The Dangers of Birth Control
Hormonal birth control is used by an estimated 150 million women. Unfortunately, hormonal contraceptives have become so widely accepted, that the side-effects and dangers of their use are often ignored (or considered acceptable). To understand why birth control can be so detrimental to your health, it is important to understand how hormonal contraceptives work.
Women usually ovulate once a month by ripening a new egg that travels down a fallopian tube and reaches the uterus. At this point, the egg is either fertilized or the lining of the uterus leaves your body and cleanses the uterus in preparation for a new cycle.
Hormonal birth control contains high levels of estrogen that essentially deceive your body into thinking it is pregnant (therefore, preventing ovulation). The uterine lining thickens and when you enter the phase of taking placebo pills (or removing the birth control) your estrogen levels drop suddenly, forcing menstruation. Sometimes the egg is actually fertilized and may be expelled during this process, which has led to conflict from pro-life advocates who argue that the potential for abortion from these birth control methods should be publicized (it is not currently required labeling on any birth control brands).
Contraceptives contain SYNTHETIC hormones that are not the same as the hormones which naturally circulate in a woman’s body. These substances are chemically altered substitutes for otherwise naturally occurring estrogen and progestin. The doses of these hormones are usually about 4 times higher than what normally occurs in a woman’s body.
Side-Effects & Consequences
Most women taking hormonal birth control will immediately experience at lest one or more of the following minor symptoms:
- Larger and/or Tender Breasts
- Weight Gain or Loss
- Increased or Reduced Acne
- Nausea and/or Vomiting
- Emotional Sensitivity
- Mood Swings
- Irregular Bleeding and Spotting
- Headaches or Migraines
- Changes in the Eyes that Make it More Difficult to Wear Contact Lenses
- Decreased Libido
- Vaginal Infections and Irritation
- Vaginal Secretion
- Spotting or Darkening of the Skin
- Loss of Scalp Hair
- Increase in Body Hair
- Fluid Retention
- Dark Urine
- Difficulty Sleeping
More serious side effects include:
- Increased Risk of Cervical and Breast Cancer
- Increased Risk of Heart Attack and Stroke
- High Blood Pressure
- Gall Bladder Disease
- Benign Liver Tumors
- Loss of Bone Density
- Increased Risk of Infection
- Blood Clots
- High Cholesterol
- Changes in Vision, Loss of Speech and Weakness or Numbness
- Abdominal Pain
- Leg Cramps or Swelling of the Legs and Feet
- Swelling of Fingers or Ankles
- Shortness of Breath
- Chest Pain
- Coughing up Blood
- Rash, Hives, Itching, Wheezing and Difficulty Breathing or Swallowing
- Sudden Loss of Vision (usually a blood clot in the eye)
- Painful Urination
- Inflammation of the Pancreas
Pharmaceutical companies are required to publicize these side-effects, meaning if you read the label or the insert, many of these potential dangers are listed (check out the NuvaRing website for an example).
Long Term Effects
Unfortunately, few studies have been conducted on the long term effects of birth control. Those studies that have been conducted were not funded or supported by the companies who are producing these products.
In the early days of birth control, many brands were actually marketed as being effective for preventing many of the above side-effects. Though these campaigns have been eradicated, birth control is still commonly prescribed to reduce cramping, acne or other hormonal problems. These results may (or may not) be successful, since birth control can both improve or worsen these symptoms. More importantly, the cause of the symptoms is not being addressed by simply medicating them.
Research on the Depo proved that women taking the shot had significantly higher bone-density-loss, but the studies did not show long-term effects on older women (such as the possibility for Osteoperosis). Most birth control studies have shown all hormonal methods to dangerously increase the risk for stroke, heart attack and cancer.
About a dozen deaths (mostly women in their late teens and early twenties) were blamed on blood clots caused by Ortho Evra last year alone, and more than 50 lawsuits have already been filed against the newer birth control product, NuvaRing. There are also at least 40 reported deaths from the Depo shot (and reports of severe life threatening hemorrhaging).
Alternative Birth Control Methods
Non-hormonal birth control is still the safest method to use. Condoms, the diaphragm or cervical caps are just as effective as hormonal methods (if used properly) and have no known side-effects (with the exception of possible latex allergies). Some women have chosen to take matters into their own hands by using natural planning (See: Katie Singer’s book, “The Garden of Fertility.”)
For women with hormonal problems, natural remedies and lifestyle changes are usually sufficient. Some sources have also suggested the Fermented Dong Quai drink that has been used in China for centuries and has been shown to balance hormones, ease hot flashes and diminish menstrual pain.