Hormonal birth control has been toted as the most effective birth control method for years, but is that really true?
While it does prevent 90% of pregnancies, it still has a 10% rate of inaccuracy. But alas, it is still the method doctors prescribe and give to patients of any age. While I’m not anti-birth control, I am anti-prescription without knowledge. Often times this method is passed to women without any real description of the pill.
Furthermore, the pill is used more as a symptom reliever than for preventing pregnancies these days.
For instance, when I was fifteen, I was prescribed the pill for PCOS and knew nothing of the ramifications of taking it. Like most prescription drugs, while it bandaids a problem, it doesn’t actually heal the underlying issues.
Do the side effects just impact your reproductive system?
However, hormonal birth control is not without side effects – and as you will later see, the side effects go beyond your reproductive system. If you are considering the use of hormonal birth control or if you’re already using it, you should know the possible side effects that you can experience – positive or negative – before using (or continue using) it. But before we move on to the side effects of hormonal birth control, it’s important to briefly look at what hormonal birth control is and what it does.
From the word itself, hormonal birth controls are birth control methods and tools that add synthetic hormones – mainly, a combination of estrogen and progestin or progestin-only – to your system. These hormones are synthetic which means they are lab formulated and not actually real, true hormones. And your body can sense the difference.
Although its process helps you reduce your risk of unwanted pregnancy to as low as 1% if you “perfectly” followed its procedure, it technically induces hormonal imbalance as it adds synthetic hormones to your system – and we all know that hormonal imbalance is a messy thing!
Most of these side effects come from the hormonal effects that hormonal birth control brings. But what are these side effects?
Side Effects of Hormonal Birth Control
Here are some of the possible side effects of hormonal birth control. Of course, every woman is different, so each woman will experience the side effects differently. But generally, here are the possible side effects you can experience if you use hormonal birth control:
1) Weight gain
Increased estrogen levels can cause weight gain. However, in the case of hormonal birth control, weight gain is usually just temporary, depending on the amount of estrogen you get from your pill.
If you are having problems with your weight, there are low-estrogen pills that you can buy and can still be effective as regular pills. Aside from taking low-estrogen pills, working out regularly and eating a proper diet is key to losing or maintaining your weight.
2) Mood swings
Mood swings and attitude changes can happen whenever we get hormones outside our body such as by taking hormonal birth control. If you are taking birth control pills and you’re starting to experience mood swings that you normally didn’t have, it likely could be a side effect from the pills you’re taking.
If you’re just planning to take birth control pills, consider how it can affect your mood. Aside from mood swings, it can bring your mood in a downward spiral to the point that you may experience depression-like symptoms if not an actual depression. Some of the moods you may experience are less interest in things that once interest you, dwindling relationships, lack of motivation to even get out of bed, etc.
3) You’re experiencing less menstrual migraine
Now, for a good side effect: hormonal birth control can lessen your menstrual migraine.
Menstrual migraines are often caused by low estrogen levels during this phase. Aside from migraines, you can also experience other problems such as dizziness, nausea, and light sensitivity. Adding some estrogen via birth control pills can lessen or even prevent menstrual migraines altogether.
4) Change of appetite
Our hormones affect the way we eat, hence affecting hormones such as via increased estrogen through birth control pills can influence our appetite and the way we eat. In a way, changed appetite can also explain the weight changes coming from birth control pills such as weight gain.
5) Long-term painful periods
Dysmenorrhea can be a very painful part of our period. Depending on your hormone levels, the pain that comes with your period can either decrease or increase when you enlist birth control to help. For some it might help ease, others it might worsen. And the long-term effects are not studied on this.
6) Increased risk of blood clotting
If there is one chilling side effect that you may experience while you’re on birth control, it’s this: increased risk of blood clotting. Increased estrogen is to blame for the increased risk of blood clotting, so if you’re taking progestin-only pills, your risk of blood clotting is lesser compared to if you’re taking estrogen.
If you’re experiencing swelling of legs, calf pain, and shortness of breath, consider consulting your doctor or calling 911 as it can lead to severe health problems. You may also experience signs leading to a heart attack or stroke, so keep an eye on them. Here are their respective symptoms:
- Heart attack
- Pain in chest, arms, shoulders, back, or neck
- Weakness in an arm, leg, or face
- Sudden severe headache
7) Gut Health Imbalances
When you start taking birth control it is important to know that it will disrupt many different functions in your body, one being your gut health. Specifically, it disrupts your gut flora and estrogen metabolism, making gut health issues arise in many females.
When your estrogen metabolism is off, it can lead to things like inflammatory bowel disease, mental health issues like depression, and many different digestive issues.
Although there are many negative side effects which you may experience from taking hormonal birth control, you have to consider that, at the end of the day, hormonal birth control such as birth control pills are synthetic hormones – and adding them to your body can wreck your hormonal health by inducing hormonal imbalance.
To begin with, hormonal imbalance can disrupt your entire life, leading to gut-health issues, mental health issues, metabolic issues, and more.
In the end, although the idea of hormonal birth control is appealing, consider the short- and long-term side effects of taking it.
I hope this post was helpful and answered some of your questions on hormonal birth control! Next week I will be addressing the alternatives to hormonal birth control, the Fertility Awareness method in particular.
Feel free to shoot me an email or a message on Instagram if you have any questions. Also, I recently joined TikTok and I’m obsessed with making videos. So if you’re on the platform, feel free to check it out.
P.S. If you’re interested in learning more about hormone health, check out a few of my other articles on hormone health here:
- Stress And Your Hormones: 6 Hormones That Your Body Releases Under Stress
- Post-Birth Control Syndrome: 10 Symptoms & How To Heal From It
- Gut Health And Hormones: The Relationship That You Should Know About
- Post-Birth Control Syndrome: 10 Symptoms & How To Heal From It
- Cycle Syncing: Improving Your Health By Getting To Know Your Menstrual Cycle