Why Birth Control Is Not As Good For You As You Thought It Was

Written by Eunoia House

Image created by @cosmiceden

Birth control refers to a method or device used to prevent pregnancy. There are a variety of birth control options and different birth control methods to choose from, including birth control pills, hormonal and non-hormonal IUDs, and barrier birth control methods. I am sure you are already reading this and asking yourself questions about all the different birth control methods like “what is the best birth control option?”, “is birth control good for me?” “is the pill healthy?”, “What is the healthiest birth control?”, or “how do I know what is the best birth control option for me?” Don’t worry, just carry on reading and we will give you all the answers you need to decide what is the healthiest birth control and what is the best birth control option for you!


Let’s start with all you need to know about birth control pills because this is what your doctor will typically prescribe you unless you specifically ask about different birth control methods. Birth control pills use artificial versions of the female hormones; estrogen and progesterone, to suppress ovulation. Some pills contain progestin-only, the synthetic version of progesterone. The pill is 99% effective in preventing pregnancy but only when used perfectly, meaning not missing a pill and taking it at the same time every day. You may be asking “is birth control good for me?” Maybe you are already taking the pill and wondering “why do I feel bad on birth control?” Like all medications, the pill has risks. The most common side effects of birth control pills include fatigue, bloating, headaches, nausea, breast tenderness, spotting in between periods, mood changes, and anxiety; so your insecure thoughts “is birth control good for me?” are totally normal.


Is the pill healthy and the best birth control option? 


In response to your question “is the pill healthy?”, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) revealed in 2011 that women who take the combination pill that uses both progestin and estrogen, have an increased risk of blood clots which can further lead to a heart attack or stroke, and women who smoke, are overweight, or over the age of 35 years old are even more at risk.


For decades, athletic women have been told that suppressing their menstrual cycle can bring them a competitive advantage. But is the pill healthy? Is birth control good for me? 

The pill reduces women's testosterone levels by 50%, the hormone responsible for sexual arousal. This not only explains why women who take birth control pills may experience lower libido and reduced sexual desire but also strengthens the myth of competitive advantage among women athletes who take birth control pills. Athletes require a higher level of testosterone for muscle mass and endurance, and suppressing ovulation does the exact opposite.


Dr. Sarah E. Hill, the author of the book “How the Pill Changes Everything: Your Brain on Birth Control” shows in her research that beyond preventing pregnancy, hormonal birth control affects the brain by changing hormone balance and influencing brain receptors. 

But why do I feel bad on birth control? 

Dr. Jolene Brighten; a leading expert in non-hormonal birth control and long-term side effects of birth control caused by the pill, talks in her podcast how hormones affect every system in the body. Hormones are powerful chemical messengers that take part in all of our bodily processes. The brain is responsible for signaling to the ovaries when to ovulate and the pill shuts down this communication. If it has such an effect on the brain, it is only natural to have doubts and insecure thoughts.


Is hormonal birth control linked to autoimmune disease?


An additional severe and potential long-term complication of hormonal birth control is the increased risk of autoimmune disease as a result of immune system suppression. The immune system normally protects us against viruses but with hormonal birth control, there is an increased risk that the immune system can mistakenly attack your body, leading to autoimmune disease. Birth control research shows that hormonal birth control plays a factor in the increase of autoimmune disease. Since the introduction of the pill, the gender ratio of autoimmune disease sufferers has rapidly changed, with studies showing that women who take hormonal birth control 35% more likely to develop Multiple Sclerosis which attacks the central nervous system, 50% more likely to develop Lupus rheumatic disease, and up to three times at risk for Crohn’s disease which affects the gut, compared to women who have never taken hormonal birth control. 


Beyond preventing pregnancy, the pill is often prescribed as a quick fix to alleviate menstrual pain, especially for women who suffer from Endometriosis, a common disease that results in severe menstrual pain and chronic fatigue. However, just like a band-aid solution that provides short term pain relief, the pill temporarily masks the symptoms of hormonal imbalance, rather than dealing with the underlying root cause. Studies show that women with Endometriosis are significantly more at risk for autoimmune diseases such as Crohn’s disease and Lupus. 

If you have been asking yourself “why do I feel bad on birth control?”, the following section will help you understand more.


Why do I feel bad on birth control?


A large study published in 2016 on over one million women in Denmark between the ages of 15-34 found that women who take hormonal birth control are 23% more likely to feel anxiety and be diagnosed with depression, and 97% more likely to attempt suicide! The highest rates were found among adolescents which is a problem in itself. Adolescence is a crucial time for brain development and research shows that the hormonal imbalance caused by the pill can lead to irreversible damage if taken at a young age when the brain is still developing, which correlates with increased risk of anxiety and depression in adulthood. If you were wondering “why do I feel bad on birth control?”, this explains why women who take the pill report having insecure thoughts and feeling like a hormonal mess. So then what is the best birth control option for me? What is the healthiest birth control?


