How Are Birth Control Pills Packaged
You get a set of pills packaged in a thin case. Pill packs containing regular birth control pills have either 21 or 28 pills. Twenty-one-day pill packs contain 21 active pills. Twenty-eight-day pill packs contain 21 active pills and seven inactive pills. The pill packs are marked with the days of the week to remind you to take a pill every day. The seven inactive pills in the 28-day pill pack are added so youâre reminded to start a new pill pack after 28 days.
Some newer pills have only two inactive pills or even none. It’s important to always take all the pills to be sure youâre protected from getting pregnant.
A package of extended-cycle Seasonale contains 84 active pink tablets and seven inactive white pills. With Seasonique and LoSeasonique, the last seven pills contain estrogen only.
What Your Symptoms Were Like Before Going On Birth Control
Your purpose of going on birth control is important because it is different for everyone and can determine how long for your hormones to balance after stopping birth control. Some women go on birth control for hormone management to help with painful periods, some for regulating their cycle, some for contraception, but others may go on birth control to regulate their hormonal acne or other non-contraceptive reasons. When birth control use stops, these symptoms from prior can return and may become worse for a certain amount of time before hormones regulate again.
How To Improve Digestion
Overcoming the negative impacts hormonal birth control can have on our digestion isnt difficult.
There are a few powerful supplements and self-care practices we can implement that can really give our gut a boost, even while using birth control.
My go-to practice to boost liver function and improve bile quality is castor oil packs.
Castor oil is an oil that is readily absorbed through the skin. Its extremely high in ricinoleic acid which gives it amazing fluid stimulating properties.
And when castor oil is placed over the liver and gallbladder, it fluid it helps to stimulate is bile.
Although they can be a little messy and daunting at first, castor oil packs are an amazing, not to mention relaxing, way to help improve your digestion.
All you need to get started is some castor oil, an unbleached flannel, a heating pad, and an old towel. The Wellness Mama has a great article on how to do castor oil packs, if youre interested in learning more.
Including more bitter foods in your diet is an easy and relatively inexpensive way to support your liver and gallbladder function during hormonal birth control use.
Foods like beets, leafy greens , grapefruit, and artichoke are all-stars when it comes to boosting your digestion.
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How Do Hormones In Birth Control Work
The hormones in some methods of birth control are similar to the ones womens bodies makeclose enough that the body recognizes them as estrogen and progesterone. There are multiple kinds of hormonal birth control, each with unique ingredients that are released differently.
The IUD, the implant, the shot, and the mini-pill
The Mirena and Skyla IUDs release a small amount of a progestin hormone called levonorgestrel. Levonorgestrel is one of the longest-studied types of progestin, and all the scientific evidence to date shows it is super safe. This chart shows the average amount of levonorgestrel measured in the blood of women who have used Mirena or Skyla for about a year. These are averages, and individual women may have higher or lower amountsthats what the ± means. The amount of levonorgestrel released by these IUDs stays very steady day to day, but declines slowly to even lower levels after the first year. Almost all of the levonorgestrel stays in the uterus the chart below shows how little is in the blood stream.
How does this amount of levonorgestrel impact womens bodies? Most women using Skyla have their usual changes in estrogen and progesterone each cycle, and most release an egg each month. Many women using the Mirena are having their usual hormonal cycles after a year and still releasing an egg. The main way these IUDs work to prevent pregnancy is by keeping cervical mucus thick so sperm cant get through the cervix to meet with an egg.
Do Birth Control Pills Cause Cancer
The link between birth control pills and breast cancer risk cannot be ignored. BCPs can increase breast cancer risk, particularly in women who take the pill before they have had children.
The figures are startling. Research from the Womens Lifestyle and Health Study in Sweden and Norway has shown that the risk of breast cancer in women taking the contraceptive pill rose by:
- 26% in women who had used the pill but had ceased to take it.
- 58% in women still using the pill compared with never-users.
- 144% in women aged 45 or over who were still using the Pill.
According to the National Cancer Institute, BCPs may also increase the risk of benign liver lumps which have the potential to turn into cancer.
Plus women on BCPs are also at a higher risk of developing cervical cancer. The good news? The risk lessens after 10 years of no longer taking the pill.
What about ovarian cancer and birth control pills? In this case, studies suggest that BCPs have a protective effect.
But when you consider the many other negative impacts of these tiny pills, you would do better to reduce cancer risks naturally and avoid the other dangers of birth control pills.
There are plenty of steps you can take to reduce the risk of estrogenic cancers such as breast and ovarian cancer. I discuss them here in my post about 15 Ways to Prevent and Manage Breast Cancer Naturally.
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What Are Some Options For Non
For anyone looking to prevent pregnancy without taking hormonal contraceptives, youve got plenty of options:
- Condoms: When used correctly, condoms are 98% effective , but due to human error, condoms do have a 15% failure rate at preventing pregnancy.
