14 Dangerous Side Effects of Birth Control & What to Do Instead

I don’t know about you, but the side effects of birth control are not something I even considered when I first started on it…right before I got married.

In fact, I was a little jealous of both of my younger sisters “getting” to go on birth control years earlier for their PCOS. I had zero period problems – so no birth control for me.

However, when I began my health journey and started down the rabbit hole of toxins, gut health, and hormone health, I quickly realized that birth control has a lot of risks. And it doesn’t actually solve all the problems we’re led to believe it solves, like acne, weight gain, and unplanned pregnancy.

So keep reading to learn the harmful truth about birth control that you probably weren’t told about by your doctor.

The Basics of Birth Control

Primitive forms of birth control have been around for centuries, with the earliest recorded methods being used in Ancient Egypt. And it’s not pretty, ya’ll. They used to put crocodile dung and honey up their vagina to block the sperm. Basically an ancient condom.

It wasn’t until pretty recently, in the 1950s, that the modern forms of hormonal birth control that we know today were developed and widely used (about the same time period that chronic health conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer began to rise….).

When I refer to birth control here, I’m talking about all the many modern pills, patches, implants, injections, and intrauterine devices (IUDs) that are designed to prevent pregnancy.

Different types of birth control do different things. But they work by either:

  1. Preventing ovulation,
  2. Thickening cervical mucous and creating an inhospitable environment for sperm to reach and fertilize an egg, or
  3. Thinning the lining of the uterus to prevent implantation of a fertilized egg.

The main form that women are given, birth control pills, contains hormones – either just progesterone or progesterone and estrogen.

So how do these added hormones prevent pregnancy, you may ask? Here’s how:  when you intake these synthetic hormones, your brain gets the message through a negative feedback loop.

Your brain recognizes the high amounts of estrogen, and therefore, it lowers its release of FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone) and LH (luteinizing hormone). These hormones are important for maturing and releasing eggs, also known as ovulation. Without FSH and LH, pregnancy does not happen.

The synthetic progesterone, or progestin, in the pills is what thickens cervical mucous and thins the lining of the uterus. So even if ovulation does happen and an egg is released, it’s not able to implant and sperm is not able to meet up with it.

Lack of Adequate Information

Birth control pills, patches, and IUDs have not been around for that long in the grand scheme of things. But it’s crazy to me how commonplace it has become.

One of my biggest gripes is that young women, even girls, are told or convinced to start on it without receiving much information at all about the side effects of birth control…because there are many.

Girls are prescribed birth control left and right for reasons other than preventing pregnancy…..just like my sisters who started on it in their teens – before they were even sexually active.

If a girl goes to her doctor with signs of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), severe acne, or weight gain, they are almost immediately prescribed birth control.

I’m all about making informed decisions. If someone wants to take birth control, that’s their decision to do so. But the information about it and the potential side effects need to be presented beforehand. And in most cases, that’s not happening.

The absence of comprehensive discussions about side effects leaves many girls unprepared for what might happen to their bodies down the road. Unfortunately, birth control can cause a ton of negative side effects – not just while on it, but in long-term health as well.

Side Effects of Birth Control

1. Disrupting Your Natural Hormone Rhythms

As I mentioned, most birth control works by adding synthetic hormones into your body. Your brain gets the message that there’s enough of those sex hormones (progesterone and estrogen), therefore, it quits making its own.

It’s like it tells your body, “It’s alright. I’ve got it from here.”

And that’s a problem.

Your body is meant to make estrogen, progesterone, and many other hormones. These messengers are important for a ton of things, not just pregnancy. And stopping their production can cause issues in several areas of your body, not just your menstrual cycle.

I believe God designed our bodies perfectly. He designed them to work well. He created women with a monthly cycle for a reason. And when you take birth control, that system is disrupted. You’re messing with God’s design.

Whether or not we want to get pregnant, our body is still designed to go through the cycle of preparing for pregnancy, ovulation, and sloughing off the lining of our uterus to prepare for pregnancy all over again.

The monthly cycle can be a beautiful thing. Menstrual irregularities, cramps, and mood swings are signals your body gives you that something needs attention – maybe it’s your diet, maybe it’s your liver health, maybe it’s stress – but something needs to be improved.

Your period is basically like a report card your body gives you. A symptom-free period is a sign of good health and vitality.

But….when you take synthetic hormones in birth control, that system is disrupted. It creates imbalance and throws off your natural hormone rhythms.

2. Gut Problems

Besides just messing with your natural hormone rhythms, birth control pills can also cause digestive issues.

