At the time I was first diagnosed with Hashimoto’s, I knew that I was not yet ready to start a family. With my health being less than optimal, it was obvious to me that an unplanned pregnancy would wreak havoc on my health, and that I would need to postpone any plans to have children.
At the same time, I was a pharmacist and knew through both training and my first-hand experience, that taking artificial hormones in the form of birth control pills was contributing to my poor health.
Have you heard about the many ways that birth control pills can impact your health?
In this article, you’ll discover:
- The 14 ways birth control pills rob us of our health
- Alternative birth control methods
- Strategies to consider beyond the pill
14 Ways Birth Control Pills Rob Us of Our Health
- Birth control pills deplete selenium, zinc, and the amino acid tyrosine, from our bodies. These are all vitamins and minerals that are necessary for proper thyroid function!
- The hormones in birth control pills suppress our own body’s production of estrogen and progesterone through a negative feedback loop mechanism. Birth control pills flood our bodies with high doses of artificial estrogen and progesterone, causing our production of natural hormones to turn off, preventing ovulation, and thinning the uterine lining. This can lead to a hormonal imbalance such as estrogen dominance.
- Birth control pills increase the risk of blood clots and strokes. The risk greatly increases after age 35 and for women who smoke.
- Birth control pills can thin our bones, leading to osteoporosis.
- Oral contraceptives stimulate a shift from the Th1 to the Th2 immune branch. This can produce an imbalance of the immune system, perpetuating autoimmune conditions.
- Birth control pills can change our normal flora, allowing yeast and other pathogenic organisms to thrive.
- Women who take birth control pills have an altered preference to mates, due to the change in hormones.
- Birth control pills increase the risk of breast, ovarian, and liver cancers.
- Birth control pills impair our ability to build muscle, despite exercise.
- Birth control pills can decrease sexual desire by suppressing testosterone. (Yes, women produce small amounts of testosterone too.)
- High doses of estrogen contained in birth control pills increase the activity of TBG (Thyroxine Binding Globulin), which binds thyroid hormone. More circulating TGB leads to lower levels of free thyroid hormone available for use by the body.
- Many oral contraceptives contain lactose as an inactive filler. This may be an issue for many individuals with food intolerances and for women with Hashimoto’s who often present with dairy and gluten intolerances.
- Birth control pills lower our DHEA production. DHEA has been described as an anti-aging hormone, and many conditions, including autoimmune conditions, have been associated with low DHEA levels.
- Birth control pills deplete our bodies of folate, B12, and B6 vitamins. A deficiency in any of these may result in anemia, birth defects during pregnancy, depression, and other serious conditions.
With all of these things in mind, I knew that it was time to kick the hormonal birth control habit. But what were my alternatives? Condoms have a 14-15 percent failure rate… That seemed like too big of a risk to take. And I wasn’t too crazy about implants or any of the other birth control methods out there.
I then learned about another approach to birth control that changed everything for me.
Alternatives to Birth Control Pills
When I first heard about the Fertility Awareness Method, I was slightly skeptical, but extremely intrigued. This method doesn’t involve the use of any drugs, hormones, or implanted devices, but instead utilizes knowledge of the female reproductive cycles to predict days a woman will be fertile, as well as days that she isn’t.
With a typical menstrual cycle lasting 28 days (count Day 1 as the first day of the menstrual period), most women ovulate somewhere in the middle of this cycle. But not every woman has a 28-day cycle, and not every woman with a 28-day cycle ovulates right in the middle of her cycle. Additionally, many women may ovulate at different times each month depending on lifestyle factors.
Fertilization can occur five days before ovulation, or on the day of ovulation. Therefore, a woman will typically be infertile near the beginning and end of her menstrual cycle, and fertile for six days somewhere in the middle, around ovulation.
We can determine ovulation by noting cervical position, changes in cervical fluids, and the thermal shift in basal temperatures. Temperatures go up by 0.4-0.6 degrees Fahrenheit after ovulation, and this thermal shift can be measured by using a very sensitive basal thermometer right after waking up. The temperatures, along with the other fertility signs, are recorded in a daily fertility chart that will help a woman analyze where she is in her fertility cycle.
As a bonus, measuring your basal temperatures can help with measuring progress in your Hashimoto’s treatment. Your preovulatory temperature (usually the first 10-15 days of your cycle) is key to determining how well your thyroid and adrenals are performing. A preovulatory temperature is normally between 97.0-97.7 degrees Fahrenheit. Temps that are consistently lower than 97.3 degrees F may signal an underactive thyroid, while temps that are consistently above 97.7 degrees F may signal an overactive thyroid.
Also, temperatures that are low but inconsistent may signal adrenal insufficiency.
I highly recommend the book Taking Charge of Your Fertility, as it provides an amazingly descriptive and thorough overview of the Fertility Awareness Method for pregnancy prevention and achievement. After reading this book cover to cover, I purchased a copy for all of my girlfriends!
While the Fertility Awareness Method can be very effective, I was still worried about doing it on my own. This method can fail in 25 percent of “typical” users who are not diligent in their tracking, and I was afraid that I would fall into that category with my busy lifestyle.
