I have been on some form of contraception for the last 14 years of my life, without a break. For the last few years I’ve been worrying a lot about what that’s meant for my body, but up until recently I just kept brushing my worries and doubts under the rug, satiated by quick google searches to make sure long term contraceptive use was safe - the majority of medical websites will have you believe everything is hunky dory. Well I’m afraid everything’s not hunky dory on this one. In fact it’s very much the opposite, and I have been shocked and scared by what I’ve found out over the last few weeks from doing a little digging.
Let’s just pause a moment before I dive on in - I would like to say that although the effects of Hormonal Contraception on the body are worrying, they are by no means life-threatening or permanent - I don’t want to get anyone in a panic here. I would bet my entire savings that every woman I know has been on some form of hormonal contraception at some point in their lives. It’s pretty much shoved down our throats by GPs: Having too heavy a period? Take the pill. Terrible acne? Take the pill. Don’t want to get pregnant? Take the pill. So if you’re reading this and are still on some form of Hormonal Contraception, don’t worry. I’m not here to scare you into anything, I just want to raise awareness of a very little talked-about topic.
Over the last 4-5 years, I’ve really been honing in on my health and longevity. I discovered a love of the gym and weight lifting in 2015, having shed a little bit of excess “comfort fat” that I’d been trying to shift after a five year stint working part-time at Pizza Hut (one too many Cheesy Bites had been consumed) and then setting up a business that left me little time to focus on anything else.
More recently, over the last year or so, I’ve been doing time-restricted eating (a method of fasting where you fit all of your eating into an 8 hour window each day, to allow your body to digest and break down food and nutrients properly), and I’ve been trying to eat only organic, whole foods with as little meat as possible. I started taking supplements for the first time this year and have been doing regular yoga and sauna sessions - all of which improve your longevity, as well as providing a myriad of other benefits for your health, and all of which I will be writing separate posts about eventually.
ANYWAY, to get to the point, in the last couple of months I have been asking myself why am I bothering with all of this healthy stuff when I’m not even educated in the tiny little pill I take every single day, non stop? (I’ve been on the mini pill, which you take consecutively). What is it actually doing to my body? Will there be repercussions down the line when I eventually want to have a family? What kind of chemicals are swirling around inside me? Well, I finally got my butt into gear and did some research, by listening to podcasts and reading articles. Here’s what I found out…
1. Hormonal Contraceptives shut down your reproductive system.
This is the thing that shocked me the most. I had always assumed that the pill was just tricking my body into thinking it was pregnant during the few days I would usually be ovulating - well that goes to show how much both the educational and healthcare system is letting down young girls and women in the UK. What it actually does is mimic your entire cycle indefinitely until you stop taking it. So when you bleed while taking the pill, you are not having a real period, you are having a “pill bleed”. You are pumped full of synthetic hormones that suppress your ovaries and halt your reproductive system entirely.
2. It can take up to 15 months for your body to return to normal once you’ve stopped taking Hormonal Contraceptives.
The amount of time it takes for your cycles to return to normal depends on a few different factors: how long you’ve been taking Hormonal Contraceptives, what type you’ve been taking and what age you started taking them. If you started taking contraceptives from a young age [14-16], your ovaries probably didn’t have chance to finish developing properly before they got shut down, so this will affect how long it takes for them to kick into action fully. Generally speaking, the longer you’ve been taking contraceptives, the longer it will take for your normal cycle to return. And below are the average times it takes depending on the type of contraceptives you’ve been taking [based on 10+ years of use]:
The Pill - 7-8 months
The Implant - 10-12 months
The Injection - 13-15 months
3. Hormonal Contraceptives deplete a lot of vital nutrient & mineral supplies from your body.
Zinc, Folate, B2, B6, B12, Vitamin C, Magnesium and Vitamin E are all depleted by the use of Hormonal Contraceptives, sometimes by as much as 20%. These depletions can increase the risk of some really worrying issues including a weakened immune system, heart disease, cancer and depression.
4. Both your digestive and immune systems are effected by Hormonal Contraceptives.
Hormonal birth control destroys the beneficial bacteria in your intestines, which ultimately leaves your immune system at risk of being weakened.
Now if like me, you weren’t aware of any of the above until now and you want out, I would recommend doing a little of your own research first. I am in no way trained in biology, nutrition or fertility and every woman is different - I’ve linked some great references below that are provided by professionals in these fields. For me, my diet is already pretty healthy and this is vital for preparing your body when coming off the pill - you may need to switch up your diet and start taking certain supplements a few months before coming off, so make sure you do your research before jumping ship!
I’m going to stop taking the mini pill tomorrow, with the support of the following supplements [I've linked the exact ones I'm using in case you want to know]:
I’ve subscribed to Natural Cycles in order to start tracking my cycles, although I know it could take 7 or 8 months for my body to kickstart my ovaries properly and for my cycles to return to "normal", but I do know that after a few years of tracking things I should be able to use this method as a contraceptive with the same efficacy as the pill. In the meantime, I will be using condoms to be super safe, but opting for non-toxic, vegan brand Glyde to avoid any harsh chemicals like spermicide or local anaesthetics [yes, really].
What’s actually surprised me is the amount of my friends that are way ahead of me when it comes to going au natural with contraceptives. I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to get my act together, and I’m really excited to embark in this journey to natural wellness, and see the beauty of the female body in action.
If you have any questions about any of this post, or just want to chat about your own experiences in coming off Hormonal Contraceptives, please get in touch!
Episode 140 - Transitioning from Hormonal Birth Control After Long Term Pill Use
Episode 187 - Charting your cycles post-pill
Episode 258 - Coming off the pill with Samantha Gladish