Birth Control: Is it Safe? Is it Right for Me?
We’ve found there is a lack of proper education about birth control. We’re often asked if it’s safe to take, and while the short answer might be yes, there are a lot of things to know while you consider which method is right for you if any. Some of us find out later in life that a lot of key information was left out, information that may have affected our decision to take it or not.
Before we dive too deep, we want to preface with the fact that this choice of yours—either to take or not to take any form of birth control—is completely personal to each individual and we aren’t here to pass judgment of any kind.
We also want to acknowledge that the invention of birth control is an amazing, huge step forward in the world of healthcare for people with ovaries. The ability to control pregnancy has had the biggest impact on equity over the past 50+ years. Sharing this information with you is near and dear to us because too often birth control is prescribed as a panacea for everything regarding women’s health—from clearing acne to stabilizing moods. Hormonal birth control should not be the only option offered or known about for all the hormonal issues we face throughout our lifetimes.
Our hope is to supply you with as much information as possible so you can make the most informed decision for yourself.
Let’s get down to brass tacks, what is birth control?
The birth control pill is a type of contraception that contains hormones that prevent pregnancy. Hormones in birth control prevent pregnancy in three ways:
- They stop or reduce ovulation—the release of an egg from an ovary
- They thicken cervical mucus to keep sperm from entering the uterus
- They thin the lining of the uterus, so a fertilized egg is less likely to attach
If taken without fail, the pill’s efficacy rate is 99%, but this means you cannot miss a pill for even a day.
There are two different types of birth control pills and both contain hormones that prevent pregnancy. The options are:
- Combination pills that contain estrogen and progestin
- Progestin-only pills*
Common side effects and health benefits
Generally speaking, most people want to know if there are any side effects they should be aware of before starting a medication of any kind. Here are the most common:
- Breast tenderness or swelling
- Irritability or moodiness
- Spotting between periods (abnormal menstruation)
There are some rare complications a small percentage of menstruators who take the combination pill (estrogen-containing) have an increased risk of developing that should be noted.
- Blood clots
- Deep vein thrombosis (DVT)
- Heart attack
Some birth control consumers have reported certain health benefits after taking the pill.
- Regulate* or lighten menstruation
- Prevent anemia by making periods lighter or shorter
- Lessen menstrual cramps
- Manage PMS and PMDD
- (Treat) PCOS
- (Treat) endometriosis or uterine fibroids
- Lower the risk of ovarian cancer, uterine cancer, and colon cancer
- Improve acne
- Stop unwanted hair growth
- Reduce migraines
- Control hot flashes during the transition to menopause
If you want a different option
The pill isn’t for everyone. Maybe you’re not great at taking your daily vitamins, so you can’t get on board with trying to remember to take another pill every day. Whatever your reason, you have other alternatives.
- Etonogestrel implant (Nexplanon®): Contains only progestin and has few risks, the main one being the possibility of a skin infection where it’s implanted. Some users have irregular bleeding for up to one year after it’s inserted.
- Intrauterine device (IUD): There are several hormonal and nonhormonal options available and it’s one of the most effective forms of birth control. Rare but serious side effects include:
- Infections from bacteria entering the uterus upon insertion or later
- Punctures in the walls of the uterus
- Ovarian cysts
- Ectopic pregnancy
- Removable contraceptive vaginal ring: They come in both yearly and monthly options and contain estrogen. They have similar side effects to the pill.
- Skin patches (Xulane®): These also contain estrogen and have similar side effects to the pill.
- Depo-Provera® progestin injection (also called Depo): This is a progestin-only option that you receive every three months in the form of an injection. The main risk associated with this method is bone density loss while you’re using it. A 2014 report found that the effect on bone density is reversible after you stop usage.
Let’s set the record straight about these common misconceptions
Myth: Hormonal birth control regulates the menstrual cycle.
Truth: Hormonal birth control replaces natural hormones with synthetic ones. The pill dumps around four times the corresponding synthetic estrogen and progesterone that naturally occurs in our bodies. The pill cuts off the communication from the ovaries to the brain and essentially the brain tells the ovaries they don’t need to produce hormones anymore because they’re being replaced with synthetic ones—a lot more than we likely need.
Myth: You get a period while on birth control.
Truth: When you’re on birth control, what you’re actually experiencing is called a withdrawal bleed. The final week of pills are sugar pills or placebo pills—they do not contain the synthetic hormones you’ve been taking throughout the previous weeks. This lack of hormones means the lining of the uterus cannot be maintained so the body has no other option but to shed it. It exits with blood and other fluids and is known as a withdrawal bleed.
A few additional tidbits to be aware of
Studies have revealed that those who take oral contraceptives can become susceptible to depletions of key nutrients such as:
- Folic acid
- Vitamins B2, B6, B12
- Vitamin C and E
The good news is our supplements, PMS & Period Support and The Daily Hormone Balance, have some of these key nutrients that get depleted from birth control use! Both contain magnesium and The Daily has folate (B9), B1, B6, B12, and zinc! We are also super proud of the fact that our PMS & Period Support supplement is one of the only ones on the market that doesn’t affect hormonal birth control, so if your birth control isn’t giving you full relief from PMS symptoms or painful periods, you can take our supplement with peace of mind. Be sure you research how any herbal supplements you’re taking could affect the efficacy of your birth control, especially if your main goal is to prevent pregnancy.
The Daily is also hormone-free and safe to take with hormonal birth control. It will help promote happy hormones for anyone that’s looking to do that without birth control and if you decide that both products are right for you, consider snagging the Cycle Self-Care Bundle to save some dough and tackle both issues at once!
A bit of light reading
If you’re feeling fiery and passionate about this topic and want to channel your inner Hermione, we have a few books we recommend for a deeper dive. The first two will also touch on periods, as well as birth control.
Alissa Vitti's Women Code
Maisie Hill’s Period Power
Sarah Hill’s This is Your Brain on Birth Control
At the end of the day, it’s about what’s right for you,
and the more information you have, the better choice you can make for yourself. Whether you choose birth control or not, we’re here to support you and your wonderfully hormonal body.