Stomach Acid

First, hormonal contraceptives decrease the production of stomach acid, which is essential for breaking down food and absorbing nutrients. Without enough stomach acid, you might have heartburn, acid reflux (seems like an oxymoron, right? but it’s true!), bloating, and more digestive issues down the line when large undigested food particles and pathogens pass through to the intestines.

Things like harmful bacteria, parasites, and viruses aren’t supposed to be able to survive the harsh, acidic environment in the stomach. That acid is one of the body’s first lines of defense. So when we lower our stomach acid, we’re lowering our defenses against those guys.

Microbiome

Birth control pills also have a profound impact on your gut microbiome, the ecosystem of bacteria hanging out in your digestive tract.

Let me tell you – that bacteria is hugely important for good digestive health.

However, the synthetic hormones found in birth control pills can disrupt the delicate balance of beneficial bacteria and harmful bacteria, leading to a condition called dysbiosis.

Dysbiosis can cause problems like:

  • Acid reflux
  • Anxiety
  • Bloating
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • Gas
  • Gerd
  • Heartburn
  • IBS
  • Weight gain

Leaky Gut

Dysbiosis can wreak havoc on your gut, irritate your gut lining, and cause another condition called “leaky gut” or intestinal permeability.

Picture this: your intestines have a mucosal lining that carefully allows nutrients in the food you eat to pass through into the bloodstream. It’s like a cheesecloth that is used to filter out all the liquid whey from cheese and keep the chunks.

But with a leaky gut, that lining becomes damaged. It’s like using a colander with big holes instead of a cheesecloth with tiny little holes. Chunks of cheese are going to pass through.

Your damaged intestinal lining can no longer effectively filter nutrients from potential toxins. So larger undigested food particles, toxic waste products, and bacteria are able to leak into your bloodstream.

When your body sees these invaders in places they don’t belong – your blood – it triggers an immune attack. It’s like a battle is started….inside of you.

The result? Inflammation and a wide range of problems including:

  • Bloating
  • Excessive gas
  • Cramps
  • Stomach pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Food sensitivities
  • Autoimmune disease
  • Allergies
  • Acne
  • Anxiety
  • Brain Fog
  • Depression
  • Eczema
  • Headaches

Not something you want going on, right?

gut problems as one of the side effects of birth control

3. Gallbladder & Liver Problems

The use of birth control pills can also have significant effects on the gallbladder and liver.

Gallstones

First off, they can actually increase your risk of developing gallstones.

The estrogen you’re continually taking in through birth control pills increases cholesterol in your bile, making it thicker than it should be.

Bile is produced in the liver and then sent to the gallbladder for storage. It plays a huge role in digesting fats and detoxing harmful substances.

When bile thickens, due in part to high estrogen, it can form stones, or hard deposits made of things like bile, cholesterol, and toxins. These stones clog up your liver and gallbladder and can cause problems like abdominal pain, nausea, changes in stool, pain between shoulder blades, fatigue, and much more.

Sluggish Liver

The liver is responsible for metabolizing the synthetic hormones present in birth control pills. Taking them literally causes more work for your liver to do, adding to the side effects of birth control.

The liver is such an important organ in your body. It’s responsible for 500 functions. We definitely do not want to overwork it and stress it out!

Poor Detoxification

Besides thickening bile, too much estrogen can also prevent bile from being released into the intestines like it should be. It prevents the Sphincter of Oddi, which connects the bile duct to the small intestine, from opening.

Healthy bile and a well-functioning liver and gallbladder are really important for getting rid of toxins and hormones your body no longer needs.

When your bile doesn’t empty out and help escort these unwanted substances out, it causes problems.

Toxins and hormones build up and can cause more gallstones and more liver problems, which affects the rest of the body. Acne, painful periods, dark circles under the eyes, rashes, headaches, and bad breath are just a few of the many problems stemming from poor liver health and detox issues.

Poor detox also contributes to even more problems in the rest of your gut. The high amount of stuck bile signals your stomach to lower its production of stomach acid, like we talked about already.

4. Mood

The use of hormonal contraceptives can also cause mood changes, including anxiety and depression, which I know can be almost worse than the physical side effects.

These synthetic hormones mess with the brain chemicals serotonin and dopamine, which influence our mood.

If those neurotransmitters take a nosedive, we might end up feeling sad, irritable, or anxious. It can feel like a rollercoaster of emotions.

Some women might experience it as mild mood swings, while others might go through big-time depression.

mood problems and birth control

5. Nutrient Depletion

Hormonal contraceptives can also interfere with the absorption and utilization of vital nutrients in the body.

