The common oral contraceptive pill literally changed our society by liberating couples and protecting against unwanted pregnancies. It changed the way we approached intercourse and relationships. At the same time it has a deeper and more sinister impact on the health of women which is rarely discussed and needs to be highlighted so that couples can make an informed choice based on the health of the women vs inconvenience of barrier contraception.

We have been lead to believe that the OCP, and other forms of hormonal contraception such as implanon, mirena, deprovera along with Hormone replacement therapy are benign and safe. However these are serious medications with serious health concerns which should be thoroughly investigated before prescribing them either as a contraceptive or treatment.

The main issue is the symptoms of hormonal and endocrine imbalance caused by synthetic hormones are not often obvious. A certain percentage of women simply don’t tolerate hormones which is obvious within months however for most women the effects are gradual and systemic. The reason for this is because hormone ingestion is blanket. Our body’s hormonal cycle is extremely complex and by placing a hormone into the system it disrupts hundreds of other cycles in the body that is linked to the reproductive cycle. The second element is by supplying the body with blanket hormones, then the body stops its own hormone production which has lead to the epidemic of menopausal symptoms as womens body fail to produce the necessary levels of hormones as the ovaries reduce production.

Probably the most common effect which is seen in many women that demonstrates the endocrine disruption from synthetic hormones is the huge numbers of thyroid problems from the age of 40 in women. Thyroid medications are now surpassing heart medications in the number of prescriptions. Another common symptom experienced is mood disorders, either in terms of mood swings, anxiety and depression which are also in epidemic proportions. Recently it was shown clearly how teens have an elevated risk of depression from taking the pill and in time it will be linked to adult depression as well.

Hormones from either contraception or hormone replacement therapy are synthetically manufactured. This means the body will not utilise these hormones particularly well, hence the doses need to be quite high to obtain a therapeutic response. The large doses of hormones need to be metabolised. Metabolism of these hormones causes a depletion of essential nutrients B6, B9, B 12, Zinc and Magnesium, vitamin C, E and essential fatty acids. These nutrients are the very nutrients needed to maintain a healthy hormonal system. Women with chronic hormonal conditions like premenstrual dysphoric disorder PMDD, Endometriosis and PCOS often have underlying genetic inability to metabolise hormones and by adding them into the system, hormones literally become a poison for these women.

Apart from the larger systemic side effects of the Pill and HRT such as glandular disruption and nutrient deficiencies, there are a range of proven side effects women need to be aware of as well. Due to the widespread use of these hormones the public perception is they are safe. This is far from the truth and women should think seriously about taking synthetic hormones if they are not essential.

Risk factors increasing with age and duration of taking synthetic hormones;

  • Two to eight fold increase in blood clots
  • Three to six fold increase in risk of heart attacks
  • Increased risk of gall bladder disease (gall stones)
  • Increased risk of liver tumours
  • Increased risk of ectopic pregnancies
  • Increase risk of osteoporosis
  • Increased risk of breast cancer
  • Increase chance of hardening of the arteries

There are then a range of less serious, yet life disrupting symptoms such as; weight gain, migraines, fungal infections- Candida, vaginal discharges- thrush, breast cysts, fibrocystic breast disease, tender breasts, high blood pressure, increased cholesterol, break through bleeding, fluid retention, acne, mouth ulcers, hair loss, facial and body hair, varicose veins, liver function disruption, psychological and emotional disorders.

The link to breast cancer is being proven and disproven with different research depending on who is funding it. But it just makes common sense that hormone dependent breast cancers must have some causal element via taking synthetic hormones.  A 2005 trial involving over 15000 women was halted after 3 years because the risk vs. benefit ratio was exceeded. This means the use of the synthetic hormones was too dangerous to continue. Researchers found a 12% increase risk of fatal and non fatal malignancies (cancer) in women taking the synthetic oestrogens and progesterone. The dramatic increased risk of cancer explains why the rates of breast cancer have risen from approximately 1:50 in 1950 to 1:10 today. 1950 is when synthetic hormones first began to be used commonly by women.  This study looked only at women aged 50 to 79 taking HRT. More research is needed to evaluate the risk of synthetic hormones used in contraception for younger women to determine the risk.

In certain cases synthetic hormones may be indicated as a short term treatment to manage dangerous symptoms; however there are always better long term treatment options which look at the cause of the disease rather than just symptoms. Balance the glandular system and not the hormonal system and then you have the right situation for cure. Hormonal imbalances cannot be cured with hormones, they only exacerbate the condition in the long term.

We have no vested interest in taking women off hormone contraception apart from their own health and we feel its important to raise the awareness if nothing else of these medications. Do your own research and way up the risks for your health.

About Jeff Butterworth:

Jeff Butterworth B.App. Sc, N.D is a Naturopath with over 20 years experience specialising in treating hormonal disorders. Jeff developed the Happy Hormones program after discovering a unique way of treating hormonal disorders - by focusing on endocrine balance rather than hormonal levels - which gives long-lasting and dramatic results.