Posted By Dr. Mercola | July 10 2010
By Dr. Mercola
The birth control pill was first introduced to the American public for contraceptive use in 1960. By 2002, 11.6 million US women were on “the Pill” according to CDC statistics, making it the nation’s leading method of contraception.
Eighty percent of American women have used oral contraceptives at some point in their lives, according to a paper in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
In my opinion, this is a tragedy as the Pills’ benefit of convenience is largely outweighed by their very serious health risks.
In fact, long-term use of oral contraceptives (OCs) will invariably increase a woman's risk of developing a serious chronic illness. Yet they are passed out like expensive candy at most physicians’ offices, with little regard for the known dangers.
The decision about which method of contraception to use can be overwhelming, and it seems that most women are not adequately informed of their options.
It is my intention to provide you with the information you need to make an informed choice.
First, I’ll review the general categories of birth control methods, then move on to the relative risks of each, and finally I’ll make suggestions about what I consider to be the safest and healthiest options.
Overview of Birth Control Methods
The most importantpoint to remember about birth control pills, as well as hormone patches or injections, is that they are potent synthetic hormones, whose adverse health effects have been well documented over the past 30 years.
For instance, most doctors who see women about contraceptive concerns underestimate the effectiveness of natural family planning options and rarely or never mention them. Many women turn to birth control pills because they are not aware that there are safer options available.
The different contraception methods act in very different ways and can be broken down as follows:
· Barrier Methods: These work by physically preventing the sperm from reaching the egg. It includes male and female condoms, the diaphragm, and the cervical cap.
· Hormonal Methods: Typically, hormonal birth control methods work by releasing estrogen and progestin into your body, preventing your ovaries from releasing eggs. They also thicken cervical mucus, making it harder for sperm to enter the uterus.
There are a wide variety of hormonal methods on the market including oral birth control pills, implants (Norplant), hormone shots like Depo-Provera, a vaginal ring called NuvaRing, and a contraceptive patch (Ortho Evra) worn on your skin.
· Spermicides: These are chemicals that kill or disable sperm so that it cannot fertilize an egg and cause pregnancy. Spermicides come in many different forms: foam, jelly, cream, film, and suppositories.
· Intrauterine Devices (IUDs): These are small, plastic, T-shaped sticks with a string attached to the end. The IUD is placed inside the uterus and prevents pregnancy by rendering the sperm unable to fertilize an egg, and by changing the lining of the uterus so that it is less supportive for an embryo.
· Natural Family Planning: In this method, a woman uses various techniques to determine when she is fertile during the month. Avoiding sexual intimacy, or using a backup method during the window of fertility can avert pregnancy.
Techniques include the ovulation method, the symptothermal method (which is a combination of the ovulation method and monitoring of body temperature) and monitoring your saliva with the Ovu-Tech magnification lens.
What You are Risking by Using the Pill or the Patch
While many drugs do provide some benefit in certain situations, birth control pills are rarely, if ever, necessary. In exchange for the convenience of preventing pregnancy—which you can do naturally just as well—you are putting yourself at risk for a barrage of serious health problems, including:
On top of this long list of major health concerns, birth control pills deplete your body of important nutrients, including:
· Vitamin B2
· Vitamin B6
· Vitamin B12
· Folic Acid
· Vitamin C
If, for whatever reason, you chose to use birth control pills, you will at a minimum want to address the nutritional deficiencies they cause. Of course it would be best not to use them at all.
There is also a risk to any baby you might accidentally conceive while taking birth control pills.
Do you think you won’t get pregnant while using the Pill?
Statistically, this occurs about 5 percent of the time.
Many women become pregnant while on the pill and don’t know it for several weeks or months because the Pill makes them feel like they are already pregnant, so they miss the signs they would otherwise notice if they weren’t taking hormones.
Scientific studies show damage to the reproductive organs of baby mice whose mothers were exposed to low levels of estrogenic chemicals, and there is no way to know what the risks are for human babies.
Oral contraceptives can also make your baby more vulnerable to allergies when you take OCs for up to a year before becoming pregnant, according to a Finnish study.
Interestingly, there are even scientific studies suggesting that birth control pills may negatively influence your choice of romantic partner!
Research has shown that birth control pills may alter your menstrual cycle in such a way as to alter the sexual appetites of you and your partner, which could impact future generations. A few small studies have found a genetic difference between the men that women find attractive during a natural hormone cycle, and the men that women find attractive while under the influence of synthetic hormones.
Birth Control Pills Alter Secret Sex Nerve
Chemical contraceptives also appear to alter your “secret sex nerve (Nerve O),” which has endings in your nasal cavity and helps determine who floats your boat. The problem arises when you quit using the Pill, as suddenly the partner you chose while on it, no longer matches your instinctive drives.
Do you really want your romantic life dictated by a pill?
Birth control patches (Ortho Evra) have resulted in an avalanch of lawsuits over the past several years due to the overwhelming health problems women have experienced from using them. One of the reasons the patch is so risky is that you absorb up to 60 percent more synthetic estrogen than if you were taking an oral contraceptive.
Fortunately, demand for the patch has seriously declined as the warnings have escalated.
Hormonal Birth Control Risks Clearly Outweigh the Benefits
Because the risks of hormonal pills and patches are so high, and safer options exist, nearly all patients who visit my Natural Health Center are asked to stop hormonal contraceptives like birth control pills as soon as possible.
If you're using birth control pills for reasons other than birth control, such as to regulate your menstrual cycle or treat irregular bleeding, cysts, endometriosis, or even acne, you are not treating your underlying problem.
You are simply masking it with a potentially dangerous drug.
In these situations, it is essential to balance your adrenal glands, as cortisol levels modulate and control the female hormones—especially progesterone. The Pill merely treats your symptoms, not the underlying cause, which adds to your problem as your body struggles in its state of dis-ease.
Risks of Injectable Birth Control: Depo-Provera
Depo-Provera, or depo medroxyprogesterone (DMPA), is a progestin that interferes with hormone signaling to prevent your ovaries from releasing eggs.
A progestin is a synthetic chemical that mimics the progesterone your body makes but is far stronger and, as a result, carries with it a huge number of negative side effects.
A study in the May 2004 issue of the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology found that Depo-Provera users had declines in bone mineral density averaging 3 percent per year. Those on the shot for two years had losses in bone mineral density of roughly 6 percent, compared with a loss of 2.6 percent among women on birth control pills.
Comparatively, women using no hormonal contraceptives had, on average, a 2 percent increase in bone density during the same period.
In addition to significant bone loss, the Depo-Provera shot is associated with a long list of additional health problems:
Side effects of the Depo-Provera
· Weight gain
· Breast swelling and tenderness
· Decreased sexual desire
· Swelling of the hands and feet
· Abdominal cramps
· Weakness of fatigue
· Leg cramps
· Vaginal discharge or irritation
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KAY'S NOTE: Although this article has nothing to do with food, I find that most people are not aware of the risks involved in taking contraceptive drugs . . . and you need to be "in the KNOW". Again, along with the type of foods we eat, this is something we CAN control . . . and both will make a huge difference in our health and well-being.