When I was in my twenties, health was about solving problems, not listening to my body. He got a slight break? Well, birth control pills can help. Can not sleep? Pop one Ambien. Need to wake up? Drinking a latte.
I did not spend much time learning about my body or hear. That was for people who were sick or had “health problems”. So I ignored the signs that I was out of control. I like to party all night, then wait to sleep immediately. I toss and turn, confused as to why, after 5 drinks and 4 hours of dancing, I felt restless.
And then I woke up-early, chug Gatorade, I drink a lot of coffee, and I’m in a race of 12 miles. Thought to be able to finish a half marathon with so little rest was a testament to my health. I did not realize it was just another way to create tension in my body.
While most of these habits did not cause too much damage to my body long term (I hope), one almost killed me. I had a life-threatening pulmonary embolism, blood clots in the lungs, precipitated by years of taking birth control pills, what I’ve written here.
Only after I ended up in the emergency room did I begin to ask questions about the pill and what exactly I had been putting into my body every day for a decade. Never before had occurred to me to do my homework on these powerful drugs. Like all my friends, who had grown up believing that the pill was a test of social progress, a sign of our ability to empower spend more time racing and choosing when (and if) to form a family.
Also, I had not thought much about the pill because it seemed that everyone was taking. And indeed, they were almost 12 million women in the USA and about 90% of all college-educated women with sexual experience have used the pill.
This is what I wish to know about birth control pills when I was 20-odd years:
1. Taking the pill can reduce your risk of endometrial and ovarian cancer.
Taking birth control pills is one of the few things that are known to reduce risk of endometrial and ovarian cancer. According to Dr. Sara Gottfried to The Hormone Cure, “five years of use of the contraceptive pill is associated with a 90% reduction in future ovarian cancer.”
2. But taking the pill might increase your risk of other types of cancer.
While studies have shown that birth control pills can reduce the risk of ovarian and endometrial cancer, there are questions about a stronger link with breast cancer, cervical cancer and liver cancer. A 1996 study found that women who had used the pill had a slightly higher risk of developing breast cancer compared with women who had never taken the pill. Other doctors found an increased risk of breast cancer for women on birth control pills is not as significant, while others say that the risk decreases after being off the pill for ten years.
3. The pill is classified as a carcinogen.
Yes, it’s in the same class as the snuff toxins and asbestos, according to the World Health Organization. There’s a reason that New Yorkers do not want the rest of your water supply and are reaching their water filters.
4. It’s more than 99% effective if used correctly.
Note: If, and only if used correctly.
5. can cause blood clots in women, especially if you are a smoker, overweight, or over 35 years.
The risk of blood clots is lower if it does not fall into this category, but it’s hard to really understand the total risk from Denmark is the only country in the world with a national registry of all women have experienced blood clots blood.
One study looked at healthy Danish women over a 10 year period and found that the contraceptive pill users were twice as likely to suffer a blood clot compared to women not using birth control pills. While the risk remains statistically small about 6 of every 10,000 women remains a risk, and is a life threatening one.
If you are concerned about a genetic predisposition to clotting, some doctors detect common factors, such as Factor 5 Leiden, affecting about 5% of Caucasian women genetic risk. Factor 5 Leiden is also a routine prenatal testing and pregnancy increases the risk of bleeding due to hormonal changes. Factor 5 A negative test does not mean you are out of danger from the genetic point of view, as other genetic mutations (such as MTHFR, protein C and protein S to name a few) can also increase the risk of clotting.
6. Newer pills are not necessarily safer.
Some pills “fairly new” to the market, contain drospirenone (DRSP), a synthetic form of progesterone. A 2012 study by Kaiser Permanente found a 77% increase in the risk of hospitalization for blood clots and doubling of the risk of clogged arteries compared with the risk associated with low-dose pills of estrogen. So as you can read the ingredient panel on food, if your pill contains drospirenone so that you are aware of any possible increase in risk.
7. Some types of pills can increase your risk of heart attack and stroke.
Birth control pills estrogen and progestin had a higher correlation with heart attack and stroke. The overall risk is still quite low, but still a risk.
