Written by Lucy Fitzgibbons.

When the oral contraceptive pill was first released in the 1960s it gave women complete autonomy over their reproduction. While once “empowering”, the pill has come full circle in the sense that it is generally prescribed for any and all period concerns. This happens often without the patient feeling heard, or being told of potential side-effects, or knowing that the body is able to naturally have symptom-free periods – not such an empowering solution anymore.  

In my clinical practice I see women daily who after using the pill for a number of years are left feeling depleted and riddled with a number of symptoms.  

Known possible side effects:
  • Nutrient depletion (B vitamins, folate, vitamin C, vitamin E, magnesium, selenium, zinc)- nutrient depletion can lead to hormone imbalances, thyroid issues and fatigue.  
  • Changes in pheromones- research also suggests that the pill can change who you are attracted to. 
  • Mood alterations- anxiety & depression 
  • Lowered libido (seems kind of counterproductive, right?) 
  • Increased risk of cervical and breast cancer  
  • Changes to the gut microbiome – often resulting in bloating or other digestive issues 
  • Headaches 
  • Hair loss 
  • Weight gain 
  • Blood clots 

In order to make an informed decision about birth control it is important to understand how the pill works… 

There are two types of oral contraceptive pills: 

The combined pill – contains synthetic forms of both oestrogen and progesterone 

The mini pill- containing only the synthetic form of progesterone 

As the body receives these synthetic hormones, it halts the communications between the brain and the ovaries. This inhibits the signal for the ovaries to mature and release and egg, ultimately preventing ovulation. Without ovulation you cannot fall pregnant- you also do not produce your amazing health-giving natural hormones.  

There is a biological purpose to ovulation beyond fertility. 

The hormones that you make from ovulation play a key role in: 
  • Bone density 
  • Brain function 
  • Mood & reducing anxiety  
  • Hair growth 
  • Metabolism 
  • Cardiovascular health 
  • Blood pressure maintenance  

The synthetic hormones in the pill resemble our natural hormones enough to prevent ovulation however they have the opposite effect in many other areas and can actually cause high blood pressure, hair loss, anxiety and depression.  

The bleed that is experienced on the pill is not a period, it is a withdrawal bleed due to having a break from the medication.  

The pill is prescribed for an array of reasons from preventing pregnancy, most symptoms related to the menstrual cycle (heavy periods, cramping), headaches, weight fluctuations, skin concerns, headaches/migraines – you name it. The pill does not address or resolve the root cause of these issues, it simply masks the symptoms for the time you are taking it.  

When you stop taking the pill, it is likely your body will return to its pre-pill state and you can be greeted with the same symptoms that led you to taking the pill as well as some additional unexpected ones. I always recommend preparing the body for 2-4 weeks prior to transitioning off the pill as this can help to reduce any unwanted side effects (mostly breakouts!). After transitioning off the pill I recommend starting on a holistic treatment plan to balance your hormones and restore a regular cycle. This plan will be unique to each woman as it works on your unique symptoms but some treatments that may be included are: 

  • Herbal medicines – to encourage a regular symptom-free period 
  • Nutritional supplements – rectify nutritional deficiencies & improve gut health 
  • Individualised dietary advice – boost nutrient levels & improve hormonal detoxification 
  • Acupuncture – working on any underlying imbalances 

* The information in this article may not apply to you - please see a qualified health practitioner for advice about transitioning off the pill.  


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