What if the pill is not for me? 


Barrier birth control options, such as condoms and diaphragm prevent sperm from reaching an egg. Condoms have an additional advantage of also protecting against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). They are easy to buy over the counter, do not require a prescription, and are 98% effective in preventing pregnancy. A diaphragm is a small cup inserted over the cervix prior to sexual intercourse. Although it is 95% effective in preventing pregnancy when used perfectly, it does not protect against STDs and has also been linked to vaginal infections and discomfort. The FDA further disclosed that diaphragms with spermicide containing N9 may increase the risk of getting HIV from an infected partner.


What is the best birth control option, and what is the healthiest birth control? Do other birth control options exist apart from the pill and condoms? 

Yes! Long-acting Reversible Contraceptives (LARC) are considered 99% effective in preventing pregnancy and last for several years. A small device called an IUD (intrauterine device) is inserted into the uterus by a medical practitioner. Five types of IUDs are available in the United States: Liletta, Kyleena, Mirena, and Skyla. All of these are hormonal IUDs that release a low amount of synthetic progestin hormones into your body to prevent ovulation. The fifth available IUD is the copper IUD, also known as ParaGard, and the only non-hormonal birth control in the form of IUDs. Let’s elaborate and delve into what are the benefits of IUD birth control.


What are the benefits of IUD birth control? 


One of the benefits of IUD birth control over the pill is that it is long-lasting. Skyla lasts for 3 years and the previously mentioned hormonal IUDs last for up to 5 years. In addition, the IUD is effective at reducing heavy periods and releases much lower amounts of progestin than levels in the pill. 


There are increasing benefits of IUD birth control with the copper IUD, as copper is considered a natural sperm killer. The copper IUD prevents sperm from reaching the egg and fertilizing it, without stopping ovulation. It is considered one of the healthiest birth control options, especially if we are comparing it to the pill. The advantage of the copper IUD beyond being a non-hormonal birth control is that it lasts for up to 10 years. 


What are the side effects of IUD birth control? 


Hormonal IUDs increase the risk of Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) which is an infection of the uterus, fallopian tubes, or ovaries. It is important to remember that although the hormonal IUDs release lower levels of progestin than the pill, hormones still impact the body at the brain level. 


Regarding the copper IUD, although it does not release synthetic hormones into the body, it still changes the biochemistry in the body by increasing copper levels. 

Why do I feel bad on birth control? Copper can lead to mood changes such as feelings of anxiety and thyroid problems, as copper damages the thyroid that regulates our natural hormones. Despite being a non-hormonal birth control, the copper IUD does have side effects of birth control, such as heavier, longer, and more painful periods, and in rare cases can even cause copper toxicity. The Copper IUD damaging your thyroid is most unlikely, but to be sure you can take thyroid supplements, which are very important to take regardless. What about different birth control methods if I do not want to take the pill or have an IUD inserted into my body? What is the best birth control option for me? Continue reading all about natural birth control alternatives!


Do natural birth control alternatives exist?


We are so glad you asked! Natural Cycles app is the first-ever contraceptive app for preventing pregnancy, approved by the FDA in 2018. It is based on fertility awareness methods by tracking cycles and symptoms for menstrual cycles. Fertility Awareness-Based Methods (FABMs) maintain hormone balance and regulate mood and reduce anxiety. Unlike hormonal birth control, FABMs allow women to work with their menstrual cycles and learn more about ovulation and the natural process of their body without artificially controlling or suppressing ovulation and without side effects of birth control. Research shows it to be 99% effective in preventing unintended pregnancy, making this by far the safest and healthiest birth control option. Being involved in your natural hormonal balance is also crucial to unblocking related areas in your life that you may not have even considered, such as anxiety and negative thoughts. 


What is the best birth control option for me? The current article has explored birth control options and different birth control methods. It is clear that pharmaceutical companies have an interest in marketing the pill and other hormonal birth control methods but research clearly shows it is by far the healthiest birth control option and that non-hormonal birth control options are a much safer alternative. Fertility awareness is the safest and healthiest birth control option by allowing you to understand how your body and menstrual cycle works, without the side effects of birth control or insecure thoughts related to hormonal imbalance. It is important to listen to and honor your body, and you should now have a better understanding to be able to decide what is the healthiest and best birth control option for me.