Navigating the OCP

The Oral Contraceptive Pill (OCP) is very widely used, either as a contraceptive or as a treatment for hormonal complications.

What’s not so widely known is the many side effects it causes. Today’s article is all about these side effects, and I believe every woman who is on the pill, or thinking of using it, needs to know what the risks are to make an informed choice. Some of the more serious ones are blood clots, strokes and cardiovascular complications. However, it also depletes essential vitamins and minerals, contributes to inflammation and poor gut health, and has also been linked to many other negative symptoms.

Let’s take a look at a brief overview of the OCP and move into some of its effects on the body.

How does the oral contraceptive pill work?

Most women who go onto the pill mistakenly believe that it is the same as their own hormones. This is fundamentally untrue, as the substances in the pill are chemically derived foreign chemicals that do not have the ability to act like, or balance out, your natural hormones. Effectively what they do is chemically castrate a woman, through stopping her natural ovarian function. The result of this is a halt in the natural production of progesterone, oestradiol and DHEA. These hormones are essential for healthy brain, mood, muscles, bones, metabolism and of course reproductive function.

Unfortunately, the synthetic forms of estrogen and progesterone in the different types of OCP are different in their chemical structure to naturally made hormones. This means they act differently in the body. For example, natural estrogen produced in the body helps to regulate blood sugar and improve insulin sensitivity, whereas synthetic estrogen decreases insulin sensitivity and contributes to weight gain and metabolic dysfunction.

Blood clots and the OCP

It is quite well known that the pill increases a woman’s risk of blood clots and deep vein thrombosis, both of which can be life threatening. This also increases the risk of strokes and heart attacks. The newer progestins in some of the available pills are what carry the highest risk, however all OCP’s carry some risk of clotting.

The OCP depletes vitamins and minerals

There is quite a lot of research that shows that the pill can severely compromises nutrient absorption. Inflammation and poor gut health due to long term OCP usage create deficiencies in the following:

  • Vitamin C
  • Magnesium
  • Vitamin E
  • Zinc
  • Selenium
  • Tyrosine
  • Vitamins B6 & B12

These nutrients are essential for healthy hormones, strong immunity, happy moods, healthy reproduction and good liver function, all of which are compromised with long term pill usage.

The impact of the OCP on gut health

Recent research has shown that both the microbiome (bacteria within the gut) and estrogen metabolism are negatively affected by OCP use. We also know that the OCP creates a lot of inflammation within the gut, which increases a woman’s risk of developing Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis and irritable bowel.

Symptoms like the following are common in women who take the OCP:

  • Bloating
  • Gas
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Indigestion and reflux

Other side effects of the OCP

This is a list of common side effects of the OCP:

  • Hair loss
  • Weight gain
  • Acne
  • Increased anxiety
  • Reduced bone density
  • Recurrent thrush
  • Low or no libido
  • Shrinkage of the brain and clitoris
  • Reduced fertility, and difficulty getting pregnant after coming off OCP

This list isn’t exhaustive, but I want to make sure that you know it isn’t all bad news. If you are using or considering hormonal birth control, please make sure you do your research and are fully informed of all the benefits and risks.

There are other types of contraception available that do not carry the above risks and side effects, and I’m more than happy to guide you through these. There are also some wonderful natural treatment protocols that help to bring your hormonal system back into balance after being on oral contraceptives.

If this article resonates with you, and you would like to discuss your options, please book in to see me here;

I look forward to supporting you on your health journey.