8. The Pill reduces your vitamin B.
Our B vitamins are best friends of our neuroendocrine system. They help us to live a happier and healthier life by reducing stress, stimulate memory, and reducing heart disease. All good things, right? But birth control pills can further increase the need for folic acid and Dr. Sara Gottfried B. family recommends that vitamin B is added if you go on the pill. Knowledge of marketing Bayer has recently introduced a tablet with folic acid, also known as vitamin B9. Interesting …
9. The pill can help with some acne.
The pill reduces androgens, a group of hormones that include testosterone, which can help with some acne. Sounds good, but ….
10. The pill may decrease your sex drive.
The same hormonal changes that clarify that annoying grain can also lower your libido. It plays with your ability to know that if you are just in it – or the amount of testosterone your body can use is lowered. Dr. Christiane Northrup writes on women’s bodies, women’s wisdom that “the pill suppresses testosterone surge mid-cycle, which reduces sexual desire in many women.”
11. Taking the pill could explain why you brought home some types of boys and ignoring the good guys in the bar.
Researchers at St. Andrews and Stirling universities found that women who take the Pill tend to choose more macho, masculine men with different physical characteristics and neglecting more sensitive feminine men with softer features. Sensitive men tend to be good communicators and able to express their feelings, traits that make good boyfriends, husbands, partners and fathers. Probably not a good group to marginalize the dating pool if you are looking for a long term relationship. And who wants to get into the dating pool with “Glasses” on the pill?
Other medical experts like Dr. Laura Berman have questioned the conclusions of psychologists explaining that there was insufficient data on the physical preferences of women. The jury is out.
12. The pill may impede your ability to find your best match.
There may be more than the consistency of personality to the adage that “opposites attract.” In Female Code, Alisa Vitti writes that “the most genetically dissimilar two partners are to reduce miscarriage rates and higher are your chances of having a healthy baby, and more satisfactory sexual relationships and happier, and more likelihood of female orgasm. Yet women who take the Pill tend to unconsciously seek men with more similar genes … “Ok, that’s scary. I wonder if any of the 4 year itch can be attributed to birth control pills? Women play a partner while on the pill, when preparing to have children, stop using birth control and then become less attracted to their partner, who strains the relationship further.
13. It’s a Band-Aid for menstrual cramps, pain, and migraines.
Up to 60% of women experience some form of menstrual cramps and get some symptom relief through birth control pills, which has been shown to eliminate ovulation and hormonal fluctuations associated with cramps and pain. Are there long term effects of using contraceptive methods to treat these symptoms? Jury out.
14. It can delay your fertility.
The menstrual cycle is the best text message from your body that your hormones are in sync. Progesterone and estrogen in the balance? Verify. Other hormones in sync? Verify. I hypothalamus sending the right signals? Verify. Since you do not experience a period of “real” pill, signals that all is you are missing – or not working properly. With women coming off the pill later in life, Vitti writes that “now, after leaving the pill, not only do you have to direct your energy towards healing the issue, but it may take more time to do what needed to address the real issue at first. “less time to” fix “the problem, many women can opt for medication to help their bodies back in sync. And so the “cycle” continues ….
Knowing what I know now: Would I take the pill again?
No, it was not for me.
Am I saying other women to get rid of the pill? Not necessarily. I’m telling you to realize it is a big decision, and-as with all major life decisions-make an informed decision and get the right people on your team to help.
Invest time in finding a great doctor and build a relationship with that doctor. Spend transactional mentality “will-have-this-Pap and answers-some questions-si-da-me-a-recipe” and learn how to build a better relationship with your doctor so that you can really be your co-pilot confidence.
On the road to recovery from my pulmonary embolism, I found it very useful to learn more about the connections between birth control, hormones and fertility. Reading books by the pioneers of women’s health, like Dr. Claudia Welch, Dr. Christiane Northrup, Dr. Sara Gottfried, and Alisa Vitti HHC helped me understand what the hell was happening in my body during the decade I was on the pill. I recommend these books for anyone hoping to take charge of their health.