Hormonal Birth Control: What You May Not Know
By Naema Pierce
When we hear the words birth control, usually the mind goes to The Pill. Somehow the term birth control has become synonymous with any hormonal birth control, when in fact birth control reaches far beyond that of hormonal methods. It also consists of condoms, diaphragms the copper IUD and fertility awareness methods. And let me just say, these are perfectly reliable methods even if you have been told your whole life otherwise.
The Pill is one way of using birth control, not the only.So lets take a look at what hormonal birth control does and how it really works, something that many of us have never been taught.
Hormonal birth control is made up of synthetic steroid hormones that are meant to shut down your naturally occurring reproductive hormones. It takes away the naturally occurring conversation that happens in your endocrine system, mainly between your brain and your ovaries. There are chemical messages being sent back and forth between the two all month long, carrying forth a wide variety of functions to make you bleed, mature an egg, ovulate, and prepare for possible pregnancy. Not only are these hormones capable of creating life, but your reproductive hormones also promote long-term health of your bones, your brain, cardiovascular system, helps to improve immune function, and supports thyroid and breast tissue.
Studies show that regular menstrual cycles with consistent ovulation, can prevent osteoporosis, breast cancer and heart disease. That’s big! If you are taking hormonal contraceptives, all of that stops. You go offline. All in an effort to prevent you from ovulating, so you don’t get pregnant.
Now some females may be taking hormonal birth control to regulate periods. But let’s get one thing clear, nothing is being “regulated” — it's just being shut off.And some of you may be thinking, but I am still having my period, what is she talking about?Well this is the other thing, if you are taking hormonal contraception of any kind, your period isn’t a real period.
Periods/menstruation happens as a result of ovulation, and because ovulation is being suppressed, the period that is occurring isn’t a true period. Instead it is a withdrawal bleed from the drugs that stimulate the uterine lining, but that continue to shut down your ovaries completely. This can be called a pill bleed or a pharmaceutically induced bleed, not a period.So the idea that your cycle is being regulated by the pill is false. Yes, you can predict when you bleed, but that is because you stopped taking a drug. It’s not a hard prediction to make.
The Pill has 3 weeks of synthetic hormone drugs and 1 week of sugar pills. This one week of sugar pills was built in to help assure you that you are still functioning like a normal female, by having your period once per month, about every 28 days.However, you don’t even need to bleed if you are on the Pill.
There is not a medical reason for you to have a “period.” The only reason why one might choose to bleed occasionally is to prevent random breakthrough bleeding or spotting. Other than that, you could bleed every 39 days, or 54 days or 68 days. It really doesn’t matter.The synthetic steroid drugs that are in hormonal birth control are absolutely not equivalent to your naturally occurring reproductive hormones. And you need your hormones, they are human hormones that are made for a human body and human functioning.
With all that being said, I do have compassion and can see purpose for hormonal contraception when it comes to things like endometriosis or PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome). These are 2 pathologies that can cause immense pain, and living with that pain can be unbearable. Hormonal birth control has been known to help with pain. And again, I want to stress the point that it is not solving the problem…but helping to treat sometimes intolerable symptoms.
So, what are other birth control options besides synthetic hormones?
This is where the beauty of fertility awareness method (FAM) comes in. FAM helps to do what we all (males included) need more awareness on — female fertility. It helps us to track our cycles, observe ovulation, know when is the right time to have sex (for baby making or not), to organize our lives and schedules in ways that attune to and honor the cycles that are innate to the female body, and receive VAST amounts of information about our overall health.
Our menstrual cycle is our fifth vital sign. It can be a quick indicator that something is off, before most tests would pick things up. It can give you deep insights into why your body functions in certain ways, and shows you how easily life changes such as changing time zones, moving homes, or lack of sleep can easily affect your body.
When the menstrual cycle is suppressed by hormonal contraceptive drugs, we miss out on all this information, and we miss out on the gift of cycling and moving through all the shifts and changes that occur inside of a menstrual cycle. The menstrual cycle is far more than just bleeding — it is an entire cycle that needs to be acknowledged, recognized and cared for. Your menstrual cycle is your power…think twice before shutting it down.
To learn more about fertility awareness method, tracking your cycle or anything related to female reproductive and sexual health, you can find Naema at naemapierce.com, on instagram @naemapierce or check our her YouTube channel.