What You Need To Know About Hormonal Birth Control + Safer And Healthier Alternatives
Written by: Kat Gal
Hormonal Birth Control + Safer And Healthier Alternatives
Ladies, this post will change your life with important information you need to know about birth control. Gentlemen, don’t turn away, read on – you play an equal part in this.
If you are a woman, you are likely taking birth control pills, have taken them or have considered taking them. It is not surprising since about 150 million women worldwide take hormonal birth control pills. Yet these pills may come with unwanted side effects and negative health consequences in the long-run.
But taking the pill may not be your only option; there are better, hormone-free and natural alternatives out there.
Personally, I have only had a short stint with the pill. The side effects were too much to take and I gave up after two weeks. Part of the reason was probably that I have always been hesitant to put pharmaceuticals and hormones into my body – even before my holistic health journey. I have always been happy with my non-hormonal alternatives that have worked for me my entire adult life.
Seeing girlfriends and clients struggling with the side effects of pills, the after-effect of getting off of them, I know I made the right decision for myself by staying away from hormonal birth control.
You owe it to your body to educate yourself about hormonal birth control and to find the best alternative solution that works for you.
Birth Control Is Filled With Synthetic Hormones
Let’s start with your divine womanly body. Your body ovulates once every month. A new egg goes on a journey through your fallopian tube. Wee, fun travels. If the egg is fertilized, it will implant into your uterus once it reaches it (congratulations, you are pregnant!). If not, then the lining of your uterus that had built up for pregnancy along with the unfertilized egg will leave your body. Yay, period (congratulations, you are not pregnant!). Then, this natural cycle continues as your body prepares itself for a new egg’s journey.
When you take birth control, you are essentially manipulating your cycle with synthetic hormones. Due to its high estrogen levels, the pill essentially tricks your body that it’s pregnant. Your uterine lining thicken as a result. Then as you move onto the ‘sugar pills,’ the estrogen levels drop and your body is ready to menstruate as scheduled.
It sounds like a good deal at first glance. You more likely won’t be experiencing unwanted pregnancies. You still get your period to know that there are no unwanted babies coming. If you want to skip your period, you can even skip the ‘sugar pills.’ You can manipulate your cycle. You are in control. Yay.
Actually, not so much.
The truth is that your body is smarter than that. Your body knows that these synthetic hormones should not be coming in. Your body can start hurting from the invasion of synthetic hormones and can signal you through side-effects and suffer from long-term consequences.
It’s Not Just The Pill
Note that though ‘the pill’ may be the most common hormonal birth control to talk about, there are other hormonal birth control methods, such as the patch, vaginal rings, mini pills and shots that can be also – and sometimes more – damaging to your body. It is not only the various hormonal birth control pills we are warning you about, but also to stay away from hormones as much as possible.
What Are The Real Risks Of Hormonal Birth Control?
Synthetic birth control can cause various physical and emotional changes in your body. Some of these changes may be permanent. Some disappear as you get off the pill. Some consequences occur overtime and lead to damage in the long-run, while others hang around from day one. Some side effects are annoying, some are dangerous. Some of them (like less acne) you may even welcome.
Here are some changes your body may experience when on birth control:
- Weight gain or weight loss
- Increased or reduced acne
- Mood swings
- Larger breasts
- Breast tenderness
- Emotional sensitivity
- Decreased libido
- Appetite changes
You may be one of the many women who, despite the side effects and risks, is willing to take the pill because it seems convenient, because “everyone is taking it,” or because of pressure from a partner.
These side effects may be tolerable and make the pill still worthwhile, but if you read the more serious health risks of hormonal birth control, you may likely (and hopefully) change your mind.
These are some of the more serious health risks of hormonal birth control:
- High blood pressure
- Increased risk of breast cancer
- Increased risk of cervical cancer
- Increased risk of heart attack and stroke
- Benign liver tumors
- Decreased bone density
- Gallbladder disease
- Blood clots
- Yeast overgrowth
- More serious emotional health issues
What do you think now? Heart disease, stroke, cancer, infertility and more? Does it still seem worthwhile and convenient?
