Today’s blog is about the use and risks of hormonal birth control for “hormone balancing” and then we will discuss how homeopathy can offer solutions to balance hormones, heal from side effects, and relieve symptoms of menstruation naturally. (6 minute read)
Natural Menstrual Cycle
The body uses menstruation to prepare for pregnancy. Menstruation is a sign of good health when it occurs regularly and without severe symptoms. It is a sign of fertility and is one of the many ways in which our body cleanses itself. Up there with our bowels, the uterus benefits greatly from cleansing!
Our two menstrual rock stars are Estrogen and Progesterone. Before ovulation, Estrogen levels rise until the egg is released from the follicle. Progesterone then joins the party along with Estrogen to ready the lining for pregnancy. When pregnancy does not occur, Estrogen and Progesterone drop and the body sheds the lining = your period.
Image source: (About Hormone Imbalance, 2019)
Birth Control Driven Cycle
The menstrual cycle on birth control is a little different. Hormonal birth control pills (BCP) come in many different formulas, but the two main forms include combined (synthetic estrogen and progestin, a form of progesterone) and mini-pills (Progestin only). Mini-pills are often chosen when there are pre-existing health risks that can be exasperated with increased estrogen, or in women who are breastfeeding.
Synthetic estrogen prevents the pituitary gland from producing FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) and LH (Luteinizing hormone) to prevent ovulation.
Progestin then thickens the cervical mucous to make it harder for the sperm to reach the uterus. It can also suppress ovulation (in about 60% of women) and thins the lining of the uterus to make a hostile environment for the egg. (ACOG, 2018)
With 21- and 28-day cycle birth control pills, you have one week of placebo/no pills, which drops estrogen levels dramatically causing the “withdrawal bleed”.
The 91-day pill suppresses menstruation for three months, and then the placebo week arrives to stimulate the withdrawal bleed. This is a practice that is concerning, yet commonly practiced. If a woman only bled 4 times a year naturally, we would be concerned for her health, but when it is medically induced, many professionals do not see it to be an issue.
Why do women take birth control?
The obvious answer would be to prevent pregnancy, but a study of American women showed 58% of pill users take birth control for purposes other than pregnancy prevention. (Guttmacher Institute, 2011)
Potential other uses for hormonal birth control:
Treatment of menstrual disorders (PCOS, endometriosis)
PMS, cramping, heavy periods, irregular periods
To skip periods
The list above tells us that our hormones are out of whack. Periods shouldn’t hurt and if they do, there is something off in your system. Outward symptoms are a sign of internal issues, if you have menstrual related symptoms – you’re out of balance.
The natural tendency of the body is to seek equilibrium, so when we infuse the system with synthetic hormones, the body reduces the amount produced naturally to avoid having too much floating around.
The process of the body trying to adjust to birth control use can produce unwanted side effects, often lasting 2-3 months. If your effects last longer, doctors typically recommend trying a different pill.
Common side effects (U.S. Food & Drug Administration, 2018):
Spotting between periods
Mood swings, worsening of anxiety/depression, low libido
BCP increases the risk of blood clots which can contribute to the risk of stroke and heart attacks. Women who are susceptible to heart disease, and even migraines, should take caution when considering combination (estrogen & progestin) birth control. (Stegeman Bernardine H, 2013)
Reduced free testosterone which leads to decreased energy, change in libido, mental clarity, bone and muscle strength. (Zimmerman Y, 2013)
Reduced methylation processes, which can cause a deficiency in serotonin (the happy chemical) and melatonin (the sleep hormone). (de Pietro, 2018)
Increased estrogen has been shown to sustain candida infections in mice and reduces the inhibitory activity on candida (yeast). (Fidel, Cutright, & Steele, 2000)
Studies on the long-term risks of the birth control pill are slowly coming out in regards to the effects on fertility, liver function, thyroid disease, nutrient absorption and what suppressing menstruation does to the body. (Mohn, 2018) While the BCP may bring relief, it does not resolve the initial root cause of the imbalance, so if you come off the birth control…guess who’s back?
Balancing Hormones Naturally
No matter how long you’ve been on hormonal birth control, rebalancing your hormones is in your control. The first priority for you may be finding a solution for the issues the birth control was originally trying to fix. Upon coming off of birth control, patients often find these symptoms come right back. Homeopathy can help!
Non-Hormonal Birth Control Alternatives
There are many non-hormonal birth control methods available such as condoms, diaphragms, sponges, Copper IUD and periodic abstinence (fertility tracking). Some are more reliable than others so be sure to discuss your options with your doctor and consider combining compatible methods for added protection. Click here to learn more.