- Copper IUD: If youre hoping for another one-and-done contraceptive, the non-hormonal copper IUD, or ParaGard, might be the best choice for you. Its the most effective form of birth control and can last for 10 years.
- Diaphragm or cervical cap: These two barrier methods can help prevent pregnancy when combined with spermicide . Like condoms, youll need to remember to insert a diaphragm or cap every time youre going to have sex. Diaphragms are 92%-96% effective, while cervical caps are only 71%-86% effective.
- Sponge: Another barrier method, the sponge is 88% effective at preventing pregnancy and must be used every time you have sex.
So, if youre ditching your pill or removing your patch, know that your body is likely to transition back to its before state over your next few cycles. And if youre not feeling great, enlist your primary care provider , OB-GYN, some ibuprofen, or a trusty heating pad for support.
Shutdown Natural Hormone Production
Your body has inbuilt mechanisms to try to maintain homeostasis . It also has many feedback systems letting you know when levels of chemicals in the body are getting out of balance. For this reason, you will become insulin resistant if you eat a diet high in carbs and sugars, which can often trigger elevated blood sugar and insulin.
The same thing happens when you are taking antidepressants that affect serotonin. Registering your bodys serotonin levels that have suddenly shot up, your brain will start shutting down your serotonin receptors, to ensure that you dont have issues from excess serotonin.
This protective mechanism also applies to your reproductive hormones. When you are taking daily doses of synthetic hormones, your body registers that you are getting unusually high levels of estrogen and progesterone throughout your cycle. As your brain perceives an upset in your hormone balance, it will try to correct any excess by shutting down production of your natural estrogen and progesterone. This shut-off may be why some women complain that their menstrual cycle takes years to return to normal after they come off the contraceptive pill.
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Frequently Asked Questions Expand All
Combined hormonal methods are safe for most women, but they are associated with a small increased risk of deep vein thrombosis , heart attack, and stroke. The risk is higher in some women, including women older than 35 years who smoke more than 15 cigarettes a day or women who have multiple risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes a history of stroke, heart attack, or DVT or a history of migraine headaches with aura.
You should not use combined hormonal methods during the first 3 weeks after delivery because the risk of DVT is higher in the weeks after childbirth. If you have additional risk factors for DVT, you should wait to use combined hormonal methods until after the first 46 weeks following delivery.
The risk of DVT also may be slightly higher in women taking pills containing a progestin called drospirenone and in women using the patch. However, the risk of DVT is higher during pregnancy and in the weeks after childbirth than when taking drospirenone-containing pills or using the patch.
If you are breastfeeding, estrogen may affect your milk supply. It is recommended that you wait until the fifth week after delivery to start using these methods, when breastfeeding has been well established.
What Does Birth Control Do To Your Body In The Long Run
Birth control pills containing estrogen may also lower the risk of ovarian cancer and colorectal cancer, according to research. Researchers have also found that long-term use of estrogen-containing birth control pills increases the risk of cervical cancer. Taking these pills for a longer period of time increases the risk.
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Low Serotonin & Melatonin
When we think of hormonal health, neurotransmitter hormones like serotonin and melatonin usually dont take center stage. But they play an equally important role in keeping our body balanced as our main sex and thyroid hormones.
Serotonin helps to keep our moods balanced and regulating our appetite. Melatonin is the king of sleep. And without enough of these hormones, youll likely have trouble falling or staying asleep.
These two hormones also work together in the body. A process known as methylation converts serotonin to melatonin in the gut. When serotonin levels are low, youre more likely to also be deficient in melatonin.
Which is, unfortunately, often the case when it comes to hormonal birth control use.
The Pill has been shown to deplete levels of vitamins B12 and B6. Both of these vitamins are important cofactors in the production of serotonin.
Without enough B vitamins, you cant make enough serotonin. And without enough serotonin, you wont have enough melatonin. This leaves you more susceptible to feelings of anxiety, fatigue, and depression.
The connection between hormonal birth control and depression is real. And it goes far deeper than The Pills effects on serotonin and melatonin.
One study found that women who used hormonal birth control were 23% more likely to suffer from depression than women who didnt use The Pill.
Using Pain Relievers For Period Cramps
One safe, quick option to get rid of or soothe period cramps is over the counter pain relief such as ibuprofen .
Various clinical studies have shown that ibuprofen can be a super effective and fast way to eliminate cramps. Ibuprofen has also been shown to be more effective for period cramps than pain relievers with the ingredient acetaminophen . The National Institutes of Health says Aspirin or Ibuprofen are usually adequate to reduce menstrual pain.
Doctors say its ideal to start taking pain relievers slightly in advance of the cramps.* If the timing doesnt work out and you cant plan ahead, doctors say that pain relievers work best when taken at the first sign of pain from your periods.
*Note: Before you take any new medication, read the directions, and take as directed. We recommend you speak with your nurse or doctor if youre currently on other medicines, have a health condition, or are not sure if this medication is safe for you.