Think again. Think for you body. Think with love. Think with long-term health in mind. Continue reading for alternative solutions.
You Just Got Off the Pill. Now What?
Getting of the pill is not an easy thing. You may experience side effects, including acne, mood swings, yeast infections and irregular periods.
Hormonal birth control can not only mess with your hormones, but can mess with your gut flora too.
Hormonal methods of birth control can destroy the beneficial bacteria in your intestines, leading to a higher risk of candida, other yeast overgrowth, infections and lower immunity.
When you get off the hormones, it is important to re-balance your good flora, feeding it with good bacteria and helping your digestion and immune system.
Therefore, taking a strong daily probiotic supplement is extremely important. Along with supplements, eat probiotic rich foods, such as fermented foods, like sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir and kombucha.
To further help your diet, eat a diet free of or low in processed sugar, processed foods and artificial ingredients. A mostly plant based diet with whole foods (organic when possible), including greens, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, beans, legumes and whole grains can help your body to recover.
Such a healthy diet can help your hormonal system to recover as well.
Some specific foods that are great for hormonal health:
- Clean protein: quinoa, seeds, lentils, beans, raw nuts
- Hormone balancing healthy fats: avocado, coconut oil, hemp oil, flax oil, nuts and seeds
- Antioxidant rich veggies: dark leafy greens (kale, collard, cilantro etc.), dark green veggies (broccoli, cucumbers etc), bright colored veggies (peppers, carrots, tomatoes, etc.), starchy veggies (potatoes, beets, yucca, etc.)
- Spices and herbs: cinnamon, turmeric, ginger, garlic, etc.
- Superfoods: maca
- Supplements; magnesium, zinc, iron, vitamin B
Eating healthy is important, but eating regularly is too. Try to eat at the same time every day regularly without skipping meals. Eat slow and chew your food well. Don’t restrict your calories, but don’t overeat either until you can’t move.
Besides your diet, it is also important to live a balanced lifestyle in order to balance your hormones.
- Sleep 8 hours a day minimum. Go to sleep when it’s dark and wake as the sun shines.
- Use blue lights in your house.
- Mediate regularly.
- Practice relaxation techniques, such as breathing techniques, yoga and tapping.
- Journal regularly.
- Express gratitude.
- Exercise moderately, 30 minutes a day 5 days a week minimum.
- Connect with people you love.
- Learn to say “no” to things you don’t want to do or when you’ve got too much to do. Learn to say “yes” to things you love and want in life.
- Connect with nature. Go for nature walks. Garden. Do some earthing.
These are tips you should practice even if you choose to stick with hormonal birth control.
But what if you get off hormones? What are your alternatives to keep unwanted pregnancies away and your body healthy too?
Male condoms are worn on the penis during intercourse as a barrier. They are made of thin latex or plastic. When used correctly, they are very effective with only 2 women out of 100 getting pregnant. The stats are higher with typical, not (always) correct use.
Condoms are simple to use. They are widely available and relatively inexpensive. Hey, you can even get free condoms at some health centers. As a bonus they protect against STDs as well. There are latex-varieties if you or your partner are allergic and there are vegan brands if you have any ethical concerns.
The drawback could be a slightly less spontaneous sex and a higher failure rate when used incorrectly. In my humble opinion, there are way more pros to condoms than cons. Just make sure to use them correctly.
Female condoms are much less popular than the male condom. They are basically plastic pouches you need to insert to your vagina before intercourse. They are slightly less effective than male condoms. The correct use is still important, as with typical use it is only 79% effective. Just like male condom, they also prevents STDs. Depending on you and your partner’s preference, you may want to try the female condom.
IUDs are a tiny, T-shaped piece of plastic that is placed into your uterus to prevent pregnancy. They are more than 99% effective and you practically don’t have to think about them for many years. Copper IUDs can be left in for up to 10 years. They are completely hormone-free as the copper is the one that prevents the sperm to fertilize your eggs.
However, copper IUDs can have some unpleasant side-effects, such as heavier period, bleeding between periods and more cramping. There is a hormonal variety IUD as well. While they do have extra hormones inside them, it is much less than the one in the pill or most other hormonal methods.