Acne, Mental Health, PMS, Menstrual Disorders and Homeopathy!
Anytime we experience unwanted symptoms, we are receiving a message that the body is attempting to reach equilibrium. As a natural tendency, the body wants to find balance in the face of environmental shifts – but sometimes these systems malfunction and creates chronic unwanted symptoms (heavy periods, acne) or acutely dangerous symptoms (anaphylactic allergic reactions). The body is stuck in an unbalanced rut that is no longer capable of reaching true, symptom-free equilibrium.
When we take a combination BCP to treat unwanted symptoms, we temporarily increase the estrogen load and the body will begin producing less estrogen. As this level is sustained by the birth control, when we come off of it altogether, the body may feel a little lost trying to regain balance. This may present as the previously unwanted symptoms coming back, or new unwanted symptoms surfacing.
After taking a thorough case, Homeopathic remedies are selected based on individual symptoms; treatment is completely unique to each patient. This makes it important to consult with a professional to ensure you are getting the best remedy for your symptoms.
The homeopathic remedies are given to gently stimulate various feedback loops in the body to initiate more productive organ communication. In this case, the remedy will initiate the healing process to bring about more balanced hormone production – treating the root cause of the unwanted symptoms, healing them for good. Homeopathy is a catalyst - it makes things happen. The role it plays in healing is to trigger what the body already knows to do. Over time, when balance is regained, the remedies will not be needed.
When treating patients coming off of birth control, it is always important to acknowledge the symptoms that plagued them pre-birth control and the ones that arise post-birth control. There is often healing to be done in both cases - but it is possible and good health is attainable!
Common Remedies Used for Menstrual Complaints
Very sensitive and cries easily, craves sweets and creamy foods, wants comfort and company, changeable stools
Very irritable, especially towards family. Acne, sore throat, nausea before menses, reduced libido, cravings for sour, salty and chocolate. Heavy flow.
Hot flashes that are drenching.
Lots of fear and anxiety, may have panic attacks, swollen breasts, greasy skin, headaches. Craves dairy, sweets and eggs.
Jealous, suspicious, bloating in abdomen, constipation, PMS goes away as soon as flow starts, sore throat. Heavy bleeding, fibroids.
Sadness, anxiety, headaches before during and after, nausea, salt cravings, irregular periods
Menstrual cramps that are spasmodic and cutting, bends double to feel better (foetal position), heat helps, bloated abdomen.
Remember, it's never too late to reclaim your health and balance your hormones. Homeopathy is a great tool for doing so naturally and efficiently. Healing timelines are different for everyone but keep in mind that the longer you have been on birth control, the longer it may take to regain balance. All in all, health is possible and within your reach so find what you need and get healing!
About Hormone Imbalance. (2019). Retrieved from Women in Balance Institute: https://womeninbalance.org/about-hormone-imbalance/
ACOG. (2018, March). Progestin-Only Hormonal Birth Control. Retrieved from American College of Obsteticians and Gynecologists: https://www.acog.org/Patients/FAQs/Progestin-Only-Hormonal-Birth-Control-Pill-and-Injection?IsMobileSet=false
de Pietro, M. (2018, August 14). What are the long-term side effects of birth control?(H. Ernst, Editor) Retrieved from Medical News Today: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/322762.php
Fidel, P., Cutright, J., & Steele, C. (2000). Effects of reproductive hormones on experimental vaginal candidiasis. 68(2), 651-7.
Guttmacher Institute. (2011, November 15). Many American Women Use Birth Control Pills for Noncontraceptive Reasons. Retrieved from Guttmacher Institute: https://www.guttmacher.org/news-release/2011/many-american-women-use-birth-control-pills-noncontraceptive-reasons
Mohn, E. S. (2018). Evidence of Drug-Nutrient Interactions with Chronic Use of Commonly Prescribed Medications: An Update. Pharmaceutics, 10(1), 36.
Stegeman Bernardine H, d. B. (2013). Different combines oral contraceptives and the risk of venous thrombosis: systematic review and network meta-analysis.the BMJ. Retrieved from The BMJ: https://www.bmj.com/content/347/bmj.f5298.short
U.S. Food & Drug Administration. (2018, March 6). For Consumers: Birth Control.Retrieved from U.S. Food & Drug Administration: https://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ByAudience/ForWomen/FreePublications/ucm313215.htm
Zimmerman Y, E. M. (2013). The effect of combined oral contraception on testosterone levels in healthy women: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Hum Reprod Update, 20(1), 76-105.