At least 100 million people worldwide use some form of birth control, but there is legitimate concern over whether those who use birth control are aware of the possible damage it can do to their bodies. According to estimates from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 10.6 million women in the United States alone use oral contraception, and doctors may recommend the pill for common ailments such as acne, PMS symptoms, and irregular periods. While birth control can help with some of these issues, it does not fully resolve these conditions. Also, these pills come with side effects that women should be forewarned about before taking contraceptives.
Here are some of the common myths about birth control and its side effects discussed:
- Birth Control and Your Period
The idea that birth control helps women during their menstrual cycle may be one of the most pervasive myths surrounding the birth control pill, as some women in their teens may be put on the pill to help with heavy or painful periods. Some women may also use it to help with troublesome acne, headaches, and PMS symptoms. But birth control shuts down your menstrual cycle and prevents your ovaries from producing hormones, and disabling one’s reproductive system does not offer a solution to the underlying problems that may have brought on these symptoms.
A woman who has her menstrual cycle disrupted may face an increased risk to her health, as a period offers relevant information about a woman’s hormones, nutritional status, and the overall condition of her body. Brown discharges at the beginning of a menstrual cycle may be a sign of low progesterone levels, and clots in a woman’s menstrual blood may be a sign that her estrogen levels are too high. While painful periods can be debilitating, suppressing these symptoms may allow further damage to occur and prevent certain diseases from being diagnosed. For example, menorrhagia (heavy periods), can be caused by iron deficiency anemia, and while stopping a woman’s menstrual cycle may seem like the proper solution, that iron deficiency may be the result of a more severe condition.
Intestinal malabsorption can be an underlying cause behind iron deficiencies, and it is known to occur in those with celiac disease, and suppressing a woman’s period could lead to a delayed diagnosis. The inconveniences that sometimes come with having a period can be quite burdensome, but sometimes they are a sign of a larger problem that needs to be diagnosed before a woman is prescribed pills to suppress her period.
- Birth Control and Depression
The negative effects of birth control are not limited to physical ramifications, as a woman’s mental health may be at risk as well. A study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry found that women who used hormonal contraceptives such as pills, the patch, the ring, or a hormonal IUD, were at a higher risk for suicide than women who never took hormonal birth control. The same researchers found hormonal contraceptives were linked to a 70% higher risk of depression, and the risk for suicide was the highest for women using the patch. This was then followed by the IUD, the vaginal ring, and the pills.
- Birth Control and Blood Clots
Hormonal birth control pills that contain desogestrel or drospirenone have been shown to potentially cause an increased risk of blood clots. The clots are most likely to occur in the legs or lungs. A clot in the leg may seem harmless, but it is actually quite dangerous, as it can travel through the circulation system. This in turn can cause a pulmonary embolism, which may then spread to the lungs and cause damage there. If the clot is a large one, there is even the risk of death.
- Birth Control and Cancer
Studies have found an increased risk for the development of certain cancers in women taking contraceptives. The New England Journal of Medicine found a 20 percent increased risk of breast cancer developing in women who used hormonal birth control. An analysis from the National Cancer Institute found that the long-term use of hormonal contraceptives—five years or more—can increase a woman’s chances of developing cervical cancer. However, the risk was found to decrease if a woman stopped taking hormonal birth control.
Birth control poses a risk to women’s health, and the sometimes irreversible side-effects of it means women should be made aware of non-hormonal birth control options. The Fertility Awareness Method and the Daysy Fertility Monitor, for example, are healthier alternatives that present a non-invasive option to birth control that pose less of a risk to a woman’s health and safety.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.