If you must chose a hormonal method, this may be the best choice for you. Hormonal IUDs do not cause cramps or heavy periods, in fact, they will likely make your periods lighter and shorter. Neither IUDs prevent you from STDs.
Female sterilization, or in other words, tubal ligation is a surgical procedure to close or block your fallopian tubes. It is a popular form of birth control among women who are already mothers. The procedure won’t affect your hormones and is 99.5% effective.
If you are a childless woman of childbearing age (20s or 30s), it can be difficult to be approved for this procedure even if you know that you don’t want children. Female sterilization is something you don’t want to jump into without deep consideration. It is a surgical procedure after all that will alter your body and can be costly. Reversing it is difficult, expensive and only has 50% chance of working.
If you are with a long-term partner, you may want to look into male sterilization that is a less complicated procedure and is easier to reverse. This procedure does not prevent STDs either.
The fertility awareness, or natural planning, or rhythm method is a system of tracking your ovulation by charting your temperature or monitoring your cervical mucus. The idea is to figure out your fertile days, avoid intercourse those days and to prevent pregnancy that way.
There are several helpful apps and gadgets to help you with this increasingly popular natural method. The pros of this method is that it’s completely free and completely natural. There are no hormones (but yours), surgeries or barriers to sex. However, tracking your cycle may feel tedious. The effectiveness is not the best either with 1 out of 4 women using this method getting pregnant each year. This is only 75%.
This method is unreliable if your periods are irregular and your hormones are out of balance. They don’t prevent you from STDs either. Yet, the women who use this method tend to love it and swear by it. If you are interested in this method, Taking Charge of Your Fertility is a recommended book you can learn a lot from if you are interested in natural birth control, reproductive health, as well as natural pregnancy achievement.
The diaphragm is a shallow, dome-shaped silicone cup that you need to insert into your cervix before intercourse and can keep in for 24 hours. It needs a prescription, however, it is completely woman controlled, making you feel empowered. However, it can make sex less spontaneous.
The typical use only provides about 88% success, though spermicides can better your chances. Spermicides, however, are not natural and can cause irritation (more on them soon). Correct use is important and it doesn’t prevent you from STDs.
The Hormone-Free Methods We Do NOT Recommend
Spermicides are creams, gels and suppositories that are placed into your vagina before sex to kill sperm. Spermicides, though hormone-free, are not natural pharmaceutical substances that can cause irritation and other skin problems. Clearly, they are not the best for your body to say the least, therefore, we don’t recommend them. They are only 71% effective and don’t protect you from STDs either.
Sponge And Cervical Cap
There are other non-hormonal forms of birth control that use spermicides. The sponge is filled with spermicides and while it’s 88% effective for childless woman, it is only 76% effective for those with children.
The cervical cap is a barrier method that needs to be used along with spermicides, providing 84% success rate. While it’s not necessary, some women may use spermicides with their diaphragm to increase success rates.
The withdrawal, or pull out method is self-explanatory with your partner pulling his penis out of your vagina before ejaculation. This may be one of the oldest methods of birth control, hormone-free and natural, but it is by far not the safest. Your partner may not do it correctly or timely and it may be easy to get “carried away.” It has a very high failure rate with 27 out of 100 women getting pregnant.
As you can see, you have a variety of hormone-free and/or natural birth control options to choose from. Do your research, talk to your gynecologist or holistic doctor and discuss it with your partner, before making a decision. If you are undecided, try out different methods to figure out what works the best for you.
Are you or have you ever been on hormonal birth control? What are your experiences? What are your experiences with hormone-free and natural alternatives? Share your experiences in the comments below, we would love to hear from you. Let’s have an open discussion about this.
-This post contains affiliate links.
Kat Gál is a multi-passionate writer, world traveler, nomad, runner, and cat-person. She is a lifelong learner who lives outside of her comfort zones stretching her boundaries and discovering beauty around the world. She is a Certified Holistic Health and Life Coach who encourages others to embrace their unique authentic selves, follow their heart and find their own version of freedom in life.
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