The synthetic hormones disrupt the balance and function of certain enzymes, leading to reduced absorption or increased excretion of these nutrients:

  • Magnesium
  • Zinc
  • Selenium
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin E
  • B Vitamins

Vitamins and minerals play a crucial role in so many processes going on in your body. The ones above are important for things like:

  • Energy production
  • Immune function
  • Wound healing
  • Detoxification
  • Protecting against free radicals (they’re antioxidants)
  • Disease prevention
  • Neurological function
  • Red blood cell formation

We definitely don’t want to be depleting these guys. So if you do stick with birth control pills, it’s really important to eat a nutrient-dense diet and support digestion in other ways to somewhat counteract the negative effects of birth control.

6. Copper Dysregulation

Another one of the side effects of birth control is that it can contribute to copper dysregulation. That’s basically when you have an excess accumulation of the mineral copper in your body.

Copper is not a bad guy by any means. It’s an important mineral for many functions in the body, like:

  • Forming healthy connective tissue
  • Producing energy
  • Maintaining a strong immune system
  • Regulating neurotransmitters
  • Regulating iron

But too much of it staying stuck in your tissues can cause problems.

The synthetic hormones in contraceptives increase copper retention in the kidneys, leading to higher levels of copper in your body.

One place copper can build up is the liver (here we go again!). And when it’s there, it slows down the liver’s ability to detox excess estrogen.

So high estrogen raises copper, and high copper retains estrogen.

It’s important to note that even though the copper is in excess, it may not be bioavailable – meaning, it may be present in the body but not accessible for use in physiological processes, especially when you have a sluggish liver.

Copper is needed to regulate iron, so when it’s not available to do that, problems like anemia and fatigue can happen.

fatigue and birth control

7. Estrogen Dominance

Hormonal contraceptives often contain synthetic estrogen which can, lead to a condition known as Estrogen Dominance. This occurs when the ratio of estrogen to progesterone in the body becomes imbalanced – either an excess of estrogen in and of itself or too much estrogen (even if technically low) compared to progesterone.

I’ve shared some negatives of too much estrogen already. But some other potential issues of estrogen dominance include:

  • Weight gain
  • Bloating
  • Mood swings
  • Increased risk for certain types of cancers such as breast and uterine cancer
  • Heavy or irregular periods (obviously if you’re on birth control pills you’re probably not having a regular period, but estrogen dominance aside from the pill can cause problems here)
  • Fatigue
  • Breast tenderness
  • Headaches
  • Endometriosis
  • Fibroids
  • Breast tenderness

8. Thyroid Issues

Hormonal contraceptives can also influence thyroid function.

Thyroid hormones play a crucial role in metabolism and energy production.

The higher levels of estrogen in birth control pills increase the body’s production of thyroid-binding globulin (TBG), a protein that binds to thyroid hormone and makes it unavailable for use by the body’s cells.

This increase in TBG can lead to lower levels of free thyroid hormones, resulting in symptoms associated with hypothyroidism, such as fatigue, weight gain, and cold hands and feet.

weight gain and birth control

9. Immune System Suppression

The synthetic hormones in birth control can mess with your body’s natural defense mechanisms.

Those high levels of progesterone and estrogen can actually weaken your immune response, making it harder for your body to fight off infections and other foreign stuff.

Don’t worry, your immune system is still doing its thing, but it might not be as quick or strong when it comes to dealing with those pesky pathogens. This could make you more susceptible to infections and illnesses.

10. Infertility

I know many women go on birth control to prevent pregnancy. Unfortunately, birth control can take that to an extreme and can cause infertility in the long term.

Remember, one way birth control works is being preventing ovulation. This disrupts your normal hormonal cycle.

When contraceptives are used for a prolonged period, the body can take some time to reestablish its natural hormonal balance and resume regular ovulation once you go off the pill. In some cases, this delay can extend over years.

infertility side effects of birth control

11. Insulin Resistance

Another birth control side effect is that it is linked to insulin resistance, where the cells of the body become less responsive to the hormone insulin.

Insulin is crucial for allowing glucose to enter cells, where it’s used for energy.

The added hormones in birth control can disrupt the normal function of insulin, making it less effective at transporting glucose into the cells. This results in the accumulation of glucose in the bloodstream, leading to high blood sugar levels.

Prolonged high blood sugar levels may ultimately lead to the development of type 2 diabetes.

12. Skin Issues

The added hormones can stimulate the production of sebum, an oily substance that lubricates the skin. Excessive sebum can clog the skin’s pores, leading to the development of acne.

On the flip side, some contraceptives may decrease sebum production, causing skin dryness.

So birth control can cause a variety of skin issues.

