3 Things You Need To Know About The Pill

This blog has been a long time coming, and finally I've seen enough women struggling with their hormones to put some information out there as to how the pill actually works.  

Many women are put on the pill (otherwise known as the OCP - oral contraceptive pill) in their teenage years to regulate any sort of anomalies that may occur in the menstrual cycle.  Like antibiotics, the pill can be an overprescribed medication in the medical industry, which begs me to ask (or shall I say research) the question; is this just because it's easier to prescribe than to address issues going on with the complicated menstrual cycle?

The menstrual cycle (AKA your period) is a naturally fluctuating hormonal cycle - the entire purpose of which is to make it possible for us to fall pregnant.  The complications involved when it comes to not falling pregnant needs its own series of blogs to address, so I'm just going to stick with the main reasons that people start to take the pill to begin with:

1.  How does the pill work?

The pill works by shutting down your natural hormonal system.  To use some nice imagery, the pill is an aeroplane that has its own FIFO workers, and every day that you take the pill, those FIFO workers arrive at their destination and get to work on keeping your hormones at a level where they don't fluctuate, therefore not causing a period (and, yay, none of the other yucky stuff that comes with your period, like pain, heavy bleeding, clotting, headaches, acne, mood changes and all that other fun).  

Those FIFO workers have gone into an otherwise staffed workplace and said, "It's all good ladies, we've got it from here.  You can go on holidays for as long as you want.  While we're here, we've got everything covered."  So, the other workers (aka your hormones) have no job to do, and go on holidays.  The FIFO workers (aka fake hormones) take over, get comfortable and keep your period at bay by:

  • Preventing you from ovulating (which is the big, amazing event that happens halfway through your menstrual cycle that triggers all the hormone changes that cause your period)*
  • Changing the cervical mucous (to make it harder for sperm to get anywhere and make any babies)*

*Note - this is how most combination pills work, which are the most commonly prescribed OCP.

Long story short, the pill works by shutting down ovarian function and putting the body into a consistent hormonal state where the most important function of the menstrual cycle, ovulation, does not occur.  

2.  The pill should fix all my problems, right?

We would hope so, but a lot of the side effects of the pill are symptoms people are wanting to reduce by taking the pill, like:

  • Swollen, tender breasts
  • Weight gain
  • Bloating
  • Mood changes (irritability, sadness)
  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Decreased libido
  • Hair loss
  • .... okay I'll stop there!

Noticing anything in common? 

These are all hormonal symptoms - and the body giving signals that something is out of balance.  

Without identifying and working to reduce the excess or deficiency of certain hormones - whether it be poor moods or hormonal acne related to progesterone imbalance or weight gain and mood changes related to oestrogen imbalance - you will most likely have to deal with the same problems when you come off the pill.  

3.  You need to pay attention to these nutrients...

The pill can often create more problems than it solves, not only because it encourages further hormone changes in sometimes already disturbed levels (like in PCOS), but because it causes depletion of many important vitamins and nutrients in the body. 

Did you know that when you take the pill, you could be depleted in:

  • Vitamin B2
  • Vitamin B6
  • Vitamin B12
  • Folic acid (definitely not something you want to be depleted in if MTHFR is a problem for you...)
  • Vitamin C
  • Magnesium
  • Zinc

These nutrients are especially important to pay attention to if you are taking the pill (or hormone replacement therapy).

So, is the pill the best thing for me?

That's entirely dependent on you - and something that no one can decide for you.  As long as you know how the pill is working in your body, and most importantly, why you are experiencing symptoms that make you want to take the pill or stop your period, then you are fully informed and able to make the best decision for your Self.  

If there's something bothering you in relation to hormones, and no one has addressed these things for you yet, find someone that will investigate your concerns, do blood testing for hormone levels, and give you advice and support that will make a difference for the long-term.  

As with everything, be aware of the pros and cons, and most importantly, understand why these problems are happening for you.  

If you need any lady-help from some ladies that know what they're doing when it comes to lady health - get in touch!