In 2021, nearly every gynecological problem under the sun is seemingly ‘solved’ with a little white pill. Maybe you’ve experienced an OBYGN visit similar to this: you mentally prepare for your appointment with one (or maybe several) symptoms in mind that you’d like to address. It could be acne, painful periods or debilitating cramps, a period that is too heavy or too lengthy, fatigue, chronic headaches, mood swings, missed periods, or any number of symptoms. When you finally see your OBGYN for maybe fifteen minutes (at best) and rely the extent of your symptoms, he or she hands you a prescription for the Pill, and you are sent on your way.
If you have experienced negative side effects from the Pill—including mood swings, bloating, weight gain, nausea, headaches, depression, low sex drive, or breast pain—you are not alone. In fact, many women come off of the pill because they traded their original symptoms for different ones once beginning the pill. On the other hand, maybe you’ve experienced relief from your symptoms from the Pill and view it as the solution to both your health and pregnancy-avoiding needs. In that case, it may seem obvious that the birth control pill has solved your health and period problems. However, this is only true on the surface.
A deeper look into what the birth control pill actually does reveals that none of its functions include regulating your periods or fixing any hormonal or menstrual problems you may have had. Then what does it do? Let’s take a look.
The birth control pills, or “the Pill” as its more commonly known, contain synthetic hormones. They may contain both estrogen and progestin or just progestin. Progestin is an imitation of the hormone a woman’s body naturally produces towards the end of her menstrual cycle called progesterone. This hormone rises after ovulation, then falls again as you approach your next period. If you are pregnant, however, progesterone remains at a higher level, as one of its functions is to sustain a thicker lining in a woman’s uterus, which is necessary in order for her body to sustain a pregnancy. In short, the birth control pill’s artificial progesterone—progestin—tricks your body into thinking it is already pregnant in order to prevent you from becoming pregnant ‘again.’
The light bleeding you may experience then when on the Pill is not actually a true period, since you cannot get your period when you’re pregnant (and remember, when you’re on the Pill—your body is functioning on a certain level like you are pregnant). It is an artificial period sometimes called withdrawal bleeding, and it is a result of hormonal levels dropping in your pills over the course of the month. Effectively, the birth control pill is not regulating your period; it is eliminating it.
This is unsettling for a few reasons. First, the elimination of a woman’s period while on the Pill does each woman a great disservice. Whatever painful cramps or periods she may have experienced before starting oral contraceptives like the Pill are masked without addressing their root causes. These kinds of symptoms—irregular cycles, heavy or prolonged periods, painful menses and debilitating cramps—are not normal or part of a healthy cycle, though they are all-too-frequently accepted by healthcare providers as normal but ‘treatable’ via the Pill.
These symptoms are often indicative of underlying hormonal imbalances or medical conditions such as endometriosis or polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). Rather than providing a pathway to healing, the Pill simply covers up the symptoms or side-effects of internal hormonal issues—making it seem like one’s health problems have disappeared, when in reality they are only quieted, leaving women clueless as to what is actually happening inside of their bodies and lost as to how to remedy what problems might be ailing them.
Second, the synthetic hormones that prevent a woman from getting her period while on the Pill are also, at their core, preventing a woman from ovulating each month, essentially eliminating a woman’s cycle and flat-lining her hormonal levels. This is problematic because a healthy woman’s hormones should fluctuate over the course of her cycle every month. When a woman’s hormone levels are abnormal, she can experience the aforementioned symptoms of painful periods and cramps, heavy or prolonged bleeding, missed periods, acne, mood swings, depression, and others. That is why it is important not to bring a woman’s hormonal levels to steady, unnatural levels like the Pill does. When these hormones are flat-lined via the Pill rather rising and falling in distinct patterns each month, it prevents a woman from being able to get to the heart of the hormonal issues that may be causing her symptoms in the first place.
The Pill cannot get to the heart of any of the symptoms you may be experiencing by addressing hormonal imbalances; it can only cover deeper issues up. It is a Band-Aid at best, and women deserve so much more than that.
If you desire to get to the heart of your gynecological issues, check out fertilitycare.org to find a natural OBGYN near you.