13. Reduced Libido

Hormonal contraceptives, like birth control pills, can also put a damper on your sex drive (a bit ironic, right?).

These pills mess with your hormone balance, including testosterone. And guess what? Testosterone isn’t just for guys. It’s also present in females and plays a big role in your sex drive.

So, when you mess with those hormones, it can potentially lower your libido.

So you probably go on the pill so that you can have sex without the risk of getting pregnant. But then you’re never in the mood anymore anyway. So what’s the point?

14. Cardiovascular Risks

Birth control pills can have a significant impact on cardiovascular health, which is something we need to be aware of as heart disease is currently the leading cause of death in the U.S.

These little pills are associated with an increased risk of high blood pressure, a well-known risk factor for heart disease. It’s all because of the synthetic hormones they contain. These hormones can mess with the balance of salt and water in our bodies, causing our blood pressure to rise.

And that’s not all – they also increase the chances of blood clots forming, which can lead to strokes or heart attacks. Scary stuff, right?

An Alternative Approach: Fertility Awareness Method

So, as you can see, there are many, many side effects of birth control. Keeping these things in mind, it’s important to consider natural alternatives don’t mess with your long-term health.

The fertility awareness method (FAM) is one such option. It requires tracking your basal body temperature daily and understanding your menstrual cycle to estimate fertility.

This non-invasive, natural method allows for pregnancy prevention without the health risks associated with hormonal birth control.

Implementing the Fertility Awareness Method (FAM) requires a combination of diligent observation and record-keeping.

  1. Firstly, you need to monitor your basal body temperature (BBT) every day. Basal body temperature is your body temperature when you are fully at rest. So you should take it first thing in the morning before you’ve eaten or done any kind of physical activity. You also want to use a special BBT thermometer, like this one, which is sensitive enough to measure to the hundredth of a degree and detect minor changes in your body temperature.
  2. Secondly, you should keep track of your menstrual cycle. The first day of your period is considered day one of your cycle, and the cycle continues up until the day before your next period begins. Normal cycles can range anywhere from 21 to 35 days, but you should identify what’s normal for you.
  3. Lastly, you should observe changes in your cervical mucus. During ovulation, when you’re at your most fertile, you’ll notice an increase in cervical mucus, and it will take on an egg white-like consistency.

Using this information, you’ll be able to recognize the times during your menstrual cycle when you’re most fertile. Typically, this is a window of about six days during your menstrual cycle when the likelihood of becoming pregnant is highest. This window includes the five days preceding ovulation and the day of ovulation itself.

So if your goal is to avoid pregnancy, abstain from unprotected sex during this fertile window. Outside of this fertile window, the likelihood of becoming pregnant is significantly reduced, and sexual intercourse is less likely to result in pregnancy. However, keep in mind that the fertility awareness method isn’t 100% foolproof, and there’s always a potential risk of getting pregnant (even with birth control).

The absolute best thermometer I know of that can help you more accurately keep track of when you’re ovulating is the Temp Drop. It makes things so much easier. You don’t have to remember to take your temperature as soon as you wake up and are still groggy in the morning.

Temp Drop is a wearable device you put on your arm before you go to bed, and it automatically takes your temperature while you’re sleeping, no matter what time you wake up. And then you just sync it to their app in the morning.

Their app helps you chart your temps, period, and cervical mucous and identify when you are most fertile. It takes so much of the stress and guesswork out.

Whether you do it on your own or use the Temp Drop to make it easier, the FAM empowers you to understand your body and cycle better.

fertility awareness method to eliminate side effects of birth control

Conclusion

Birth control has been embraced by modern society as a given – the single solution for pregnancy prevention.

This post is by no means meant to scare you. But it’s meant to share with you the risks. Risk that you may not have been told by your doctor before you started on it (it’s me, hi!).

Whether or not you choose to use traditional birth control is up to you. It is completely your decision. I’m not here to make that decision for you. And your doctor, friends, or family shouldn’t pressure you into that decision either. Take this information and make an informed decision. Do what you believe in your heart is best for you and your family.

But if you tried birth control for reasons other than to prevent pregnancy, it’s important to consider why they’re there, instead of treating them with potentially harmful “solutions.”

If you have symptoms of any type going on in your body, menstrual cycle-related or not, it’s important to get to the root cause of them. And birth control pills, patches, or IUDs could very well be your root cause.

14 Dangerous Side Effects of Birth Control & What to Do Instead14 Dangerous Side Effects of Birth Control & What to Do Instead14 Dangerous Side Effects of Birth Control & What to Do Instead14 Dangerous Side Effects of Birth Control & What to Do Instead14 Dangerous Side Effects of Birth Control & What to Do Instead
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