of tryptophan per night, but if I don’t, I will be lucky if I sleep 1-2 hours, no matter how exhausted I am.

    My questions are:
    1) Would becoming sexually active again help me sleep better?
    and 2) In your experience, do your patients, in the span of one year after coming off birth control, usually lose ~60,000 platelets per micro liter of blood? Is a decreased platelet count associated with the effects of the pill or the effects of quitting the pill?

    Thank you, great site, by the way,
    Lizzy

    Reply
    • Can you please clarify what’s not working on the blog? Did you see the “Connect” page with link to my facebook, twitter etc? My twitter handle is @LaraBriden

      Reply
  21. Do you have any advise on what to eat or supplements to take when stopping the pill to make the transition easier? I am worried about hair loss and weight gain. I shed a bunch of hair when I started taking the pill and I thought it stopped but I have been gradually loosing hair over the past year. I have only been on the pill for a year. I hope too much damage has not been done. I am afraid of getting a big hair shed when I stop the pill. Is there anything that can help lessen for prevent this?

    Reply
  22. Lara! I love your blog. I have been struggling with hormonal contraception for years! (I will spare you the details, but I think you can imagine). I know that estrogen/the pill does not suit me well. What are you thoughts on progesterone only options such as the mirena IUD? We have that and skyla in the US. I do not imagine you are fond of them but I would love an post with more details. Second, do you have thoughts on the copper/T-380A IUD? Is this a better option?
    I am sexually active but scared of FAM despite using it for over 18 mo without a pregnancy, but possibly it was just due to lack of ovulation. I felt like I was always guessing about my cycle. My husband and I both HATE condoms.

    Reply
  23. Hi lara, I’ve been inspired to stop my birth control pill since finding your blog! I had a feeling the pill may have induced my pcos (although I had extremely painful and irregular periods before going on it). It’s been two months since stopping the pill – my hairloss has slowed and my moods are becoming more balanced. I still haven’t had my period (not too stressed because it hasn’t been that long) but I seem to have put on weight and it won’t budge (I was 53 with a clean diet and exercise) but now I’m 59kgs! I’ve been eating better than I used to and I’ve incorporated vitamins into my days (magnesium, fish oil, vitamin b, zinc and iodine). Is this weight gain temporary/does it usually go away once you get your period?
    Ash 🙂

    Reply
  24. Hi Lara. I have been taking the birth control pill for 1 year and now I’ve stopped taking it. I am currently 18. Before I felt i had to take the pill because my periods were very irregular and i would miss 2 or 3 months in between them, i had some acne, but worst of all I had small gairs on extreme hair loss which forced me to go on the pill. My doctor told me it would regulate my hormones and stop these problems. However, for the last 2 weeks that I was on the pill my hair started to fall out again but i quit it anyway. Now I’m very worried because i suspect my symptoms will return. So what should I do, instead of being on the pill which obviously has serious side effects?

    Reply
  25. Hi Lara, I currently take “Isabelle” (for about 2 yrs after my second child) and I took “Yasmin” for years before stopping it to become pregnant with my first child. After I stopped Yasmin my hair started falling out and I was a mess. I soon after became pregnant and suffered hair loss and acne (I never had acne as a teenager) and I was diagnosed with hashimotos during this pregnancy. I am wanting to stop taking Isabelle as I think it is just another version of Yasmin, I am afraid of what will happen to me, my skin, hair, periods and pms etc etc. Do you have any advice on how I could handle this? I’m due to have my period in a couple of days so I’m thinking that I should stop taking it now to help encourage my natural cycle? I would like to start charting my cycle. Thank you for any advice. 🙂

    Reply
    • Yes, the same progestin- Drospirenone – is used in both Yasmin and Isabelle. It kills me how they give these drugs women’s names, as if that somehow makes them friendlier.

      Some women experience symptoms of estrogen-withdrawal when they come off the Pill: acne, hair loss. The goal is to manage those symptoms (you can read acne post and hair loss post), and also promote a healthy ovulation to ensure a good level of natural estrogen and progesterone.

      There are many resources (websites, books, phones apps, practitioners etc) for Fertility Awareness method of contraception. I will try to link to a few reputable ones in future posts. Until you are competent with Fertility awareness method however, you should use a barrier method like condoms.

      Reply
  26. Thank you for your Newsletter as I am concerned about both my girls. My 14 year old daughter has just been put on the pill for her Acne. It was either that or roacutane. I can’t afford the visit to the skin specialist so the pill was suggested and I don’t want her on roacutane anyway. I questioned the type of Pill because I had heard of one that causes blood clots and was told it was a very slim chance and unlikely even though I told the doctor that high blood pressure and strokes run in my family. She has been taking it for two weeks now and its the generic brand Estelle – 35 ED. I think non generic version is called Dianne. We used to have success with tissues salts and vinegar but had to do something. After reading your newsletter I will try the herbs and zinc and maybe down the track she can go off the pill to see how her skin is.

    My other daughter is 16 and suffers very bad pains, two or three days off a month in bed, hot water bottle, white and sick and is trying a Pill called Zoely (expensive $28/month) as an ultrasound showed nothing abnormal in the abdominal like endometriosis but does have a partially imperferatted hymen which I think the specialist is going to remove. Her pain is greatly reduced but she now gets pimples all month, (always had clear skin before) and I have been worried about her mood and she still get some pain and feels really sick. She is into the second month of this pill. I am so sick of her always feeling sick or complaining of pain – I never had any of the dramas my girls are experiencing, and have always felt it was more to do with there crappier diets. There is a McDonalds across the road from the High School – they are not overweight but both love sugary drinks/dairy and white flour products.