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Can Your Period Fluctuate On Birth Control
The pill works by introducing different hormones into your system, so your menstrual cycle can be affected by it. The bleeding may be lighter for some women, and it may be completely absent for others. Menstrual disorders called amenorrhea occur when the womans period does not occur on a regular basis.
Birth Control Gut Health Connection #: Compromised Nutrient Absorption
Hormonal birth control has been shown to deplete the body of key nutrients like zinc, B vitamins, magnesium, selenium and vitamin C.
These are nutrients that we work hard to get from our food and possibly even other supplements and vitamins we take.
So, its important to know that using hormonal birth control, no matter how necessary it is, can leave you susceptible to nutrient deficiencies.
Some of these nutrient deficiencies can specifically affect gut function, and may be behind some of your gut symptoms or conditions.
Zinc, for example, works in our digestive tract to enhance the gut lining. This supplement can actually be used to heal leaky gut. But when youre deficient in it, as is common with hormonal birth control use, your gut is more likely to be leaky.
Selenium is also a critical nutrient when it comes to gut function. This micronutrient helps to regulate glutathione production. Glutathione is required for normal gut function and detoxification.
Diets high in selenium have actually been studied to improve the microbial diversity in the gut.
Its no secret that the health of our gut relies heavily on our ability to maintain adequate levels of key nutrients and vitamins. And, unfortunately, hormonal birth control does not do us any favors when it comes to improving nutrient status.
But, dont worry. Even if youre on birth control, or have been in the past, you can use targeted supplementation to help recover those nutrients that The Pill is possibly depleting.
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What If My Period Is Very Light While Im Taking Birth Control Pills
Your period may be so light when you are taking birth control pills that you may have only a brown smudge on a tampon, pad, panty shield or underwear. The hormone doses in birth control pills are very low. This means that the lining of your uterus doesnt become very thick so very little blood needs to come out each month.
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How To Test Your Hormone Health
If you are concerned about your hormone health, you can have your hormone levels tested in the following ways:
- Saliva testing: Saliva testing measures your bodys hormones levels at the cellular level. A saliva test can measure your estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, cortisol and DHEA levels. When you provide and test multiple samples over time, your healthcare provider can formulate charting changes in hormones with saliva testing.
- Blood testing: This type of hormone test requires that your blood is collected at a lab and then measured for hormone levels. A blood test can measure free and total hormone levels, which saliva and urine testing cannot do.
- Urine testing: A urine hormone test requires that you collect every drop of urine for a 24-hour period. Then your urine is tested to identify each hormone that is present and at what levels on that particular day. This is the most extensive hormone health test because it measures your hormone levels throughout the entire day, instead of the levels for a moment in time, which is the case for blood and saliva tests.
- Follicle-stimulating hormone testing: This type of test is commonly used to measure the hormonal status of premenopausal women who are beginning to experience symptoms of menopause.
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How To Balance Hormones Naturally
1. Swap Carbs for Healthy Fats
Foods that balance hormones include a variety of fat-containing foods that provide short, medium and long-chain fatty acids. Your body needs various types of fats to create hormones, including saturated fat and cholesterol.
Not only are these essential fats fundamental building blocks for hormone production, but they keep inflammation levels low, boost your metabolism and promote weight loss.
Healthy fats have the opposite effect of refined carbohydrates, which lead to inflammation and can mess with the balance of your hormones.
My four favorite sources of anti-inflammatory, healthy fats include:
- coconut oil, avocados, grass-fed butter and wild-caught salmon.
- Coconut oil uses are plentiful for example, coconut oil has natural anti-bacterial and fat-burning effects.
- Avocado benefits include improving heart health, lowering inflammation, controlling your appetite and contributing to your daily intake of fiber and nutrients such as potassium.
- Salmon nutrition is also impressive: its one of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which are known to lower inflammation and help with cognitive functions. Omega-3 fatty acids are a large component of brain-cell membranes and are important for cell-to-cell communication in the brain. Research shows that omega-3 fatty acids help protect against hippocampal neuronal loss and reduce pro-inflammatory responses.
2. Supplement to Fill Nutritional Voids
3. Address Emotional Imbalances
6. Get More Sleep
Sterilization When Approaching Menopause
Of course, sterilization is the most effective form of birth control. Although it doesnt have any of the symptom-smashing effects of the hormonal methods, it is a one-stop solution to unwanted pregnancy.
Its a relatively simple procedure for a man, indeed quicker and safer than it is for women, so if you are in a committed relationship with a special man, you could ask him to brave the snip.
If you want to be sterilized, speak to your doctor about the procedure. Usually, it involves surgery called tubal ligation . The surgeon cuts or clamps the fallopian tubes preventing eggs from traveling from the ovaries to the uterus.
However, some women realizing they are maybe only a year or two off being fully menopausal and therefore infertile choose to use more temporary measures to bridge the gap.
Whatever you decide you can revisit your choice of birth control, and once its been established that you are entirely through the menopause, you can forget the hassle of it once and for all.
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