That’s when I found the Lady-Comp fertility monitor, which is a mini computer/alarm system that comes with an ultra-sensitive thermometer. This device learns your own body’s normal temperatures and does the analysis for you, letting you know which days you are fertile with easy-to-read displays (red light – fertile, yellow light – learning, green light – infertile).
According to the manufacturer, “Lady-Comp is programmed with all natural family planning research data. It contains a database of more than 900,000 cycles and uses bio-mathematical forecasting calculations as well as the very latest computer techniques. It is a personal fertility monitor, which learns and adjusts to your individual cycle, regardless of irregularities or cycle length. Lady-Comp is a one-time purchase without any recurring costs. Several clinical studies confirm its 99.3% accuracy.”
While this mini-computer is costly, fertility monitors are covered under Flex Spending and Health Savings Accounts. It’s very good to know for those who can either use it or lose it at the end of the year, or who want to plan for next year. It is also a one time purchase. One month of brand name birth control pills can cost an upward of $100. Thus, the monitor pays for itself within a few months! (I included this last sentence for those of you who have husbands who work in finance, like mine does.)
This monitor can also be used to plan a future pregnancy for when the time is right!
Getting off hormonal birth control pills and tracking my natural cycles became an amazing experience for me, and this taught me a great deal about my own body. It was interesting to watch my temperatures change throughout the month, and to notice that all of a sudden, my husband smelled really, really good after a jog around the time of my ovulation (which is usually Day 17 or 18 for me, not Day 14 as some would lead you to believe)!
Another benefit of the Fertility Awareness Method is that it can also be used to plan a pregnancy for when the time is right, and my baby boy, Dimitry, is evidence that it works pretty well for this!
Beyond Birth Control
Choosing the right birth control option is a highly personal choice, and for some, the benefit of oral contraceptives outweighs the risks. This includes women with certain serious medical conditions for whom hormonal birth control is necessary. In such cases, supplementing with probiotics, magnesium, zinc, B vitamins and vitamin C is strongly recommended. Whether you continue to take birth control or decide to use an alternative, if you have experienced side effects, I highly recommend the new protocol-based book by my dear friend Dr. Jolene Brighten. Beyond the Pill: A 30-Day Program to Balance Your Hormones, Reclaim Your Body, and Reverse the Dangerous Side Effects of the Birth Control Pill, will be a huge asset to you in gaining back your health.
In 2015, I invited Jolene to my first ever Thyroid Mastermind, a “meeting of the minds” of some of the top experts in natural thyroid health, to share best practices and collaborate. Dr. Alan Christianson, Dr. Datis Kharrazian, and Dr. Brian Mowll were some of the attendees at this incredible event where The Thyroid Secret first became an idea.
In addition to learning more about Low Dose Naltrexone from Shannon Garrett R.N. and lasers from Dr. Kirk Gair, I found Jolene, who has become my go-to expert for women’s hormones and reproductive health. In fact, she was my top featured expert in The Thyroid Secret, discussing thyroid health in pregnancy and postpartum, and was one of the first people I called for a complete download when I found out I was pregnant with my little Dimitry!
I remember being in the room at the Mastermind when Jolene shared that she kept meeting women with post-birth control syndrome, and had developed specific protocols to address their issues. Afterwards, I encouraged her to share her wisdom with the world in book-form.
You see, a lot of us practitioners and researchers have a unique knowledge and experience, and it takes a lot of courage and time away from our families and businesses to share this knowledge with the world. I know I personally have at least seven books I could write on various health conditions due to patterns I’ve uncovered, but I’m still looking for the time to write them!
So, I’m incredibly excited that Dr. Brighten made the time and has shared this important information about hormonal and reproductive health in her new book, Beyond the Pill.
In it, she shares her proven 30-day program designed to reverse the myriad of symptoms women experience every day—whether they choose to stay on the pill or not. The first book of its kind to target the birth control pill and the scientifically-proven symptoms associated with taking it, Beyond the Pill is an actionable plan for taking control, and will help readers:
- Locate the root cause of their hormonal issues, like estrogen dominance, low testosterone, and low progesterone
- Discover a manageable period free of cramps, acne, stress, or PMS—without the harmful side effects that come with the pill
- Detoxify the liver, support the adrenals and thyroid, heal the gut, reverse metabolic mayhem, boost fertility, and enhance mood
- Transition into a nutrition and supplement program, with more than 30 hormone-balancing recipes
Featuring simple diet and lifestyle interventions, Beyond the Pill: A 30-Day Program to Balance Your Hormones, Reclaim Your Body, and Reverse the Dangerous Side Effects of the Birth Control Pill, is the first step to reversing the risky side effects of the pill, finally finding hormonal health, and getting your life back! You can purchase your copy of Beyond the Pill now!
I hope this information helps you toward better hormonal health!
PS. You can also download a free Thyroid Diet Guide, 10 thyroid-friendly recipes, and the Nutrient Depletions and Digestion chapter of my first book for free by going to www.thyroidpharmacist.com/gift. You will also receive occasional updates about new research, resources, giveaways and helpful information.
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Note: Originally published in April 2015, this article has been revised and updated for accuracy and thoroughness.