Birth control pill - a modern day contraceptive that seems to make life easier for many women around the world. It grants women the power to have control over their reproductive life. But, as always, there’s another side to this story and this side is rarely effectively communicated.
How the pill works
Oral contraceptives are made of synthetic hormones, typically a combination of estrogen and progestin (a synthetic version of progesterone. These are two main sex hormones that are crucial for the reproductive system. In simple words, the birth control pill tricks your body into thinking it has certain levels of these hormones (during certain periods of the menstrual cycle), so the body thinks you’re already pregnant. To go a little deeper - estrogen inhibits ovulation and progestin thickens the cervical mucus, making it hard for sperm to move through. In addition, progestin alters the uterine lining, so in case of pregnancy the implantation will not occur. To make it more clear - when on a pill it’s possible that an already fertilized egg will not implant in the uterus and will leave the body with the menstrual blood. In other cases, this can be called an implantation failure, but a woman on a pill might not even notice it’s happening.
Although there’s a long list of potential side effects, in western medicine world oral contraceptive pills are considered generally safe. It’s important to know that some of the most well known side effects include headaches, mood swings, weight gain, tiredness, nausea, bloating, and low libido. However, what is less commonly discussed is the nutrient deficiency that is caused by the birth control pills.
Folate - a type of B vitamin that’s involved in DNA synthesis and cell division processes. This vitamin is extremely important for proper neural tube development in the fetus. Many women on birth control pills are chronically depleted of this vitamin. Being unaware of this fact when coming off of the pill for the purpose of getting pregnant can lead to serious health defects in a woman's future baby.
Vitamin B2 - this vitamin plays an important role in carbohydrate and fat metabolism and is involved in energy production and growth. B2 deficiency has been associated with headache and migraines.
Vitamin B6 - this is an important vitamin for many functions in the body. It’s involved in heart and brain health, muscle function, nervous system and more. B6 deficiency helps to keep your mood high and happy by producing serotonin - a feel good neurotransmitter. It also has a direct impact on immune functioning and glucose regulation. Moreover, lack of this vitamin can lead to hormonal imbalance of estrogen and progesterone - two vital fertility hormones.
Vitamin B12 - an essential vitamin that your body cannot produce. It helps with red blood cell formation, supports bone health, plays an important role in brain functioning, energy production and DNA synthesis. B12 deficiency can lead to health complications such as anaemia or depression. Moreover, at early stages of pregnancy B12 deficiency in mother may increase risk of neural tube defects, can contribute to premature birth or even miscarriage. Again, think about a woman who’s coming off of a pill and unaware of this fact.
Vitamin C - another important vitamin that is necessary for growth, development and repair of all body tissues. It’s involved in many important functions in the body such as collagen production, iron absorption, proper immune system functioning, wound healing and more. It’s also a very potent antioxidant against free radicals int the body.
Vitamin E - essential vitamin for vision, blood, brain, skin and reproductive health. It also acts as an antioxidant and protects cell membranes. Vitamin E deficiency may lead to increased risk of blood clots.
Zinc - the second most abundant trace element in the human body. Plays a crucial role in immune system functioning, metabolism of genetic material and wound healing. It’s also involved in many reproductive processes. Birth control pills decrease absorption of zinc or increase its excretion, which leads to deficiency.
Magnesium - very important for energy production, heart and blood health, nervous system regulation, digestion and much more. It assists more than 300 enzymes to carry out various chemical reactions in the body. It’s clear that magnesium deficiency can lead to a lot of serious health complications.
Selenium - serves as a cofactor that helps to convert inactive thyroid hormone to an active form. It’s crucial for proper thyroid functioning and a deficiency may lead to hypothyroidism. It also acts as an antioxidant, supports cardiovascular health, fertility, cognitive and immune functioning.
The impact on the body
Looking at the vitamins and minerals that can get depleted, it’s easy to conclude that there’s a clear correlation with the long list of potential side effects of the oral contraceptives. All these nutrients are vital for proper functioning of nearly every system in your body. In addition, it’s important to remember that a nutrient deficiency can lead to things like hair loss, skin problems, digestive issues, abnormal formation of bones or teeth, eye problems, diabetes, heart diseases and more.
Some of the research also shows an association between oral contraceptives and Crohn's Disease, as well as Ulcerative Colitis (3) . Oral estrogen, that is used in the pill, modifies intestinal permeability and can also cause damage to the intestinal microbiome (gut bacteria).
Moreover, nearly all the research shows the link between oral contraceptives and cancer risk (4) . The studies have consistently provided evidence that women who take oral contraceptives have increased risk of breast and cervical cancers.
Coming off of the pill
First thing first, if you’re coming off of the pill and wish to have control over your fertility, there’re alternative ways of doing so. Fertility Awareness Based-Method is one of them and it allows you to have a family planning option without causing your body to go through health complications that come with the pill. This is an evidence based method of cycle charting that can be used as an effective way of birth control.
Secondly, as you can imagine, your body needs to replenish all those vital nutrients (5) . Having a balanced diet rich in nutrient dense foods is a must after coming off of oral contraceptives. This is where organic bone broth can help. Organic bone broth is abundant in essential elements such as amino acids, collagen, magnesium, zinc, vitamins B6, B12, E and much more. It’s the ultimate natural multivitamin that will help you to not only replenish your body with the necessary nutrients, but also heal your gut and repair the potential damage of the birth control pill. Here you can learn more how bone broth can support your fertility.
Lastly, as we learned that oral contraceptives can disrupt the intestinal microbiome, supplementation with high quality probiotic is something to consider too.
For those of you who may need an additional support, guidance or custom programs I offer a Free 20 Minute Consultation where we can seek to uncover the ideal solutions for your optimal wellbeing. Please click here to get in touch.
Disclaimer: Please note that the information in this article is not a medical advice It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read in this article.
KEREN BAR BIO
Keren Bar is a Certified Nutritional Practitioner, Holistic Fertility Specialist and a student of the HeartMath Institute.
Her mission is to help women to boost their fertility and increase their chances to get pregnant in a natural and holistic way. You can learn more about Keren's work at www.fertilityworks.com.