    I take it you have to be sexually active/non virgin to have an IUD put in? I have a friend who’s daughters are in there twentys and have gone down this road and reckon its great especially if periods were heavy and painful. They cease to exist. If I could afford it I would take them to a chinese herbalist as I had great success with hot flushes using herbs and acupuncture but what I realise is its got to do with a healthy liver.

    Reply
  27. I have found the pill to be the only solution to very heavy periods. Everything natural I tried was expensive, time consuming and short term (herbs, vitamins, acupuncture, Chinese medicine. I would desperately love to stop taking it as it is no longer helping my acne and I am high risk for breast cancer, but would love to know if there is a permament solution to heavy periods. I am 35 with 3 children and not wishing to have any more. Thanks

    Reply
    • Hi Laura, I am going to try to write a future post on heavy periods, because I know that it is a tricky problem. Let me say here (as a preview) the that best natural approach for heavy periods is generally: 1) sugar-free, dairy-free diet, and 2) daily turmeric throughout the cycle. Anti-inflammatories- both natural (like turmeric), and pharmaceutical (like NSAIDs) – work well to reduce flow. Of course you can’t take NSAIDs daily, but you can it for the first day or two of bleeding, and it can really help.) Estrogen-clearing supplements like calcium-d-glucarate and diindolylmethane (DIM) are also helpful. Please seek individual, professional advice before implementing these new treatment ideas.

      Another thing worth mentioning here is the progestin IUD (Mirena). It’s very effective for reducing flow. It delivers a very low dose of levonorgestrel (the same progestin as some Pills), but it works locally in the uterus, not systemically to suppress ovulation. (It does suppress ovulation in some women, but not most.) For that reason (that it permits ovulation), it is a better option than the Pill. There are many internet stories out there of women noticing depression from Mirena, but I have spoken with women who are very happy with it.

      Reply
  28. I was put on the pill at 15 to deal with excessively heavy periods*, I suffered multiple side-effects including lowered sex drive that had a part to play in my sexual abuse, irritable bowel syndrome symptoms while on Yasmin, and multiple minor strokes that destroyed my education.

    Needless to say I’m not a fan of the pill, it drives me crazy seeing so many young women who believe the myth that it ‘regulates periods’. It also breaks my heart seeing forums full of women asking if they ‘should’ go on the pill because they believe their cycles are abnormal for not following a perfect 28 day pattern, or countless girls telling other girls the pill makes periods lighter, less painful, and allows them to ‘control’ their periods. Young women have an excuse for their ignorance and for feeling at odds with their bodies, but I find it ethically questionable for doctors to prescribe the pill to young women when they are so ignorant about how it works, what it does, what it could be hiding, and when they’re often simply too young to be able to make an informed choice.

    * For the record the pill didn’t help my heavy flow, it wasn’t until I was 19 that I discovered menstrual cups, and 25 when another doctor finally mentioned Tranexamic Acid – even that was after a long string of doctors; including a doctor who verbally abused me and refused to treat me while I was using FAM, or doctors who insisted I take the pill despite my hugely increased risk.

    Reply
  29. Lara, thank you for the post. I come from a background which forbids use of contraception for moral reasons so it is interesting to read a criticism of the Pill from another perspective. Three OBGYNs have prescribed the Pill to treat my PCOS but I haven’t been taking it because it makes me very depressed. Your post has motivated me to follow my gut and find a doctor who can work with me to find a real treatment.

    Reply
  30. I would love to know an alternative for my cognitively-disabled young adult daughter (I mention that only because she often does not “read” her body the way most of us can). She had a large endometrial cyst removed a few years ago and has been on the pill ever since. 8 weeks on, a week off; repeat. Told she has to do this the rest of her life. I have never liked the idea, and would love to use something from my own company (Young Living Progessence Plus), but would hate for her to start growing cysts again. What steps would you recommend we take to get her on a more natural course and off the pill? I have not been able to find a natural doc in our area.

    Reply
    • hi Rebecca, I mention endometriosis (endometrial or chocolate cysts) in the article as one of the things that sometimes merit Pill use. Sometimes. I find that many endometriosis patients do respond well to dairy-free diet and turmeric supplements. (Please seek individualised, professional advice for your daughter, as endometriosis is quite a serious condition.)

      It’s time for me to write an endometriosis post. You have inspired me for my next topic! Stay tuned.

      Reply
    • Im disability im on the pill I love it I have not pain from cysts but if you want her off the thing is to eat right and workout but its wasnot a enough for me but they are facebook page that people had manger they pcos symptoms that what you half to do is manger it

      Reply
  31. This is a great post Lara, I have been told by doctors that the pill had NOTHING to do with the symptoms I had after stopping the pill e.g. hair loss, loss of libido, anxiety, amenorrhea etc. Its very concerning to me that there is not enough information out there about ALL the side effects of the pill. Thank you for putting this information out there.

    Reply
  32. Great post Lara. And yet I’ve had at least 2 doctors in the last while try to convince me that the birth control pill would help me balance my hormones. One even suggested it “resets” hormones so it would help rebalance them in the long run. Women need more information like this so they aren’t afraid to question their doctors. There has to be better options.

    Reply

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